Broadcasting Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As I was saying, some eminent figure wrote at length about the near identity between tragedy and farce. There is an element of tragedy and an element of farce in this legislaion. It is farcical for the reasons which I outlined at some length before lunch. It is farcical because, quite clearly, it no lonegr has anything to do with the unforseen difficulties of commercial broadcasting.

The word "commercial" is worth emphasis here. All the other words have connotations of superiority —"independent" quite clearly juxtaposed against "dependent"; "free" quite clearly juxtaposed against "unfree" and a whole lot of words like that have come to be almost accepted. "State run" has been distorted into implying at least, if not clearly stating, that because it is "State run" it is, therefore, bureaucratised and incapable of response. The truth is that the broadcasting media, with the exception of RTE, are commercial. They are run on the basis that they will, to a greater or lesser extent, make money for those who put money into them. That is not of itself a bad thing. One cannot make organistations commercial just by saying, "you must make money". It is a mystery to me how people who expound the doctrine or the idology of the market place, as do Fianna Fáil to an increasing extent, do not ever seem to be able to follow through the logic of the marketplace. The ligic of the marketplace is quite simple. It is that if people are successful, then they are rewarded and if they are not successful, they close down. That is the logic which, in the eyes of those who support market economics, is the justification for the market. People who cannot provide goods or services that the market wants to purchase at the price at which they can be produced do not succeed and, therefore, the market operates its own process of selection.

For many of us that is both ruthless and inhuman and also a less than efficient and complete way of determining choices but for those who believe in it that is the way it should be done. What we have walked into on this Bill — and this is why it is farcical — is an attempt being masqueraded as an attempt to restore competition but which is really in the view of those who best unedestand the market in the area of advertising, the practitioners of advertising, a transfer of resources from one national broadcasting organisation to a number of foreign broadcasting organisation. That point is entirely lost and was not adverted to in the Minister's speech. Senator Cassidy assures us that if £12 million is to leak out of the country, then there is the posibility of amending legislation being introduced because that should not happen. I am glad that he Senator knows something the rest of do not know. That is the crux of the matter. Senator Cassidy is probably more optimistic than I am.

It depends on what one sees as the motivation behind the Bill. The motivation behind the Bill is to shaft RTE. It is the settling of a score of 20 years vintage with RTE for all the hurts they are alleged to have done. RTE were blamed in the seventies for the defeat of the referendum on the abolition of PR and the attempt to replace it by the straight vote system, because RTE did an analysis of what would happen and it turned out that Fianna Fáil would get 93 seats out of 148. That had the profound effect on Irish public opinion and Fianna Fáil have blamed RTE, Brian Farrell and David Thornley ever since that. There were a succession of such incidents, some of which I mentioned earlier. This is the settling of the score. That is why it does not matter whether £12 million flows out of the country. What matters is that it flows out of RTE and that RTE should not have access to it.

If RTE manage to create programmes which attract increasing audiences which in turn would attract increasing advertising revenue, they have been told they cannot have it. Whatever happens to RTE's viewing figures, their advertising revenue cannot go up. It can go down. If one manages to undermine the quality of their programmes, the coverage of issues, the vitality, imagination and creativity of their programmes, all the words like "thought","imagination", "creativity", "challenge", and "accountability" that Fianna Fáil dislike, then their audience numbers will drop. It will into necessarily go anywhere else, not to even more commercial, less trusting an less chalenging television services; it will just drop. The obejctives will have been acheived which is that the primary source of information on news and current affairs, which has been relied on by Irish people for the best part of 30 years, will become less authorities, less accessible and less widely viewed. That is the underlying fundamental objective of this legislation.

The spurious reasons given in the Minister's speech are unconvincing. If the problem was below-cost selling of advertising, it is perfectly feasible to deal with that. If the problem was the famous uneven playing pitch — I cannot find the playing pitch any more because RTE have been booted off it — then that could be dealt with in many other ways. The point that needs to be said over and over again to the Government is that nobody, except themselves and Independent Newspapers Limited approve of this legislation. Nobody except themselves and Tony O'Reilly approve of it.

We know why.

It is company that I know Fianna Fáil in their good days would not wish to be in but they and Toney O'Reilly are in favour of this. The Independent Newspapers group have a long standing and stated interest in getting invovled in broadcasting and, of course, this will help. It is an indication of the naivety and lack of a sense of commercial reality on the part of the newspapers that they believe that advertising agencies funds will be diverted from television to newspapers. They will not. Agencies have a basket of the kind of advertising they wish to spend money on. They hae budgets for different areas. It is quite simple. If major food chains cannot advetise on RTE because the advertising on RTE is chapped they will go outside the country. The reasoning I identified and talked about earlier is the presumption that advertiseing somehow or other created the audience. It is the quality of the programmes that creates the audience. From the very beginning the alternative national radio service did not have the quality programmes to attract an audience. That was the problem then and that is the problem now. They cannot get the audience to justify advertsing on the scale that they need to make ends meet. That is not RTE's fault. If there is a problem for commercial stations, vis-a-vis RTE, it is that the combination of licence fee and advertsing enables RTE to make better programmes than a commercial service can do on its own.

I find it extraordinary that the combination of advertising and licence fees, not a Government grant, that enables RTE to make quality programmes should be regarded as suspect: RTE succeed in making good programmes, there is something wrong with that. It is dressed up in trivialities about under-selling advertising. Under-selling advertising does not get an audience. What gets and audience is the quality of the programmes made. Therefore, the only way one can divert revenue away from RTE is by reducing their audience. The only way one can reduce their audience is by reducing the quality of their programmes, the number of hours their programmes or the range of subjects they cover. One does that by taking money from them. All the other arguments are dressed up to get away from that fact. The objective of this legislation is to reduce the proportion of the population of the State who watch RTE television and listen to RTE radio. Anything else makes no logical sense.

It is a happy coincidence for the Government that they can use the ideological fashionable phrases about independence and competition to enable them get their own back on RTE. It is a profound tragedy. It is farcical because it is so poorly argued. It is tragic because of what it will do to public service broadcasting. Public service broadcasting is broadcasting which operates to serve the public, which believes that its job is to provide a service for the public, to provide information, knowledge, entertainment and education for the public. It works very well.

One of the problems the Government discovered is that they cannot get RTE to go away by ignoring them. In the period from 1987-89, for instance, they decided they would maintain a haughty superiority to "Questions and Answers" and Ministers would not go on that programme. They discovered that did not work and the public were actually interested in finding out what Ministers had to say. They paid the price of their haughtiness in the 1989 elections. Now they go on "Questions and Answers" but they want to reduce the audiences so that people will not ask any more awkward questions. That is the objective of this legislation.

I will leave it to others to argue the constitutionality of many of the questions raised in the legislation because others know more about the legalities than I do. I do not think a constitutional challenge is the way to resolve this. This ought to be resolved in the normal process of parliamentary democracy. It should have been dealt with at a reasonable pace with reasonable time intervals between Second Stage and Committee Stage.

It is fascinating the way the Finance Bill, for instance, is dealt with where there are lobbies that are important to the Government parties involved. The budget provisions which form the basis of the Finance Bill, are announced in January and then there is a two months hiatus while every sector, particularly of a business and financial nature, lobbies the Government. As a result of the lobbying the Government produce a Finance Bill which often is different from the announcements made in the budget.

In this case, we have a rushing through of cobbled together legislation with cobbled together amendments. The one advantage of the amendments, changes and lack of diffuse philosophy is that it makes clear what the Bill is about. This Bill should have been introduced and debated properly on Second Stage without dubious stratagems. It should then have been left until the Minister, the Government and public opinion digested the basic contents. Then we should have had a proper and detailed Committee Stage in the Dáil without haste, and then we should have had a pause before Report Stage. That is the way to deal with a fundamental change in the way public service broadcasting is operated. Instead we have this unseemly and quite extraordinary haste.

Luaigh an tAire sa mhéid a dúirt sé faoi teilifís na Gaeltachta. Seó é a dúirt sé:

There have been some uninformed suggestions that the proposal to allow the third television channel to establish its own UHF transmission system rules out the possibility of establishing a Teilifísna Gaeltachta should a decision to that effect be taken. This is quite incorrect. From the technical side while UHF frequencies are in very limited supply we have, in fact, retained sufficient of them to enable such a service to be established.

Bheadh sé suimiúil dá dtabharfadh an tAire dúinn pé atá faoi cé mhéad bealaí UHF atá ar fáil sa tír seo faoi na comharthaí idirnáisiúnta faoina riaraítear na ceisteanna seo, agus conas atá ceann faoi leith ar fáil. De réir cuid mhaith den eolas atá ar fáil, tá dhá bhealach UHF tógtha suas faoi láthair le cúrsaí teilifíse. Tá ceann amháin coimeádtha ag Telecom agus tá an ceathrú ceann le tabhairt do TV3. Má tá bealach UHF ar fáil fós tríidir teilifís na Gaeltachta a chur ar fáil don tír — agus seo ceist theincniúil nár chóir go mbeadh aon argóint againn fuithi — bheadh sé suimiúil a fháil amach cá bhfuil sé agus conas mar atá sé ann. Tá a lán go bhféadfaí a rá faoin mBille seo agus gur chóir a rá, os rud é go mb'fhéidir gur ócáid stairiúil é seo, gurb é seo an chéad chéim i mbáaú RTÉ, mar a bhíodh sé, agus ina athruú mar sheirbhís phoiblí.

B'fhéidir go mbeadh sé oiriúnach, pé rud atá déanta ag RTÉ a lua, an t-éacht atá déanta acu, na rudaí móra atá curtha i gcrích acu i gcúrsaí ceoil, cúrsaí reatha, nuachta, spóirt agus drámaíochta. D'éirigh leo ábhar machnaimh a chur ar fáil, cláir eolais a chraoladh le sinne a spreagadh le machnamh a dhéanamh ar chúrsaí a ndearnmar talamh slán díobh roimhe sin. Chabhraigh RTÉ le cúrsaí oideachais, ní oideachas foirmeálta, ach oideachas an ghnáthdhuine maidir le cúrsaí polaitíochta, creidimh, cultúir, agus rudaí eile. Níl a fhios agam cén Ghaeilge atá ar entertainment, ach bíonn gá le píosa spóirt sa chóras craolacháin.

D'fhéadfaí a lán rudaí a rá faoi RTÉ agus an dóigh ar theip orthu, ach ní hé seo an áit leis na rudaí sin a lua. Caithfear i gcónaí an cheist a chur os comhair an Tí: má d'éirigh chomh maith sin le RTÉ le 30 bliain anuas, má tá an lucht féachana agus an lucht éisteachta chomh mór sin acu — is fíricí iad seo mar a chruthaíonn na staitisticí — cén fáth, mar sin, go bhfuil Bille mar seo os comhair an Tí? Cén fáth go bhfuiltear ag brú an phíosa reachtaíochta seo trí dhá Theach an Oireachtais chomh tapaidh is atá sé á bhrú ag an Rialtas agus go speisialta ag an Aire seo? Is cosúil go bhfuil daoine eile sa Rialtas nach n-aontaíonn leis. Tá scéalta á gcur timpeall ar na nuachtáin faoi Airí Rialtais ag rá nach bhfuil siad sásta nach bhfuil na Progressive Democrats sásta, agus nach bhfuil ag teastáil ón Aire ach go mbeidh an píosa reachtaíochta seo curtha tríd an Oireachtas roimh an samhradh. Níl a fhios agam cén fáth. Níl éinne sa Rialtas, agus an tAire go speisialta, sásta éisteacht leis na ceardchumainn; níl siad sáasta éisteacht leis na heagraíochtaí proifisiúnta faoi chúrsaí fógraíochta agus margaíochta, eagraíochtaí atá ag moladh dóibh gan leanstan ar aghaidh leis an mBille seo.

Níl éinne sásta éisteacht leo siúd, nó dul chun cainte leo. Beidh an píosa reachtaíochta seo curtha trí dhá Theach an Oireachtais gan plé ceart ar an mbaol atá ann go rachaidh níos ná £10 milliún amach as an tír chun jabanna a chruthú i dtíortha agus i stáit eile, Tuaisceart Éireann, nó b'fhéidir sa Bhreatain féin. Ní thuigim, agus ní thuigeann an tír, cén fáth go bhfuil a leithéid ar siúl. Tá ionannas dainséarach idir an fhealsúnacht sa Bhille seo agus gnáthfhealsúnacht Fhianna Fáil. An teanga atá á labhairt agam faoi láthair, ba cheann de bhunfhiúntais Fhianna Fáil í, mar a thug duine éigin i bhFianna Fáil uirthi, nuair a bhí ceisteanna chomhrialtais faoi chaibidil: fundamental values nó bunfhiúntais.

