This began with the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Kitt. The Government asked the committee to help it to decide which Bill would be used for the pilot scheme for e-consultation, as part of the e-parliament process. The proceedings of the Dáil and Seanad are already being webcast. This is the first committee to have its meetings webcast. I hope other committees will do likewise, in order that eventually we will be able to webcast every committee in the Houses, in line with the commitment of the Oireachtas to the e-democracy and e-parliament process. I pay tribute to the Chief Whip, the Taoiseach and rest of the Government. I mention the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, in particular, because he suggested that this Bill should be used in the pilot scheme.
During the various public hearings in the last couple of days the members of the committee have examined the 12 issues selected. As I said, we have been on a journey of learning about the issues which arose from the draft ministerial broadcasting legislative proposals. The e-consultation project has been a positive experience. It is the first time such a project has been pursued anywhere in the world, as far as I am aware. It is the first time a sovereign national parliament has engaged in such an open and extensive process of consultation with citizens on legislation that will have a significant direct impact on their day-to-day lives. The draft ministerial broadcasting legislative proposals will lead to the development of a single regulatory environment that will change the structure of RTE, the national public service broadcaster. It will represent the single biggest change in the broadcasting sector since the inception of RTE.
I thank everybody who has participated in this process. I thank those citizens who visited and registered on the e-consultation website, submitted observations, attended public meetings and followed the proceedings on the Internet in the last two days. I reiterate that the website has received more than 60,000 hits and 467 submissions have been received. A significant number of the hits originated from the link on the website of RTE. I hope everyone will take the opportunity to use the discussion forum on the website which will be available until 24 January. If any of the representatives who have appeared before the committee in the last two days are asked by the university groups evaluating this process to give feedback, I hope they will assist them in that matter.
I join my colleagues on the committee in thanking the staff, including the clerk to the committee and the committee secretariat, who have made substantial back-up facilities available to the committee throughout this process. This is the 100th meeting of the joint committee since it was put in place in October 2002. There have also been meetings of the sub-committees dealing with fisheries and broadband services, as well as other committees. I will not mention the number of hours for which the committee has met because the media will be afraid to write about the matter tomorrow but it is significant that this is the 100th meeting of the committee.
I thank the broadcasting unit and the ICT unit for facilitating the webcasting of the committee's proceedings. The transcript of the proceedings will be accessible via the archive on the Oireachtas website and will be made available to all concerned. I thank the editorial staff who will edit all the comments and contributions made in the last two days. I also thank the ushers and the rest of the staff of the Houses who have worked so hard for us since yesterday morning. I thank the committee's consultant, Ms Sadhbh McCarthy, who is sitting beside me for the excellent work she has done in the last six to eight weeks, including over Christmas, to help the members of the committee to prepare for the work we have done yesterday and today.