Is í Ghaeilge ceann de na bunfhiúntais siúd agus tá sí beagnach maraithe ag Fianna Fáil. Ní thuigim cén fáth, pé rud a mbíonn aitheantas dár gcuid féin ann, cén fáth go mbíonn Fianna Fáil amhrasach faoi, go mbíonn siad ina choinne. Chlac siad leis an Ghaeilge aus d'éirigh leo an Ghaeilge a mharú. Tá siad ag rá anois go bhfuil siad chun jab mór dearfach a dhéanamh ar son chúrsaí craolacháin agus is é an rud is mó a thiocfaidh as ná damáiste bunúsach a bheith déanta acu don chóras craolacháin náisiúnta. Ní thuigim cén fáth go dteastaíonn uathu a leithéid a dhéanamh ach amháin chun a bheith ag iarraidh a chinntiú nach mbeidh an brú céanna orthu bheith freagrach as a gcuid gníomharthaí, as pé rud a dhéanann siad, a bheith freagrach go poiblí as na socruithe a dhéanann siad faoin tír seo.

Tá siad ag iarraidh an gnáthdhuine a mhealladh ó bheith ag éisteacht nó bheaith ag féchaint ar chúsaí nuachta agus chúrsaí reatha sa chaoi is go gcabhrófar le Fianna Fáil. Is é an rud atá soiléir ná nach ceist fhógraíochta amháin, nach teacht isteach an chórais chraolacháin atá i gceist, mar ní hé an praghas a íocfar nó a íoctar ar fhógraíocht a shocraíonn méid an lucht féachana nó an lucht éisteachta Is é caighdeán na gclár a shorcraíonn méid an lucht éisteachta nó an lucht féachana Is é a thiocfaidh as an reachtaíocht seo ná go mbedih ar RTÉ caíghdeán na gclár a ísliú, go dtitfidh an tóin as cuid mhaith de na cláir agus an oiread sin fógraíochta caillte acu. Ní bhedidh siad ábalta bheith ag brath ar bhreis ioncaim ó fhógraíocht má tá orthu cláir mhára a chur os ár gcomhair cosúil le Corn an Domhain, agus an lucht féachana a bhí acu.

Bhí RTÉ ábalta cui mhaith fógraoichta a dhíol, agus bhí lucht féachana an-mhór ann, thart ar dhá mhilliún duine, an lucht féachana is mó dá raibh riamh acu. Má tharlaíonn a leithéid taobh istigh de dhó nó thrí de bhlianta, agus an capping ar ioncam fógraíochta atá socraithe ag an Aire, ní bhedidh siad ábalta aon rud a dhéanamh as. Beidh siad ceangailte leis an ionceam atá socraithe roimh ré agus ní bhedidh ar a gcumas aon rud a ghnóthú as.

Mar sin ní gá agus nil sé fírinneach bheith ag caint faoi cheisteanna teacht isteach. Is é atá taobh thiar de seo ná RTE a bhriseadh, agus aon neamhspleáchas atá acu a bhriseadh, agus níl mórán acu mar tá siad an iomarca, faoli láthair, faoi thionchar, ní amháin an Rialtais seo, ach gach Rialtais. Agus tá i bhfad níos mó cumhachta ag, b'fhéidir, preasrúnaí pé Rialtais atá i gceannas ná mar be chóir a bheith maidir le stáisium craolacháin. Bíonn an iomarca tionchair acu ar RTÉ agus beidh níos mó ann as seo amach. Sin an bhunaidhm agus an bhunfhealsúnacht atá taobh thiar den reachtaíocht.

Bheadh sé go breá dá gcloisfimis fíorsmaointe Sheanadóirí Fhianna Fáil faoin reachtaíocht seo. Cad a chepann siad faoi? Conas mar a cheapann siad nach bhfuil an fhirinne sna tuairimí atá nochtaithe ag an tionscal fógraiochta, go rachaidh an chuid is mó den £12 mhilliun atá luaite ag an Aire amach as an Stát? Cén fáth nach gceapann Seanadóirí Fhianna Fáil agus Seanadóirí na Progressive Democrats go bhfuil an t-airgead sinchun imeacht amach as an tír? Cén fáth nach bhfuil an ceart ag na daoine proifisiúnta agus go bhfuil an ceart ag an Aire? Ba chóir do na Seanadóirí sin an tAire a chosaint agus a mhíniú dúinn cén fáth nach bhfuil an ceart againne, mar nil sé ráite ag an Aire go bhfuil sé sásta go bhfanfaidh an t-airgead sin taobh istigh den stát.

Má cheapann Seanadóirí Fhianna Fáil nach bhfuil an ceart agam nó ag an tionscal fógraíochta, be chóir doibh a mhíniú dúinn cén fáth nach bhfuil an ceart againn. Conas a bhedih RTÉ in ann leanstan leis an gcaighdeán céanna clár a bhíodh agus atá acu má bhíonn laghdú mór ar an teacht isteach atá acu? Conas mar is féidir le RTÉ leanstan ar aghaidh le cláir Ghaeilge aguú laghdu mór ar an teacht isteach? Conas mar a bheidh RTÉ ábalta, má iarrtar orthu, cabhrú le bunú sheirbhís teilifíse Gaeltachta má bhíonn laghdú mór ar an teacht isteach airgid? Ní bheidh siad in ann rud ar bith mar sin a chur le chéile mar nach mbedih an t-airgead ann chuige sin. Agus titfidh an tóir as caighdeán chlair RTÉ. Caithfear bheith cinnte gurb é plean an Rialtais, plean Fhianna Fáil agus na Progressive Democrats le chéile, ná cighdeán na gcláar ar RTÉ a ísliú, a ísliú ar mhaithe leo féin trí bhru a chur ar chóras craolacháin a bhfuil caighdeán ard nuachta agus cúrsaí reacht acu. Sin a bhunaidhm atá taobh thiar de seo.

Sin an fáith go bhfuil sé náireach go bhfuil a leithféid seo de ceachtaíocht ag dul tríd and Teach seo mar gur ionsaí bunúsach é ar cheann de na comhlachtaí Stáit is mó, is éifeachtaí sa tír. Tá a lán rudaí faoi RTÉ, dála gach eagraíochta móire, nach bhfuil chomh maith agus ba chóir, ach is eagraíocht é ar éirigh go hanmhaith leis agus gan ach fíorbheagán de theacht istech acu i gcomparáid le heagraíochtaí craolacháin eile. Tá éirithe go maith leo ar an ábhar go bhfuil siad ábalta meon an ghnáthdhuine a thuiscine agus cláir a chur ar fáil a oireann do mheon an ghnáthdhuine, cláir a chur ar fáil a bhfuil caighdeán níos airde acu ná an chuid is mó de na cláir a thagann ón iasacht. Agus cláir dá gcuid féin is mó a bhíonn sa Top Ten de na TAM ratings at RTE, os rud é gur cláir iad a oireann do mhuintir na tíre seo.

Titfidh an tóin as sin, ní daoinghnó, ach os rud é go bhfuil sé socraithe ag an Rialtas, agus go háirithe ag an Aire seo go dtarláidh a leithéid chun cabhrú le Fianna Fáil, le cairde Fhianna Fáil, agus leis na daoine taobh thiar d'Fhianna Fáil nach n-ainmnitear, nó nach bhfeictear go rómhinic ach a bhíonn i gcónaí ag cuidiú le Fianna Fáil le linn fheachtas toghchánaíochta. Sin bunfhealsúnacht na reachtaíochta, cabrú le cairde Fhianna Fáil cos ar bhlog a dhéanamh ar RTÉ agus Fiana Fáil a shábháil ó dhianascrúdú an phobail trí chóras craolacháin den chaighdeán atá againn faoi láthair. Ba chóir go mbeadh náire ar dhá pháirtí an Rialtais a leithéid seo a chur os ár gcomhair.

I had hoped, following what Senator Manning said earlier, that we would dbate this Bill in a calm and reasoned manner. Though we have been calm to date, there has been much more emphasis on envective than on reason in the contributions we have heard from the benches opposite. We have not had the shambles that they unfortunately had in the other House, but I can only describe the activities of those in Oppositon as anti-democratic. I also regret that the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Senator Manning, saw fit to divert a considerable part of his speech to an attack on the Progressive Democrats and what he sees as our pat in this Bill and in the Coalation Government.

There is a supreme irony in hearing an eulogy of a former Minister from Senator Manning's party who, when they were in Government, allowed a situation to develop and continue where the law was flouted in a scandalous manner. This was conveniently forgotten by Senator Manning.

He referred to the moral ground that the Progressive Democrats may or may not have held. No moral ground was held in that circumstance. It is just as ironic that, on one hand, he blames us, the Progressive Democrats, for making our feelings known on the initial aspects of the proposed Bill, which he now calls one of shreds and patches, yet he can only blame us again when he finds that the Minister had listened to what the Progressive Democrats, and others, have said.

I am glad that the Bill presented to us today is different from that which initial proposals signalled because there were two aspects of those proposals with which I, and many of my colleagues, were unhappy. This applied to people on both sides of this House. I am also glad that the views expressed were taken into account. As we all know 2FM is a popular and successful station and I am a great believer in "if it works, don't mend it". I am confident that in its present form it will continue to be successful. I must admit that I did not relish the fact that it would be a station which had only public service broadcasting, as defined by Senator brednan Ryan. 2FM continues to be enormously successful. It is capable of existing in its own right and taking on competition.

The other aspect of the initial proposals was that of proposed diversion of licence fee moneys to an independent, ailing radio station. I was amazed to find that there were that I can only term as snide, unthinking remarks from the other side, I am not sure from whom, which seemed to indicate that someone does not realise that this proposal was not developed. I also take grave exception to the innuendo about friends of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil being in some way "looked after." This is a rather fatuous and irrelevant remark. I found it rather illogical that the previous speaker talked, on the one hand, of advertising revenue being diverted outside the State and yet in some way that the same revenue would look after these so-called "friends". I fail to see the logic in that.

I believe that those who sought licences to compete on the open market did so with full knowledge and consent. That does not mean that we accept that they can be disadvantaged because of another station's monopoly position. There have been references to "levelling of the playing pitch." We should not over-compensate in this regard. I am glad the Minister has made some amendments to the Bill in relation to advertising time, the later implementation of the Bill and the linking of revenues to the consumer price index. I hope that these changes will ameliorate the situation as envisaged by members of RTE and the Opposition.

I had hoped that this debate would stick to reason, rather than invective or innuendo. The Opposition seem to be of the view that if they state an opinion it must be true but they should stick to facts. It does not add to a healthy debate to hear every latent prejudice spun out ad nuaseum by one who calls himself an intellectual. Unfortunately, that is his opinion but it is the equivalent of saying l'État, C'est moi.

I do not take personal offence at any remarks made by a member of the Oppositon but as a member of a party which is in coalition with a larger party, I will always argue my case where I differ; I do not need to be preached at and I will agree and disagree as I see fit. It amazes me, with some emphasis on talking about logic, that thre should be such use of illogical arguments in this House over a long period of time. As I said, I do not like getting involved in personal attacks so I will not pick up Senator Ryan on a number of agruments he made, but the final irony was that he used two arguments to illustrate different conclusions which were totally illogical.

At the outset, I want to take up a point made by Senator Keogh in her demand for logic. I suppose there is a lot to be said for demands for logic but sadly, or happily, politics are not about logic. Logic has a certain bearing on it but there is much more to politics than logic.

This is the most controversial Bill to come before us for a long ime. It would be a contender for the title of the most controversial Bill ever. Its passage through the Dáil has been difficult and painful. It has threatened many of the assumptions which underpin the smooth functioning of the Dáil. We had a chaotic end to the whole business last night, the authority of the Ceann Comhairle being put in jeopardy. People have been talking this morning of the desirability of the impending recess so that people will have a chance to cool down and recover from the trauma of this Bill.

This Bill has been badly thought out and the Minister's attitude has been confused. This Bill is being introduced because of the Government's belief that RTE were responsible that they lost the last election. If derived from the Minister getting into a fit of rage, rather like the Queen in "Alice in Wonderland" when she shouted "off with their heads, off with their heads". That seems to be the primary drive behind the thinking in the Bill. There is also a final unusual way of doing RTE in — by putting a cap on them, and presumably the cap will, in due course, be pulled down over their heads and they will be allowed to slowly but surely suffocate. It is a change from the old methods of doing away with things but it looks as though the research and development department of the Fianna Fáil Party have been at work on new ways of sorting things out. The Bill is also anti-enterprise and anti-the State sector.

There are four or five main reasons for the Labour Party opposing the Bill. First it will damage and impede public service broadcasting and increse the extent to which the Government will be able to control broadcasting; second it will result in serious job losses in RTE; third, it will turn the advertising market on its head, create ridiculous prices and a fall in advertising standards; fourth, it will put the final seal on any question that there might be an Irish television channel for the Gaeltacht and, indeed, for anybody else who would like to benefit from an Irish television channel. It is likely that the Bill will be the subject of a constitutional action, and it is anti-the State sector; and finally it does nothing for the development of community radio.

The Bill will increase the degree to which the Government will be able to control broadcasting, because it is an effective repeal of the Broadcasting Act, 1960 and, ultimately, in all these matters, money talks. That is a great source of concern to the Labour Party. Our commitment to public service broadcasting is comparable to the best not just in this country but worldwide. We have had a long standing commitment to public service broadcasting, and that did not arise in the last few weeks when it became popular to have such commitments. It has derived over a long period and it has been adequately articulated by many of our spokesmen, particularly Deputies Toddy O'Sullivan, Michael D. Higgins and the party leader, Michael Spring.

The Bill before us will have a serious impact on restricting and ultimately, destroying the public service broadcasting function which RTE fulfil. The various wonderful programmes which have been produced by RTE over the years will, effectively, be phased out and, in due course, will cease to exist because there will be no money available to allow these programmes to be made. We will see the end of programmes such as the Irish music programmes that Ciarán Mac mathuúna pioneered and developed over the years, the Thomas Davis Lecturers; the work of the RTE players——

We will see an end of the orchéstra and programmes such as "Sundary Miscellany". Any programme that will not generate money and an audience will simply be forced out of existence. RTE will be pulled down to levels of considerations which only relate to obtaining market share, and significant elements of market share. The many international awards which RTE have won over the years and their excellent coverage of international events, will all fade or be put in jeopardy. It will not be possible to consider such factors when the forces which are now being unleashed and directed at RTE, work their way through the system. Productions like "Strumpet City" will not be made and many other wonderful services which RTE have provided over the years will be seriously restricted. Ultimately, RTE will be forced to compete for an audience.

In addition, there will be serious job losses in RTE. Out of a total workforce of about 2,000, we can expect to see in the order of 350 to 400 nobs lost at the station. There will be job losses in various other industries and services which are available to RTE and among contract staff who derive their livelihood from doing contract work for RTE. There will also be job losses for those who provide goods and services for RTE generally. We are talking in terms of 400 job losses. This is not my estimate but that of the people who know the business in RTE. Twenty per cent, or one in every five people who work in RTE can expect not to be working there in the next year or two when the provisions of this Bill work their way through the system.

There will be job losses in the record industry, a record industry which has benefited greatly from population music programmes in RTE. RTE have given a great boost and encouragement to the development of the music industry over the years. There are Senators here who know a lot more about that than I do. Senators Cassidy and Mooney know this industry inside out. The extent to which that industry has grown and developed over the years is due to a large extent to RTE, in the way it popularised that type of music and many Irish artists. Indeed, it ultimately laid the foundation for the success of many great pop stars from this country. They got an introduction to the business at home, saw how the game was played and then moved on to make the grade internationally.

The ceiling to be put on the amount of advertising which RTE can take will create a false and distorted market. RTE advertising rates will increase and they will become incompetitive. That will lead to people advertising in other countries. This is an anti-job creation programme, moving jobs which Irish people might benefit from to organisations such as Sky, Independent Television and so on.

RTE stand to lose £10 million to £20 million in advertising revenue. People say this will work its way into various other sectors of the economy, but in reality advertising simply follows the audience. That is the basics of advertising. Nobody wants to advertise where there is minimal circulation. Inevitably advertising which RTE will not be able to carry because of the ceiling will go to other channels which are viewed and listened to in Ireland. That, of course, will mean a further incentive for those channels to compete in Ireland and, ultimately to take more jobs out of this country.

The Bill will affect Irish language programmes on telivision and, indeed, it finally puts the tin hat on any prospect of an Irish language TV channel being estblished. RTE certainly will not be able to do this now because they will not have the money or the resources. I do not see anybody else doing it because, of course, there is no market for such a channel; this type of channel can only be established if there is a commitment to public service broadcasting and if the resources are available.

It is funny, odd and paradoxical in the extreme that Fianna Fáil, in the old days, if I remember rightly, put forward two great reasons for an Irish language channel — the unification of Ireland and the restoration of the national language. We will leave aside the reunification of ireland but I cannot see how anybody can pursue the idea of the restoration of Irish without an Irish language channel to maintain what remains of the Gaeltacht. After all these years of attrition, ultimately it is being let fade away. It is almost like what they used to say on Radio Éireann years ago, "Is dona linn an briseadh sin". Now as far as the Irish language is concerned, it seems that all Fianna Fáil are going to do is say "lá breá", and that is it. That is a great pity and a great change. I will listen with interest to see what Fianna Fáil have to say about that. I will listen with interest to see what the great warrior cats, the great defenders of the Irish language over the years those people who sneered, leered and jeered at people whose commitment to the Irish language was not adequate have to say. I will listen with interest to see how they will defend what they are doiing and what their plans are to establish an Irish language television channel. Certainly, that is the end of that. The Gaeltacht and all the rest will have to take their chances as they are bombraded with programmes transmitted by channels from outside the country.

Slowly, constantly but surely this Bill will erode what remains of that culture, tradition and language. It will be left to wither by Fianna Fáil, whose second great aim was the restoration of the Irish langauge. It is certainly funny, paradoxical and difficult to understand that all this is happening when the Taoiseach is the Minister for the Gaeltacht.

It appears that this Bill will ultimately be the source of a constitutional case in the courts. There seems to be reasonably good legal opinion for that, presumably unbiased legal opinion, coming from the people who write editorials in the Irish Law Tiems and so on. However, we will have to await developments. There is a possibility of getting rid of that risk by removing the section which seems to be in conflict with the Constitution. It will be interesting to see if this Bill will be referred by the President to the Supreme Court to ensure that it is constitutional.

If there are problems, I find it difficult to udnerstand why we are in such a hurry with this Bill. If we were to take it at face value it would be impossible to understand it but if we look for deeper political resons, then it is simple enought to provide an explanation. We are talking about a damage limitation job by Fianna Fáil. I am pleased to see Senator Conroy, who is a wise old brid at this trade, shaking his head very wisely and sagely in agreement with me, I presume. Sentor Cassidy is smiling as well as if he acknowledges——

I am just wondering how a sensible man like yourself could be talking so much utter rubbish and balder dash.

Will Senator Upton please continue without inviting interruptions?

I do not have a monopoly on waffle around here but in the waffle league I would be well down the list.

Basically the Bill is a damge limitation job and that is the primary anxiety and concern. It is also entirely anti-State sector. RTE have been criticised for being fat cats and many other old tired slogans by the people who are opposed to the State sector and State industry. Then RTE got their act togehter and over the past four or five years increased their profits from less than £1 million in 1985 to almost £6 million in 1989. That is excellent progress. They have done that while increasing their total otput of television programmes by some 37 per cent and their home productions by one-third. After doing that the Minsiter descends on them like a tonne of bricks and decides to clamp down on whatever capacity they have for public service broadcasting.

There are also knock-on effects from this. It is an indication of the extent of the Minister's rage and anxiety to pursue his objective of finishing off RTE. That is being done while serious concern is now being expressed as to the effect this Bill will have on the possibility of a new programme for national recovery. The extent to which this Coalition Government are prepared to put the prospect of a new national recovery programme in jeopardy to obtain their objectives is an indication of how anxious they are to finish off RTE.

RTE have made progress and obtained those outputs in the face fo stiff competition from overseas channels. That competition has amplified over the last few years with a series of commercial channels coming onto the Irish market. Despite all that progress, instead of being allowed to continue to do the job, these restrictions have been placed on them.

Another great function served by RTE over the years was that they provided a means by which many of the people who now have key roles in and are major contributors to local radio learned their trade. For example, people like Caimin Jones who works with Clare FM, which is doing exceptionally well, learned the business in RTE. The same applies to Gavin Duffy in Gael Linn and there are probably many more. That is an important function of RTE but if this Bill is passed I do not see RTE continuing to fulfil it.

My final reason for objecting to the Bill is that it does nothing for community radio. Our party are anxious that community radio shoud be encouraged and developed. The extent to which community radio exists is minimal. There are grave reservations about allowing community radio develop and this is particularly disappointing. The Crumlin radio group have tried to develop to serve Crumlin and adjacent areas and have done all the necessary background planning. They have organised finance and the people there have done courses in broadcasting. They are ready to go and are quite capable of going but they will not be given the go-ahead because of the impact the development of a community radio in areas such as Crumlin might have on various aspects of the advertising market.

This is a badly thought out Bill. It has suffered greatly from the fundamental drive behind it, which is one of getting at RTE,derived ultimately from people in Fianna Fáil getting into a fit of rage, which reached its zenith on the night of the counts of the last general election. It is the old story — the Greeks were into it once upon a time — of beating up the messenger and so on.

The Senator has enough cronies out there.

Cronies out in RTE? I think Senator Byrne is mixed up. In many ways I wish we had. A function of RTE is to be objective and many of us in the Labour party — no more than those in other parties — have felt from time to time that we did not get a fair crack of the whip but we are not prepared to take that out on RTE. Nobody at the receiving end of press coverage is always satisfied. My attitude is that the press have a job to do and so be it; let them do it. I have no wish to take on the job, while acting as a politician, of imaginary editor of some newspaper, radio programme or news report. That is for journalists who invariably cannot always please everybody, indeed, probably most of the time will not be able to please everybody. That is their function. If they please everybody basically, they will only be writing about good weather. I reject entirely the implications in the suggestion from Senator Byrne that we have cronies in RTE and the implication that their behaviour does not conform to the highest professional standards.

In the meantime, they ignore rural Ireland.

That is a separate matter. I again appeal to the Minister to postpone the taking of Committee Stage until everybody has had a chance to calm down but I do not believe that will happen. This is a damage limitation job and it appears that the best way Fianna Fáil have of limiting damage is to put the cap on advertising, get it out of the way and hope that it will go away——

The Coaliton did not do anything for four years and the illegal stations, did not have a hat, a cap or the brains.

——and that the people will duly forget about it.

Four wasted years.

We are wasting time listening to the Senator.

Notice taken that 12 members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

I have finished my contribution. All I want to do is to appeal that this debate be postponed until the autumn when, as I say, everybody would have calmed down and we might all be able to take a more sensible approach, which is ultimately what is needed. These things are above and beyond immediate party political considerations. We are talking of a very important aspect of Irish life, fundamental to freedom in this country, and I do not think that the kind of carry-on we are seeing here over the last month in the Oireachtas is anything other than reprehensible.

I would like, first, to congratulate the Minister for having the courage to do his duty and do what was necessary in bringing in a Broadcasting Bill, a very much overdue Bill, in a situation which had gone almost totally out of control. The Minister is also to be congratulated in ending the monopoly and ensuring freedom of television and greater freedom of the radio waves. I find the hysteria which has greeted this Bill extraordinary, especially from the far side of the House. I would have thought they would have been joining us in rejoicing at the fact that, compared with other countries, we were freeing the radio waves, freeing the television waves. We have seen in eastern Europe the complete monopoly of television and broadcasting and we have seen it in other countries in western Europe. It was high time we had this Bill brought before the House. It is necessary legislation and the Minister is to be congratulated on it.

I agree with Senator Upton that it is a very important matter and should be discussed in a manner devoid of the sort of hysteria which we have witnessed today and which, I believe, has also occurred in the other House. These are very important matters which we should be discussing in detail. In many ways I also agree with Senator Upton that you have to take what comes in relation to newspaper and media reports. You may feel they are unkind, unjust or untrue but you have to take the rough with the smooth. I am not one of those who necessarily agrees that the television or media have been anti this party. If they have been, it has certainly been remarkable for how little effect they have had in that over 60 years we have still been the largest party in the State with the largest number of voters, election after election, voting for this party.

I am not altogether convinced of that; but, listening to what has happened today, listening to normally sensible people like the Leader of the Opposition, in this House like the Leader of the Labour Party on the opposite side, reading some of the comments that were made in the other House, one begins to wonder — particularly as I listened to Senator Ryan — if there was a degree of bias, because it is very hard to explain the utter and complete hysteria which seems to have gripped particularly some sections of the Opposition since this very sensible, reasonable Bill was brought in. It seems to suggest that perhaps there is some degree of preference for certain parties.

I think they are to some extent mistaken in that. RTE in their efforts to be fair have endeavoured, for example, on political programmes to see that there is one member from each party, a very reasonable and fair measure. I say that despite the fact that it means that inevitably we will have in this party — the largest party, often larger than the other parties put together — only one speaker on a given programme and all the other parties, even if they only have a matter of tens of thousands of votes or only two or three seats or even no seats in the Dáil or Seanad, have equal representation, so that in a panel discussion you can have one Fianna Fáil representative and four, five or six from other parties. I still think it is the fair and right thing to do, but there appears to be an astonishing degree of sensitivity — let us put it no more than that — among certain speakers, at any rate, from the Opposition.

It was suggested to me that there is a degree of uneasiness, that there is a guilty conscience somewhere lurking about the place, because while they might have had their criticisms of this Bill they would have been on a more sensible and rational basis. Instead we have heard the sort of comments where even the very reasonable Leader of the Opposition went as far as saying that any attack on RTE was an attack on us all. I am sure in a more sensible, rational moment he would not have made such a sweeping statement. I will not deal with the many hysterical comments of Sentor Ryan, but on a more sensible basis even in the case of Senator Upton one finds some of his comments surprising.

Broadcasting has transformed our lives. Our parents will talk of the sort of radios which they had back in the twenties and the thirties. Of course, there is tremendous emotional element to it, particularly perhaps in relation to the football and Gaelic hurling matches of the time, when people would often gather together around a neighbour's radio. It was a very beneficial and good influence. Similarly, television in the post-war years has had an enormous impact, and I think basically a very beneficial impact. Now we are moving on into yet a new era, with satellite television as part of the total revolution in general communications in entertainment and in news media gathering, the instant report often coming from the place where some serious or entertaining event is happening. Millions of us all over the world have enjoyed the World Cup during this last few weeks, a totally revolutionary thing which 20 or 30 years ago was absolutely inconceivable.

Television is a power for a tremendous amount of entertainment, a power for joy and also, of course, a power for good; and many of the programmes which one sees on the screen are informative, useful and so on. Communications, of course, can equally well be a power for evil. We have all seen the television documentaries of the Hitler era and the use that was made by Hitler and Goebbels of communications of that time, communications which, may I add, were rigidly State-controlled by a State monopoly.

I would have imagined that most democrats would have very much supported the idea that there should be democracy and freedom on the airwaves rather than a monopoly, no matter how excellent that monopoly may be. Let us be clear about this, Radio Telefís Éireann is probably among the very best radio and television services in the world. I, as indeed have many other Senators, have travelled throughout many parts of this globe and seen many different television services. There is no doubt that our own service in Ireland is absolutely superb technically and in the quality of its presentation. We should be very proud indeed of these achievements.

That does not mean that we have to just leave it like that, rigid, and that it has to stay for all time as a single State monopoly. There must be altenatives, there should be alternatives, and I have no doubt that within those alternatives Radio Telefís Éireann will compete very successfully and effectively. We are in a new era. Any one of us now with satellite dishes or whatever can have television from many channels. That is the reality of it. We have got to face up to it on a commerical intenational basis and also look at the entire business of advertising. It is changing before our eyes. Within a matter of another six, 12 or 18 months there will be further enormous changes in the distribution of advertising between the various television channels. Before we get too carried away with that, however, one might just mention that advertising is tending to go back towards the newspapers. The major advertisers are finding that in many instances they get a greater return for their pound, dollar or whatever they spend by using newspaper advertising than by television advertising. It is not just perhaps as simplistic as some people might imagine.

I was sorry to hear some of the begruding statements — indeed almost scandalous statements — that were made by Senator Ryan. It is a great pity. Perhaps in the heat of the moment he was saying them; but it is one of the things that holds this country back, this feeling that anyone who makes any sort of success is going to be traduced no matter how good his efforts ae instead of saying, is it not great that these developments are taking place in whatever field they may be?

It is excellent that this Government are making it very clear that they have, as a major plank in their policy — and that we have a Minister who has the courage and determination to carry it through — an alternative to the State broadcasting monopoly. I am delighted to see this occurring. It is long overdue and it is something we in this country should be very glad of. The State monopolies which have existed elsewhere do those countries little credit. These are not necessarily just the totalitarian countries or Eastern European countries; they are also some of the so-called democracies. You have an unseemly scramble as one Government succeeds another to totally change the output, the newscasts, etc. of the television services. We, thank goodness, have never had that here. The fact that we will now have an alternative further diminishes any possibility of that. It was a bad situation and one which I would have thought most members of the Opposition, when they think about it, would basically tend to agree with it.

The Act of 1988 opened up the whole broadcasting sector. We could spend some time on this but I would like to make a comment of congratulation on the independent stations. It was high time that some sort of reasonable balance should exist. You should not have a ludicrous and very inappropriate situation of having pirate broadcasting stations. A very bad precedent was being set. It went on for far too long. We on this side had some responsibility for not stepping on it much earlier. We have heard much talk from the Opposition and the Coalition and so on, but the reality is that we had a Government for many years who just did nothing about the problem — deplored it occasionally but did nothing. I am delighted that we have a Minister who had the determination and courage to come into this Parliament and do something about it and to bear the storm of hysterical protest that has come around his head for doing his duty. I am sure in years to come people will wonder at the hysteria and will probably say: "Well, thank goodness there was a Minister there who had the courage to carry this very necessary Bill through."

Some of the hysteria has circled around the whole question of advertising. As I said in regard to advertising, the whole market is changing anyway. Let us get this into a little bit of reality, let us look at the facts rather than the fallacies or the fantasies which we are being regaled with. The suggestion is that RTE will have 7.5 per cent of total daily programmes or five minutes in the hour — that is one minute in every 12 for advertising. Quite honestly, if I have a criticism of the Minister, I think that that is just a little too generous. One of the disadvantages of television is these constant interruptions of advertising. However, the Minister is being generous in giving that one minute in every 12.

Secondly, people are talking about what RTE will or will not be able to do. We, the citizens of this country, pay a licence fee to be allowed watch television. I happen to think that that is a most undemocratic and bad situation. However, it exists. All of that money at present has been going to the broadcasting and television services. It amounts to something in the region of £47 to £48 million per annum. That is a pretty substantial sum, in round figures approximately £50 million per annum. The Minister is now proposing to allow RTE to earn an equal sum on advertising.

Again, if I have a slight criticism of this Bill, when the hysteria is taken aside, it is, quite frankly, to be giving a State service £50 million, whether you like it or not, out of people's pockets simply to be allowed watch something I feel should be a constitutional right to view anyway. On top of that you are assigning another £50 million out of advertising revenues. We are talking of a sum of £100,000,000 a year for a State with a population of three million. I must say I just wonder at times when I listen to that. There are many television stations throughout the world who would be very happy to be given £100 million per year or to be given £33 per citizen in their countries. It is total hysteria that we have heard in relation to that.

On a slightly more technical matter, some of the speakers have referred to Teilifís na Galetachta and the possibility or otherwise of such a service. That is a very interesting and very important topic in itself. Colleagues such as Senator Ó Foighil have given great thought to this, discussed it in great detail and made many very important comments in the Seanad. So also has Senator Ó Cuív. We had a debate and discussion here in the Seanad. There are various arguments for and against. I have a slight hesitation on the idea that there should be one channel reserved as a Gaeltacht channel. I am very concerned. I think Sean Phadráig Ó Conaire would have reservations at times at this whole idea that because you are a Gaelic speaker you have these Gaeltachts — the sort of attitude and mentality that has grown up over the last 70 years in this State in relation to the Gaeltacht. Many Irish people, I think, at times do not realise that Irish is, after all, one of the three classical languages of Europe. They are of course, Latin, Greek and Gaelic. But if Irish is to have its true place it must be an integrated living part of all our daily lives and all our communications and not just be shunted off to a station which would be just purely a Gaelic station.

But there are arguments on the opposite side. Let us just look at them and assume it is a good thing and that the best way of dealing with Gaelic on television would be to have a sole channel. The practical fact, of course, is that that is still very much open. I could not understand my good colleague, Senator Upton. He is a very able and intelligent man, but I am sure he just did not look at the facts. The simple situation is that in this country, available for television, we have basically two high frequency potentials — one is very high frequency, VHF, which is taken up at present by Radio Telefís Éireann, and the other is ultra high frequency, UHF. The UHF channels are very scarce. We are fortunate in that we have four such channels allocated to this State. RTE is using, in addition to VHF, part of one of the UHF channels. The second UHF channel will go to TV3. That leaves a third network which could, if it were necessary and thought best, be devoted either in part or entirely to Teilifís na Gaeltachta. From a technical point of view it is absolutely available and it still leaves a fourth UHF channel available to use. Some people mentioned deflector systems. As I understand it, there are various technical difficulties there.

All in all, we have a Bill which was overdue, a Bill which is sensible, a Bill I suppose — and maybe we were at fault here — we should have realised that some people would naturally attack on the basis that people have had a monopoly for many years, have been used to a certain way for many years and it is inevitable perhaps that they should have some objection to a change. Then there are people who just on principle are against change. But the degree of absolutely nonsensical hysteria which has gripped certain sections of the Opposition is just quite extraordinary. I am very glad that this Bill is going through. I am glad to see it going through now. If ever a Bill was overdue in relation to broadcasting, this Bill is such and I commend it to the House.

Is le díomá a éirím anseo inniu chun mo chuid cainte a dhéanamh i dtaobh an Bhille seo atá os ár gcomhair. Ba mhaith liom, i dtosach báire, s mhíniú don Aire atá i láthair, agus a bhfuil fáilte roimhe, nach le haon dímheas air féin ná ar dhuine ar bith sa Teach seo nó sa Teach eile, a bhfuilim chun mo chuid cainte uilig a dhéanamh, trí Ghaeilge. Is trua liom nach bhfuil an deis ag an Aire agus ag daoine mar é, an méid atá le rá agamsa a thuiscint go huile is go hiomlán toisc nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge ar a dtoil acu. Níl aon locht agamsa orthu mar gheall air sin, ná ar dhuine ar bith nach bhfuil saoráid cainte aici nó aige i nGaeilge. Ar an dtaobh eile de, ní dóigh liom go mba chóir go mbeadh locht á fháil ormsa, ag an Aire ná ag duine ar bith, eile sa Teach, ar chúis go labhróinn i nGaeilge ar ábhar atá chomh tábhachtach sin don tír. Is cúis mhór bróin dom an neamhshuim atá á dhéanamh den Ghaeilge i gceist chumarsáide atá chomh tábhachtach sin.

Is iomaí uair a chuala mé, ó theacht isteach sa Seanad dom, gur ag cur mo chuid ama amú atáim, a bheith ag labhairt i nGeilge. Deir go leor daoine go bhfuil an-mheas acu ar a mbíonn le rá agam, ach fós féin, is ceist chumarsáide atá faoi chaibidil againn anseo agus is é is bunbhrí le cumarsáid ná comhthuiscint. Ní foláir ná go mbeadh tusa, a Chathaoirligh, an tAire agus mo chomhbhádóirí in ann mé a thuiscint; is mithid do lucht an Phreasa a bheith in ann mé a thuiscint freisin. Ní cóir go n-aireoinn mar dhuine atá ag teacht isteach ón bhfuacht, mar a déarfá, agus nuair a thagaim i láthair anseo, go mbeifí ag rá fúm: "Éist leis féin arís lena chuid Gaeilge". Ní maith liom go mbeadh an cineál sin clú orm ach níl neart agam air agus tá súil agam go bhfuil sé sin intuigthe. Ba bhreá liomsa a bheith thíos ag Seomra na Gaeilge a bhéas á oscailt go hoifigiúil ag an Taoiseach. ag 4.30 p.m. Bhí an-bhaint agam le soláthar na seirbhíse seo.

Ag trácht arís dom ar an mBille is den riachtanas é go mbeadh deis chumarsáide againn, is cuma an i mBéarla nó i nGaeilge í; ní mór do dhaoine a gcearta cumarsáide a bhaint amach. Cuireann sé ionadh orm an Seanadóir Conroy a chlos ag rá go bhfuil an tseirbhís is fearr ar domhan againn in RTE. Más amhlaidh an scéal, cad chuige ár n-iarrachtaí chun é a dhíbhunú?

Dúirt an Seanadóir freisin, agus é ag labhairt mar shaoránach a dhíolann as a cheadúnas teilifíse, go mbíonn méid áirithe mífhoighde air nuair a bhíonn air breathnú ar fhógraíocht: deir sé go gcuireann siad isteach ar rithim a chuid smaointe agus é ag breathnú ar chlár. Ba mhaith liom áfach, an cheist seo a chur ar an Seanadóor: "An bhfuil cead againne breathnú ar chláir teilifíse inár dteanga féin?" Cá bhfuil siad? Más stáisiún teilifíse náisiúnta é, cad chuige nach ndéantar freastal orainne? An ndéantar éagóir orainn toisc go bhfuilimid ar na gclaíocha, toisc gur mionlach sinn? Ba chóir, mar sin, go mbeadh tuiscint ghineáralta ann ar na fadhbanna móra cultúrtha agus cumarsáide atá ag RTE maidir le aidhmeanna an Stáit seo a chomhlíonadh.

Dúirt an Seanadóir Conroy rud eile a chuir iontas mór orm. Dúirt sé nach bhfaca sé Bille ariamh a bhí chomh ciallmhar agus chomh reasúnta leis an mBille seo. B'shin iad na focail a d'usáid sé: "sensible and reasonable". Ní mór, dá réir sin, go bhfuil muintir uilig na tíre, seachas cúpla duine sa Rialtas, tar éis dul le fán. Nach bhfuil an tír uilig ag rá nach bhfuil sé ciallmhar, nó reasúnta? Nach shin é is bunús leis an raic agus leis an rírá atá tar éis a bheith sa Teach eile le seachtain nó le coicís anuas? Nach iontach fós é go mbeadh an Seanadóir den tuairim go bhfuil sé réasúnta agus go bhfuil sé ciallmhar? D'úsáid sé téarmaíocht eile a chuir iontas orm. Is é a dúirt sé ná "It has transformed the lives of the people. It has transformed our lives".

Tá an ceart ag an Seanadóir nuair a deir sé go bhfuil athrú bunúsch déanta ag RTE ar shaol, ar chultúr agus ar mheon mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Is cinnte go bhfuil "transformation" déanta aige ach ní chun maitheas na tíre seo a dearnadh é, ach a mhalairt. Míneoidh mé ag dul ar aghaidh.

Dúirt an Seanadóir Conroy go mb'fhéidir go mbeadh UHF le fáil. Ní fear teicneolaíochta mé ach de réir mar a thuigimse an scéal, níl ann ach trí bhealach do UHF faoi láthair; ceann ag RTE, ceann curtha in áireamh do RTE3—má bhíonn sé riamh ann, agus ní chreidim go mbeidh — agus tá an tríú ceann tógtha ag Telecom Éireann. Muna bhfuil an scéal amhlaidh, ba bhreá liom é sin a chlos ón Aire. Má tá siad tógtha, mar a deirim, cá bhfuil na cinn eile? Is é atá á rá aige i mbeagán focal ná nach bhfuil a leithéid ann, agus táimse ag rá an rud céanna.

Labhair mé ar an ábhar seo cheana i dtaobh teilifís na Gaeltchta, agus dearbhaím arís go bhfuil an tairne deiridh á chur ag an Rialtas i gcónra na Gaeltachta, leis an mBille seo, agus go mbeidh an tórramh ann. Ní hé atá i gceist agam ná go bhfuil bás leis an nGaeilge; tórramh an Gheilge labhartha sa Ghaeltacht atá tagtha chugainn agus is é an Bille seo atá á thionlacan. Mura bhfuil sé sin amhlaidh níor chuala mé éinne anseo á chrúthú chun mo shástachta.

Nuair a dhearcaim ar an mBille seo mar Theachta Gaeltcha tugaim faoi deara gurb iontach go deo an cineál íomhá atá ag an mBille, ag an teilifís agus ag RTE nuair atáthar dá scrúdú trí shúile muintir na príomh-cathrach. Níor airigh mé ná níor chuala mé fós duine ar bith de cheachtar den dá Theach ag tabhairt léargais nó míniú simplí ar an dtionchar a bheas ag an mBille seo ar dhaoine nach de bhunadh Bhaile Atha Cliath iad. Tá Seanadóirí agus Teachtaí dála againn anseo nach as Baile Atha Cliath dóibh ach shílfeá le bheith ag éisteacht leis an gcaint anseo nach raibh sé i gceist aird a thabhairt ach ar smaointe a éiríonn ón bpríomh-chathair. Is cinnte go bhfuil an tromlach de dhaonra na tíre seo lonnaithe sa phríomh-chathair agus go bhfuil ceantair an iarthair bánaithe de thoradh an pholasaí díláru; lárú i gcathair Bhaile Atha Cliath atá ann dá dheasca.

Ba mhaith liom díriú ar na fadhbanna millteacha atá á gcruthú ag an mBille seo do mhuintir na tuaithe, do mhuintir an iarthair, ach go háirithe, agus thairis sin, do mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Déantar anchuid cainte na laethanta seo faoi réigiúnú, agus i dtaobh Airí a ainmniú do na réigiúin. Má bhreathnaítear ar chomhdhéanamh RTE, feictear go bhfuil córas réigiúnaithe bunaithe ann cheana féin. Is iad na réigiúin atá i gceist ná Dún Dealgan Sligeach-Dún na nGall, Gaillimh, Luimneach, Ciarraí-Corcaigh agus Port Láirge. Sin mar a thuigimse le réigiúin. Bhí sé i gceist i gcónaí go dtabharfdh RTE cothrom na Féinne do na réigiúin agus gné rí-thábhachtach ab ea é seo ar ndóigh. Bhí an-dóchas ag Iodáileach, Pascali, go dtiocfadh ré an réigiúnachais lenár linn agus go dtárlódh sé go lánsásúil, go slachtmhar agus go críochnúil agus go mbedh an uile rud ag eascair as na réigiuin agus ag dul ar ais chuig na mórchathracha.

Cén tionchar a bheas ag an mBille seo? Sa chéad áit, i gcás 2FM, a bhí ag freastal ar an tír iomlán mar stáisiún popamhráin, bhí sé i gceist go ndénfaí athruithe air ionas nach mbeadh meas ná éileamh air. Tá a fhios againn uilig gur tháinig athrú intinne ar an Aire sa cheist seo agus gur fhág sé gan athrú é. Ba dheas agus ba mhaith an toradh é sin. Táimse, áfach, ag breathnú siar agus as sin ó Ghaillimh soir go Baile Átha Cliath agus tabharfaidh mé samplaí beaga tábhachtacha don Teach chun mo phointí a léiriú.

Tagraím do chlár álainn, iontach, dúchasach i mBéarla, dár teideal "Looking West" arna chur i láthair ag Jim Fahy. Bhí an-mheas ag muintir an iarthair ar an gclár seo agus bhí éisteacht leathan aige. Cuireadh deireadh le "Looking West" de bharr bru a tháinig ón taobh seo tíre i dtaobh rud éigin eile — and we all start looking east again. Dá gcuirfinn ceist ar dhuine ar bith sa Teach seo faoi chlár Jim Fahy, "Looking West" chun a fháil amach an raibh meas acu air, agus dá bhfaighin freagra diúltach ar mo cheist, dhéarfainn leis an duine úd nár thuig sáe dada i dtaobh cumarsáide. Clár dúchasach a bhí againn ansin do mhuintir an iarthair ach nuair a tháinig brú ó RTE faoi rudaí eile, fuair "Looking West" an pileár. Ba é an clár ab fhearr é agus an clár a n-éisteodh formhór de ghnáthmhuintir na tuaithe leis.

Nílim anseo inniu chun cur leis na rudaí go léir atá á rá ag éinne faoin mBille seo ach is é an locht is mó atá agamsa air ná go bhfuil sé ag imeacht ón dúchas i gcónaí. It is not really of the soil. Tá sé ag imeacht ón duchas agus ag tabhairt aghaidh ar Bhaile Atha Cliath, agus táimid sáite arís sa "trap" céanna ina rabhamar blianta ó shin.

Bhí clár breá dhátheangach ar RTE—"Sunil Thart" le Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Arís bhí se thar cion, agus dhátheangach. Bhí an-suim ag daoine ann agus bhí sé ag líonadh bearna an-mhór, ach arís tá sceal faighte ag an Nuala céanna nach mbeidh "Sunil Thart" ann níos mó — tá deireadh leis. Ceann eile, "Iris". Táimid ag caint faoi na rudaí a dhéantar, agus tá in ann a bheith á dhéanamh ar son na Gaeilge ar RTE mar atá sé anois. Is é an fáth go bhfuilim ag déanamh an phointe seo ná, más mar sin atá an scéal anois, cén chaoi a mbeidh sé mura mbíonn teilifís Ghaeltachta ann. Tá a fhios ag chuile dhuine sa Teach seo céard a bhí ar bun ag "Iris" agus céard é an meas a bhí ag daoine air mar chuir siad cláir shuimiúla os comhair an phobail. Tá scáal faighte ag an té a bhí ag cur an chláir sin i láthair, Máiréad Ní Nuadháin, nach mbeidh si ann níos mó i Meán Fómhair. Mar sin, tá "Looking West" imithe, tá "Iris" imithe agus fós táimid ag caint faoi Bhille a chur tríd an Teach seo atá ag dul a chur tairne eile i gcónra na Gaeilge. Tá mé ag caint go firinneach faoin meon atá taobh thiar den Bhille seo i leith na réigiun. Nior chuala mé fós sa Teach seo duine ar bith ó cheachtar den dá thaobh ag caint faoin chur isteach agus an dochar atá á dhéanamh faoi láthair, agus a éireoidh níos measa, ag an mBille seo. Ag deireadh thiar, dá olcas an chaoi atá orainn, ní bheidh an dé féin fanta ionainn nuair a bheidh an Bille seo ag feidhmiú.

Ba mhaith liom freisin pointe eile a bhaineann leis sin a mhíniú don Teach, cé chomh buailte is atáimid maidir leis an mBille seo, ó thaobh na réigiún de. Mar shampla, an bhliain seo caite chaith lucht gnó san iarthar, i nGaillimh, Sligeach agus Dún na nGall, idir £250,000 agus £300,000 ar fhógraíocht ar an meáin chumarsáide, ar an raidió agus ar an teilifís. B'fhéidir go n-abródh daoine gur beag an tsuim airgid é £300,000 sa bhuiséad uilig agus sa teacht isteach uilig atá le fáil, ó thaobh fógraiochta de, is é sin ag an stáisiún go léir. Is é mo bharúil anois, agus mo thuiscint ar an scéal, go bhfuil deireadh leis sin, nó, mura bhfuil deireadh leis, go mbeidh deireadh leis nuair a bheidh an Bille seo dulta tríd agus achtaithe. Bhí rud ann ar a dtugtaí ráta áitiúil, nó local rate, agus, de réir RTE, bhi 5,000 fógra ar Raidió 1 agus 2 agus ar theilifís. B'iontach an t-éacht é sin, dar liomsa, ag na daoine in RTE an cineál sin gnó a chur ar fáil don stáisiún i mBaile Átha Cliath.

Cuirimis sa chomhthéeacs ceart an eagraíiocht a bhíi ag déeanamh sin. Bhí dhá aidhm ann, agus bhí an dá aidhm á gcomhlíonadh acu i gceart, go huile agus go hiomlán. Bhí teacht isteach RTE á mhéadú, ar thaobh amháin, rud a bhí ceart agus cóir, rud a bhí le moladh, ach, ní ba thábhachtaí ná sin fós, bhí sé ag tabhairt deise don fhear nó don bhean nó do lucht gnó in iarthar na tíre iarracht a dhéanamh bheith féiniúlach in áit a mbeadh sé deacair bheith amhlaidh. Dar ndóigh, bhí cúnamh mór le fáil acu ó RTE de bharr go raibh an ráta áitiúil i gceist. Mar shampla, tuigeann sibh go léir an ráta áitiúil a bhí ann, £1.20 le haghaidh spota ar an raidió agus an ráta náisiúnta thart ar £6 no £7. Ach anois, céard a tharloidh? Tá cuing chomb mór agus chomh daingean ag an mBille seo ar fhógraíocht nach mbeidh an lucht gnó san iarthar, atá ag iarraidh seirbhíse, gnó, cumarsáide agus slí maireachtála a chur ar fáil dóibh féin agus do na mílte duine atá fanta fós san iarthar, in ann feasta é seo a chur ag obair. Tá siad laghdaithe go mór ó thaobh ama de, agus tá sé ráite ag RTE nach mbeidh dóthain airgid le fáil acu ar fhógraíocht. Níl dóthain acu mar atá sé. Táthar a rá, os rud é nach mbeidh dóthain le fáil acu nach bhfuil seans faoin spéir go mbeidh an ráta áitiúil ag fear an iarthair níos mó. Sin an rud atá siad ag rá. B'fhéidir nach gcreideann sibh iad——

(Cur isteach:)

Níor chuala mé i gceart an Seanadóir agus mar sin tá me chun leanúint ar aghaidh.

Cur isteach.)


Cén uair a bheidh dóthain airgid acu?

Lig dom anois mo chuid cainte a dhéanamh. Freagróidh mise an Seanadoír ar go leor bealaí.


Nil aon fhreagra agat.

Táa freagra agam ar chuile shóort a chuirfear os mo chomhair. Táa freagra agam agus leanfaidh mé le freagraí a thabhairt anseo mar tá a fhios agam nach bhfaighidh mise aon fhreagra ar aon rud atá me ag rá anseo inniu. Tá a fhios agam, mar shampla, go bhfuil an Bille seo socraithe in intinn an Aire agus go bhfuil sé ag dul a chur tríd gan aon athrú a dhéanamh air. Cén fáth, mar sin, go bhfuil tusa ag rá liomsa go bhfaighidh mé freagra. Tá sé socraithe agaibh é a chur tríd. Nior thug sibh am dúinn agus nílim ag dul a labhairt faoi seo, a bheag nó a mhór. Níl aon mhaith bheith ag labhairt faoi, ach os rud é go bhfuil sé ardaithe agaibh anois labhróidh mé air go dtí maidin amárach le tusa a choinneáil ciúin agus tostach.

Bhí me ar theann mo dhíchill le míniú a thabhairt don Teach seo cé chomh dona, buailte is atá muintir an iarthair de dheasca an Bhille seo atá os ár gcomhair. B'fhéidir go ndéarfaidh daoine liomsa, "bheul, tá tú an-pharóisteach, tá tú ag smaoineamh agus ag caint faoin áit thiar". Nílim mar sin. Ach caithfidh mé labhairt ar rud a fheicimse atá ag déanamh dochair d'áit amháin sa tír, áit a bhí i gceart agus a bhí gan dochar go dtí gur tháinig an Bille seo isteach. Deirtear linn go raibh na five-second slides seo le dul isteach freisin ar ráta speisialta ar Network 2. Ni bheidh sé sin ann níos mó. Cén chaoi, mar sin, a bhféadfadh duine ar bith a rá liomsa nach bhfuil an Bille seo chun dochar a dhéanamh? Conas a d'fhéadfadh an Seanadóir Conroy a rá liomsa anseo go bhfuil sé ciallmhar agus réasúnta? Taímse ag rá leis an Senadóir go bhfuil sé as bealach ar fad. A fhaid is a bhaineann sé le muintir an iarthair, níl sé ciallmhar ná reasúnta. Táimid ag mileadh acmhainn a bhí againn chun sinn féin a choimeád beo agus os comhair an tsaoil agus os comhair mhuintir na hÉireann. Is eol dom, mar shampla, go mbíodh oiread is milliún duine ag breathnú ar an fhógraíocht a bhí á dhéanamh ón iarthar; 850,000 ag éisteacht leis an raidió, agus suas le milliún ag breathnú ar theilifís. Beidh deireadh leis an ngné seo ar fad. Ar dearnadh aon staidéar nó taighde ar an gceist seo? An ligfear le sruth é gan smaoineamh ar bith ar an toradh a bheas leis?

Cé aige anois a bheidh an fhógraíocht ar RTE? Is ag na bainc, na "Building Societies", lucht Superquinn agus Dunnes a bheidh sé.

On a point of order, is it appropriate to refer to one particular company?

Ainmneoidh mé na bainc: Banc na hÉireann, Banc Aontas Éireann, Banc Uladh. Dúirt mé na Building Societies; ní dúirt mé Irish Permanent agus tá mé á rá anois.

The Chair would prefer if you did not name individual companies.

Sin iad na dreamanna anois a mbeidh an cumhacht ar fhógraíocht na tíre seo. Is é mo phríomhshuim sa Bhille seo ná go bhfuil cosmhuintir na tíre, go háirithe in iarthar na hÉireann, fágtha ar leataobh. Bhíodh ráta áitiúil acu agus anois ní bheidh deis ná acmhainn acu an caillteanas a bheas anuas orthu de thoradh na ciorruithe seo, a chúiteamh. Má cheapann an Senadóir Conroy go bhfuil sé sin ciallmhar agus réasunta, ní fhéadfainn aontú leis a bheag nó a mhór sa cheist sin.

Ní bheidh an tionchar cinniúnach ag an mBille ar mhuintir na gcathrach; tig leo a lwas féin a chosaint. Má chuidíonn an Bille seo, áfach, chun cosmhuintir na tíre a lagú, tá sé de dhualgas orainn é sin a chur in iúl don Aire agus iarracht a dhéanamh aon bhaol don mhuintir seo a choimeád uathu. Is cosúil nach bhfuiltear chun an deis sin a thabhairt dúinn agus go bhfuil sé ar intinn ag an Teach cloí leis an mBille sa riocht inar glacadh leis aréir. Más amhlaidh, fógraim nach bhfuil deireadh ráite agus neartaionn sé an cás atá á dhéanamh agam ar son Raidió na Gaeltachta agus teilifís na Gaeltachta.

Ag trácht i dtús báire ar Raidió na Gaeltachta, cén barántas nó cen cinnteacht atá againn nach gcuirfear isteach ar an tseirbhís úd amach anseo? Níl aon chinnteacht againn ina thaobh ach má leantar leis na nósmhaireacht atá le sonrú anseo, is cinnte, má bhíonn ganntanas airgid ann, gurb iad na réigiúin is mó a bheas ag fulaingt. Bainfear seirbhisí as na réigiúin ar mhaithe le hiad a lonnú i mBaile Átha Cliath agus déanfar neamart de an hiarrachtaí atá déanta go dtí seo.

Chaith mé fein blianta fada ar chomhairle Raidió na Gaeltachta agus tá dlúthuisicint agam ar na ffadhbanna, idir airgeadais agus eile, a bhí ag an stáisiún agus atá fós acu. Is iomaí cruinniú a chaith mé fein agus mo chomhleacaithe ag plé na ceiste seo. Dhéanamar impí, achrann, troid agus éileamh ar RTE chun go gcuirfidís airgead ar fáil do Raidió na Gaeltachta lena fheabhsú, lena dhaingniú, lena fhorbairt. Nuair a bhí brabús á dhéanamh ag RTE, ba throid in aghaidh an easa a bhí againn; bhímis ag iarraidh bheith nua-aimseartha le stiúideonna agus gléasanna eile. Ba throid mhór é i gcónaí, geallúint a fháil ó RTE go mbeadh an cúpla pingin ar fáil le díol astu. Cad a tharlóidh anois má éirionn ganntanas airgid in RTE? Dearbhaím go dtarlóidh an rud céanna do Raidió na Gaeltachta agus a tharla do "Looking West" agus do na cláir eile a luaigh mé tamall ó shin. Fágfar ar an ngannchuid iad mar go bhfuil leas an Bhille seo dírithe go huile agus go hiomlán ar Bhaile Átha Cliath.

Tá Bille ag gabháil tríd an Dáil gan caint inti faoin nGaeltacht, faoi Raidió na Gaeltachta ná faoi rud ar bith eile a bhaineann leis an nGaeltacht. Is aisteach liom, ar an ábhar sin, go mbeadh raidió áitiúil faoi chaibidil againn sa Bhille seo nuair is é Raidió na Gaeltachta an t-eiseamlár is fearr de raidió áitiúil atá againn sa tír seo. Má leantar leis an dearcadh diúltach seo i leith raidió agus teilifís na Gaeltachta, ní bhuanófar Raidió na Gaeltachta ach déanfar é a nascadh isteach cosúil le 2FM nó Raidió 2. Ní thiocfaidh fás ná forás air. Ní bheidh an sárchaighdeán craolacháin aige murach é a bheith neamhspleách, agus ag freastal gan chuidiú ar phobal na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre.

Sin a bhí ann ó thaobh Raidió na Gaeltachta de, sin a bhí ann nuair a bhí an raidió sin á chur ar bun. Tuigeadh go maith nach bhféadfadh Raidió na Gaeltachta a bheith foirfe gan bheith neamhspleách, agus tugdh cead a chinn dóibh. D'éirigh that cionn leo mar bhí siad neamhspleách, bhí siad leo féin. Ach cá bhfios dúinn anois. Níl aon chinnteacht ann go bhfágfar sa riocht céanna iad a bhfuil siad ann faoi láthair.

Má bhíonn gearradh siar ann de dheasca an Bhille seo, bí cinnte de nach mbeidh aon phingin bhreise le fáil ag Raidió na Gaeltachta le forbairt a dhéanamh, faoi mar atá forbairt á déanamh ar na meáin chumarsáide eile agus na stáisiúin raidio eile. Mar sin, caithfear é seo a chur i gcomhthéacs an Bhille seo agus tá sé fíorthábhachtach go dtabharfar aire, ní amháin do raidió áitiúil ach do Raidió na Gaeltachta agus do gach raidió eile chomh maith céanna. Ní fhéadfadh daoine a rá, "nil aon chall do Raidió na Gaeltachta fógraíocht a lorg. Níl siad ag fáil aon airgead a fógraiocht, mar sin, tá sé éasca acu siúd leanúint ar aghaidh mar tá an Stát ag íoc an bhille ag deireadh an lae". Tá sé sin fíor, ach nuair a chuirtear san áireamh, ar thaobh amháin, an buntáiste atá ann don Stát ón airgead atá á chaitheamh ar Raidió na Gaeltachta, is éasca dúinn a thuiscint go bhfuil an t-airgead sin á chaitheamh ar mhaithe leis an tír ar chuile bhealach a bhféadfaí é a dhéanamh.

Bhí sé le feiceáil le blianta beaga — agus seo pointe a chuirim an-bhéim air, ó thaobh úsáid na Gaeilge, ó thaobh neart agus buanseasmhacht na teanga de, go bhfuil neamart á dhéanamh i gcúrsai Gaeilge agus i gcúrsí theilifís Ghaeltachta. Ní féidir glacadh leis sin. Mar shampla, céard atá ag dul a tharlú do TheleGael faoin mBille seo? B'fhéidir nach eol do chuid de na Chomhaltaí cad is TeleGael ann nó céard iad na haidhmeanna atá acu. Ba mhaith liom a mhíniú arís an rud a d'fhéadfadh tarlú de bharr an tAcht seo a bheith rite agus i bhfeidhm, go bhféadfadh sé an-dochar a dhéanamh d'iarracht mhór mhacánta atá déanta le cláir as Gaeilge a chur ar fáil.

Bunaíodh an comhlacht TeleGael tuairim is trí bliana ó shin, comhlacht beag sa Spidéal i gContae na Gaillimhe le cabhair ó Udarás na Gaeltachta agus, roinnt de na hoibrithe a bhí ag obair san Údarás ag an am, chuadar isteach ann. Chuir siadsan córas ar fáil le go bhféadfaí go leor clár a dhéanamh i nGaeilge, agus trí Ghaeilge. Tá scaireanna ag RTE agusÚdarás na Gaeltachta sa chomhlacht seo agus tá sé mar aidhm acu cláir a dhéanamh go neamhspleách agus an gnó a chur chun cinn. Ach an oiread leis na rudaí atá á rá agam faoi na cláir atá i mbaol anois, tá chuile chosúlacht ar an scéal go mbeidh an comhlacht seo TeleGael i gcontúirt a chaillte freisin. Mar sin, ní bás amháin atái ndán duinn san iarthar ach sochraid de go leor rudaí, a dhéanfaidh dochar agus díiobháil don teanga.

Tá TeleGael ag fáil cúnaimh ó RTE, ó thaobh chúrsaí airgid de, le cláir áirithe a dhéanamh. Anois tá ráite leo nach bhfuil aon chinnteacht ann go mbeidh an t-airgead sin le fáil amach anseo. Níl sé cinnte freisin an mbeidh an £100,000 atá geallta d'obair na bliana seo ar fáil. Tá sé chomh dona sin anois go bhfuil an príomhdhuine atá fostaithe ag TeleGael, a tháinig abhaile ó Shasana tar éis dul i dtaithí ar an ngnó sa tír sin, ag cuartújab eile. Lead as Contae na Gaillimhe é, ní fear Gaeltachta é; a tháinig sé lena bhean agus a chlann, lonnaigh sé sa Spidéal agus chuir sé chuile shórt a bhí aige, an expertise go léir a bhí foghlamtha aige i Sasana, ag obair ar son na Gaeilge, ar son teilifís na Gaeltachta agus chláir Ghaeilge le RTE. Seo iad na rudaí beaga nach bhfuil léirithe sa Bhille seo. Seo iad na rudaí beaga a chuireann imní ar mo leithéidse.

Nílimse ag caint faoi 200 nó 300 jab a chaillfidh RTE. Táimse ag caint faoi lead amháin thiar i nGaeltacht Chonamara atá ag iarraidh imeacht as an tír arís agus a fhágfaidh an áit sin gan treoir, mar nach gcreideann sé go bhfuil áit sa tír seo dó. Cén freagra atá ag an Aire agus ag an Seanadóir Conroy air sin? Tá sé scannalach. Seo muid ag iarraidh ár míle dícheall a dhéanamh ar son na Gaeilge, don tír ar fad, ní don Ghaeltacht amháin, mar ba mhaith linn rud éigin a chruthú dúinn féin. Dá bharr sin, tá an fear seo ag iarraidh imeacht. Níl aon chinnteacht ann go bhfuil an t-airgead le fáil ag an chomhlacht níos mó. D'fhág sé post buan i Sasanna, tá sé ag dul ar ais chun an post sin a fháil arís. Chomh luath agus a imeoidh seisean imeoidh chuile shórt. Imeoidh TeleGael, áit a bhfuil £1 mhilliún beagnach curtha ag obair ann. Ní fheicfidh tú aon rud sa mhíniú atá ag an Aire ar an Bhille seo faoi céard atá i ndán do na rudaí seo. Tá liosta mór fada ann, ag tosú le "Looking West" síos anuas faoi RTE, Raidió na Gaeltachta, TeleGael, agus anois féin tá aithne agam ar fear a bhí ag obair do RTE, a bhunaigh comhlacht dá chuid féin agus a cheannaigh luach £80,000 de threalamh le cláir príobháideacha a dhéanamh san iarthar, agus céard atá tarlaithe don £80,000 anois? Thosaigh sé ar dhá chlár a dhéanamh do RTE; agus é leathbhealach tríd fuair sé scéala nach raibh aon chinnteacht ann go nglacfaí leo.

Tá sé ráite ag an Aire sa doiciméad a chuir sé os ár gcomhair go mbeadh "independently produced broadcast material" chun tosaigh agus go mbeifí ag baint úsáide as sin. Tá mise ag caint anois ar chásanna sonraitheacha; níl mé ag caint amach as mo chloigeann; tá siad sin ráite agus scríofa agam, cásanna a léiríonn nach bhfuil neamhspleáchas ann a bheag nó a mhór. Tá sé sin cruthaithe agam. Céard eile is féidir liom a dhéanamh lena chur ina luí ar an Aire agus ar an Rialtas gur droch-Bhille é seo amach is amach, fad agus a bhaineann sé le hiarthar na hÉireann. Níl mé ag dul a rá tada faoi Bhaile Átha Cliath ná na háiteanna eile, ach caithfidh mé cás a dhéanamh faoin dochar atá á dhéanamh aige maidir le hiarthar na hÉireann.

Céard a tharlóidh de bharr an Bhille seo, bíodh go bhfuil sé ráite ag an Aire go mbeidh daoine ag cur cláir neamhspleácha le chéile. Údarás na Gaeltachta, mar shampla, chuir siadsan cúrsa breá ar bun an bhliain seo caite — tá mé ag ceapadh gur sheisear déag a bhí ar an gcúrsa sin, as Dún na nGall, Maigh Eo, Gaillimh, Ciarraí, agus áiteanna eile sa Ghaeltacht. Tugadh le chéile iad agus cuireadh traenáil orthu. Tugadh daoine a bhí an-oilte agus eolach isteach le traenáil a thabhairt do na daoine sin. Chaith siad sé mhí nó bliain ag traenáil, ag déanamh clár i nGaeilge, faoi Ghaeilge, faoi rudaí, ní sa Ghaeltacht amháin, ach in áiteanna eile chomh maith céanna. Nuair a bhí sin uilig déanta, chuireadar a raibh foghlamtha acu le chéile agus chonaic muid é. Caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil bunús an-maith ansin, go mbeadh léiritheoirí neamhspleácha ansin.

Cén mhaith anois é sin mura bhfuil deis acu é sin a chur ag obair? Cén mhaith d'Údarás na Gaeltachta a bheith ag traenáil daoine do theilifís Gaeilge Gaeltachta nuair nach bhfuil tada á dhéanamh faoi. Is aisteach liom, mar sin, go bhféadfadh Bille chomh tábhachtach sin teacht os comhair na Dála agus an tSeanaid agus gan fiú teilifís na Gaeltachta bheith luaite nó caint ar bith faoi ann. Ní rud é gur easpa eolais a bhí i gceist. Is cuimhin liomsa mí na Samhna 1988 gur chuir an Taoiseach scéala chugainn ar Údarás na Gaeltachta agus is é an teachtaireacht a bhí aige dúinn gur mhian leis go gcuirfí staidéar ar bun agus go gcuirfí in iúl céard iad na roghanna a bheadh ann le teilifís na Gaeltachta a chur ar bun, céard iad na costais a bheadh lena leithéid, cén mhaith agus cén fáth go mba chóir é a bheith ann.

Anois tá mé ag rá gurbh é an Taoiseach a chuir é sin chugainn. Níor mhaith liom a rá gurbh é Aire na Gaeltachta a rinne é mar i mo leabharsa níl a leithéid de dhuine ann mar Aire na Gaeltachta. Cuireann sé sin an-díomá orm, go mbeadh muid ag feidhmiú sa chóras stáit seo, faoi bhunreachtúlacht, go mbeadh Aire na Gaeltachta luaite againn, go bhfuil a leithéid ann agus gan é bheith ann. Má tá duine ar bith ag iarraidh cruthúnais nach bhfuil Aire na Gaeltachta againn ní gá dó ach breathnú ar an doiciméad beag sin atá ag gach Teachta Dála agus Seanadóir — Tithe an Oireachtais, eolaí uimhreacha inmheánacha gutháin. Má théann tú go dtí an tríú leathanach ann, tá sé go léir luaite ansin, ceithre cinn déag de Ranna Rialtais, chuile cheann acu, fiú amháin Justice, Communications, Aireacht atá anseo, agus Tourism, Transport, Education, Health, Environment, Social Welfare, Energy, Labour, Marine, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Tánaiste, agus Taoiseach. Roinn na Gaeltachta — níl sé ann. Tá sé ráite sa doiciméad seo nach bhfuil aon Roinn na Gaeltachta ag an Rialtas. Mar dhuine a bhfuil gnáthchónaí air sa Ghaeltacht, atá ag maireachtáil trí mheán na Gaeilge, mé féin is mo chlann is a bhfuil agam, an iontas ar bith é go dtagaimse isteach anseo agus go mbímse ar buile nuair a fheicimse rudaí den chineál sin? Sin admháil ag an Rialtas féin nach bhfuil aon Aire na Gaeltachta ná aon Roinn na Gaeltachta ann. Tá sé sin ráite agam go mion minic, agus tá tábhachtach i gcomhthéacs an ruda seo, go bhféadfadh an Taoiseach, Cathal Ó hEochaidh, an scéal a luaigh mé a chur chugainn in Udarás na Gaeltachta, a bhfuil sé in ainm is bheith in a Aire air; níor thug sé cuairt riamh orainn, níor sheas sé riamh laistigh de dhoras Údarás na Gaeltachta. Tá Roinn na Gaeltachta thíos ansin cúpla céad slat ón Dáil — níor sheas sé riamh ann fós — agus tá daoine ag rá go bhfuil Aire na Gaeltachta againn, agus cuireann an Rialtas eolaire mar sin amach chugainn lena chruthú dóibh féin nach bhfuil sé ann.

Is magadh ceart í an Ghaeilge, faoi mar a bhí agus atá ag Fianna Fáil le blianta anuas. Chreid mise uair amháin gurbh iad Fianna Fáil slanaitheoirí na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta ach is iad is mó atá ciontach as milleadh agus marú na Gaeilge. Bhí sé de chúram orthu an Ghaeilge a chosaint anuas tríd na blianta nuair a bhí Achtanna den chinéal seo dá reachtáil.

Ag filleadh ar an scéal eile dom, do sheol an Taoiseach iarratas chugainn ar son tuarascála agus cuireadh an tuarascáil sin ar fáil; tuarascáil bhreá, thoirteach a bhí ann. Míníodh an gá a bhí le seirbhís teilifíse Gaeltachta sa tuarascáil sin; bhí idir stair na ceiste agus cúinsí an lae inniu ann. Chosnaigh an tuarascáil breis is £20,000. Ullmhaíodh an tuarascáil don Taoiseach nach raibh ina Aire Gaeltachta cé gur dhearbhaigh sé go raibh an post sin aige——

Níl an t-ábhar atá á phlé ag Seanadóir bainteach leis an mBille seo.

In omós don Chathaoir, tá sé bainteach leis an mBille. Táimid ag caint faoi Bhille atá ag plé le cumarsáid, le forbairt, le raidió agus le teilifís. Baineann Raidió na Gaeltachta agus teilifís na Gaeltachta le RTE agus tá sé de dhualgas ar an Aire an ghné seo den cheist a phlé. Tá sé ar intinn agamsa a léiriú go bhfuil neamart déanta ag an mBille seo sa Ghaeltacht agus go millfidh agus go maróidh sé an Ghaeltacht. Ní fhéadfainn an deis seo a ligean tharam gan é sin a chur abhaile. Tagann Raidió na Gaeltachta faoi údarás RTE agus is leis an Aire Cumarsáide agus Údarás RTE a luíonn an chumhacht nuair atá bunadh stáisiún teilifíse i gceist. Is é mo phointe, a Chathaoirligh, nach bhfuil focal ráite faoin drochthionchar a bheas ag an mBille seo ar an nGaeilge agus ar an nGaeltacht. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil an dualgas ormsa é a dhéanamh agus tá mé ag iarraidh ar an Aire teacht ar athrú intinne sa cheist seo, agus an Bille seo a tharraingt siar ar fad, le go mbeidh aitheantas tugtha don Ghaeilge ann sar a dtagann sé an ais dúinn, má thagann.

Tá an Ghaeilge agus an Béarla ar chomh-chéim agus is ceist chumarsáide atá faoi chaibidil anseo againn. Ní thig liom é a rá sách minic, "communications". Is é sin an teideal atá ag an Aire agus céard atá níos tábhachtaí ó thaobh cumarsáide de do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus na Gaeilge ná Raidió na Gaeltachta agus teilifís na Gaeltachta?

Nuair a deir an tAire in a óráid ar an mBille:

There have been some uninformed suggestions that the proposal to allow the third television channel to establish its own UHF transmission system rules out the possibility of establishing a Teilifís na Gaeltachta should a decision to that effect be taken.

Is é an clásal deiridh —"should a decision to that effect be taken"— a chuireann imní ormsa. Sin iad focail an Aire féin ach ba é an Taoiseach a dúirt go mbeadh seirbhís teilifíse Gaeltachta ann, agus dhearbhaigh sé faoi dhó é, go poiblí, ar Raidió Éireann. Má dhúirt, cén fáth a bhfuil an ráiteas sin i gcáipéis an Aire atá os ar gcomhair inniu? An amhlaidh go raibh an Taoiseach ag caint as bealach? An raibh cead aige é sin a rá? An raibh an cumhacht aige é sin a rá? Cé tá ag iarraidh dallamullóg a chur orainne nó ar an bpobal? Bhain an Taoiseach úsáid as na meáin chumarsáide i mí an Mheithimh 1989, taréis an olltoghcháin, chun a rá go mbeadh teilifís Ghaeltachta ann. Dealraíonn sé go bhfuil scéal eile á fháil againn anois ón Aire. Tá faitíos agus imní orm, mar a dúirt mé cheana, mar gheall ar an dochar a dhéanfaidh an Bille seo d'iarthar na tíre. Níl aon amhras orm ná go ndéanfaidh sé dochar nuair a chuirim san áireamh an ráiteas a leigh mé amach. Deir an tAire freisin:

On the technical side, while UHF frequencies are in very limited supply, we have in fact retained sufficient of them to enable such a service to be established.

Ba mhaith liom go n-inseodh an tAire dom go sollúnta agus go fírinneach go mbeidh UHF ar fáil le haghaidh teilifís na Gaeltachta. Muna bhfuil ach trí cinn de UHF ann, ní heol dom conas is féidir ceann a chur ar fáil do theilifís na Gaeltachta agus is cosúil go bhfuil dallamullóg á chur ormsa ina dtaobh. Má tá siad ann, áfach, ba chóir go mbeadh ceann ar fáil ag RTE agus ceann do RTE3 más ann a bheidh sé, agus go gcuirfí an tríú ceann ar fáil do stáisiún na Gaeltachta.

Is é mo phointe ná go raibh an Taoiseach féin chomh cinnte sin de gur chuir sé £50,000 ar fáil chun seirbhís teilifíse Gaeilge a bhunadh; ní dúirt sé seirbhís teilifíse Gaeltachta. Nach aisteach go mbíonn fonn orainn uilig airgead Stáit a chaitheamh, is cuma cén rannóg Stáit a bhíonn á chur ar fáil, ach go bhfuil an t-airgead seo ceadaithe le tuairim is dhá bhliain agus nach bhfuil pingin de caite fós? Cén fáth nach bhfuil? Mar, nuair a deirtear go mbeidh teilifís Ghaeltachta ann, níl ansin ach cur i gcéill. Dá mbeadh Aire Gaeltachta fiúntach againn, a chuirfeadh ceangal air féin seirbhís teilifíse Ghaeltachta a sholáthar nó a déarfadh liom go bhfeadfaí an t-airgead sin a chaitheamh ar bhunadh a leithéid de sheirbhís nó ar chur chun cinn na Gaeilge tríd an Achta seo, mheasfainn go raibh rud éigin déanta. Bheadh slat tomhais nó léiriú againn ar dháiríreacht an Aire maidir le ceist seo na Gaeilge.

Meabhraimid dúinn féin na gnéithe a bhí sa tuarascáil thuasluaite. Leagadh amach go soileír ann an bealach ar chóir dul i mbun bunadh sheirbhís teilifís Gaeltachta; bhí ceist an chostais cuimsitheach ann; fuarathas comhairle ó shaineolaithe le linn a ullmhaithe; mhol RTE go mbunófaí an staísiún teilifíse agus go mbeadh lán-tacaíocht chuige le fáil uathu. I ndeireadh na dála, taréis do bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta an tuarascáil a chur le chéile, fágadh an bord céanna gan chóip den tuarascáil. Is trua liom go bhfuil an Seanadóir Conroy imithe anois, taréis a dúirt sé i dtaobh cúinsí ar iarthar na hEorpa; d'fhéadfainn cúpla samplaí cuí eile a thabhairt dó. B'éigean dúinn mar bhaill de bhord Údaras na Gaeltachta troid a dhéanamh chun cóip den tuarascáil a fháil, agus ar deireadh, tar éis é a thabhairt do chuile dhuine, tugadh dúinn é.

Tá cuid amháin fíorthábhachtach den Bhille seo a bhaineann le ceist na teanga, an teanga a bhfuil sé de cheart againn agus de dhualgas orainn é a úsáid agus a neartú agus a choimeád beo. Tríd an chuid seo den Bhille, faighimís léirstint ar dháiríreacht an Taoisigh mar Aire Gaeltachta, ar dháiríreacht an Aire Cumarsáide agus ar dhearcadh Roinn na Gaeltachta freisin. Is dóigh liomsa gurb é seo an t-aon ardán ar ar chóir an cheist seo a phlé agus déanfaidh mé í a ardú agus a phlé pé bealach is féidir liom. Muna dtugtar aird ar na héilimh atá ann chun leasú a chur ar an mBille seo, agus chun teilifís Ghaeltachta a chur ar bun, tá an cath caillte agus beidh deireadh leis an nGaeilge mar theanga labhartha i measc mion phobail na nGaeltachtaí.

B'fhéidir nach gcreideann Seanadóirí é sin agus gur dóigh libh go bhfuilim ag déanamh áibhéile. Má chreideann, níl neart agamsa air. Ní fhéidir liom ach mo phíosa a rá ina thaobh agus ní bheidh an deis agam chuige arís. Nuair a bheas an Bille seo rite, ní bheidh ann ansin ach "mair, a chapaill, agus gheobhair féar". Deirtear go mbeidh scéal ann sa bhfómhar faoi theilifís Ghaeilge nó Ghaeltachta. Ní cóir go mbeadh aon éiginnteacht ina taobh má tá sé ráite ag Taoiseach na tíre mar Aire Gaeltachta go mbeidh a leithéid ann. Cén fáth nach bhfuil sí ann má tá sé ráite aige go mbeidh? D'éiligh sé staidéar taighdeach; cuireadh ceann breá tiubh ar fáil dó agus neart leathanacha ann. Cad a tharla dó? Ní dearnadh aon ní leis agus taímid fós ag feitheamh ar chinneadh. Seoladh go Roinn na Gaeltachta é agus as sin go dtí an Roinn Cumarsáide, agus deirtear gur fhill sé ar Roinn na Gaeltachta arís cé gur dóigh liomsa go bhfuil sé fós sa Roinn Cumarsáide. Ní fios cá bhfuil sé, ach tá rud amháin cinnte ina thaobh. Ní heol do mhuintir na hÉireann go bhfuil a dTaoiseach chun an gealltanas a thug sé go poiblí tar éis an olltoghcháin maidir le teilifís na Gaeltachta, a chomhlíonadh. Sin againn arís é: toghcháin agus gealltanais, ach nuair is ceist slánú na Gaeilge atá romhainn, níl againn ach deafhocla ar an ábhar agus gan aon bheart de réir ár mbriathra.

Níl an tAire ná daoine eile ag baint usáide as a gcuid cumhachta chun réiteach na ceiste seo. Dá mbeadh an chumhacht chuí aige agus dá mbeadh an toil ann chun í a usáid, níl aon chúis ann nach gcomhlíonfaí an gealltanas. Nuair a bhí ceist Raidió na Gaeltachta á plé, bhí ceist airgid ann; is amhlaidh anois le ceist theilifís na Gaeltachta. Má tá an Taoiseach chomh mór sin ar son na Gaeilge cén fáth nach mbaineann sé usáid as an £2 mhilliún atá ar intinn aige a bhaint ó RTE, chun teilifís na Gaeltachta a bhunadh? Cén fáth go bhfaigheadh Century nó dream ar bith eile é? An amhlaidh go gceaptar nach bhfuil ach mionlach ag éileamh seirbhís teilifís Ghaeilge agus mar sin nach fiú é? Más mionlach féin sinn, nach bhfuilimid ar chomh thábhacht ar a laghad le Century nó le haon dream eile atá in ainm is a bheith ag fáil an airgid sin?

Bhí locht mór againne ar chur i láthair na ceiste maidir le bunadh theilifís na Gaeltachta faoin Bhille seo. Is é a dúradh ná nach mbeadh na hacmhainní ag an Stát chun í a airgeadú. Chas an Stát thart ansin agus táthar ar tí £12 mhilliún nó a bhreis air sin a bhaint de RTE, a bheadh acu chun an áis seo a chur i bhfeidhm don Stát. Magadh agus cur i gcéill atá againn ansin faoin nGaeilge, faoin bpobal le Gaeilge acu, agus faoi oidhreacht na tíre. Nuair a bhí an Bille á sciúirseáil tríd an Dáil, níorbh fhiú don Aire leasú a dhéanamh chun é seo a chur isteach ann. B'fhiú dó leasú a dhéanamh chun leath noiméad a chur isteach agus rudaí eile den tsórt ach níl aon chaint faoi chúnamh a thabhairt do theilifís na Gaeltachta.

Tá ráiteas faighte againn ón Aire Stáit — agus ní ón Aire — i Roinn na Gaeltachta. Is dóigh liom go gceapann sé go bhfuil sé ina Aire ar Roinn na Gaeltachta ach níl aon ghuth aige sa Chaibinéad ná níl caoi aige chun airgead a dhíriú i dtreo aidhmeanna den chineál sin. Ach más rud é gur féidir le hAire teacht amach le Bille mar seo agus a rá nach mbeidh aon airgead le fáil le haghaidh teilifís na Gaeltachta faoi láthair, ach ag an am céanna go bhfuil sé in ann a rá go mbeidh £12 mhilliún ar fáil lena thabhairt don earnáil phríobháideach, ar bhealach amháin nó bhealach eile, tá sé, dar liomsa, ag ligean síos chuspóir Bhunreacht na hÉireann, a thugann aitheantas don Ghaeilge agus do lucht na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil daoine ar buile liom anseo, go bhfuil daoine ag rá go bhfuil mé seafóideach ag caint liom mar seo. Níl neart agam air sin. Dúirt mé anseo cheana é, agus tá mé á rá anseo arís anocht, ní raibh crisis riamh chomh mór i ndán don Ghaeilge is atá ann ag an nóiméad seo, agus is é an rud atá ag dul a mharú na Gaeilge ná an Bille seo agus an riocht ina bhfuil sé. Cuireann daoine ceist orm cén chaoi, cén fáth, cén difríocht a dhéanann sé seo. Déanann sé andifríocht. Mar shampla, bhí mé ag caint le fear as Sardinia an lá cheana, fear atá ina Chathaoirleach ar Chomhairle na hEorpa, agus bhíomar ag caint faoi na mionteangacha, na teangacha neamhfhorleathana, agus tharla cur is cúiteamh faoin Iodáil. Bhí mé ag déanamh plé a chúnamh faoi Bhille mar seo ó thaobh cumarsáide de agus dúirt mé leis: tá sibhse ceart go leor san Iodáil, tá teanga agaibh. Ach, a deir sé liom, tá deich gcinn de mhionteangacha ann san Iodáil, agus seo an rud suimiúil a dúirt sé faoi na teangacha sin. Leis na blianta anuas, ón chúigiú haois déag, ar feadh cúig chéad bliain, rinneadh chuile iarracht na teangacha beaga sina mharú agus theip ar rialtas i ndiaidh rialtais deireadh a chur leo, ach, a deir sé, tá níos mó déanta ag teilifís na hIodáile le deireadh a chur le labhairt na dteangacha beaga seo, le iad a mharú, ná mar a bhí airm, rithe agus rialtais, in ann a dhéanamh le 500 bliain.

Nach aisteach é sin, agus tá an scéal ceannann céanna sa Ghaeltacht an lá atá inniu ann. Sin an fáth go bhfuilim ag caint an oiread sin faoin iarthar, faoin Ghaeilge, mar níor léiríodh in aon Teach, sa Dáíl ná sa Seanad anseo, an dochar a dhéanfar agus an chaoi a bhfuil an Bille seo ag dul tríd chomh sciobtha sin. Ba chóir, dá mbeadh rudaí i gceart, go mbeadh deis ag an Aire machnamh a dhéanamh ar na pointí atá á ardú agamsa faoin Ghaeilge agus faoi theilifís na Gaeltachta. Ach níl sé ag iarraidh deise. Teastaíonn uaidh an Bille a chur tríd. Beidh sé ina dhlí ar an chéad lá de Dheireadh Fómhair, agus beidh deireadh leis an Ghaeilge lenár linn féin. Tá an ghlúin seo sna Gaeltachtaí ceart go leor. Tá siad ag labhairt Gaeilge agus tá go leor Gaeilge á labhairt fós, ach is í an chéad ghlúin eile a bhfuil mise ag caint faoi. Mura mbíonn teilifís na Gaeltachta le fáil ag an chéad ghlúin eile Gaeltachta, agus mura bhfuil an tír seo nó an Rialtas seo in ann é sin a dhéanamh, agus mura bhfuil siad sásta aitheantas a thabhairt sa Bhille go bhfuil gá leis, tá an Ghaeilge imithe.

Ní duine mise atá in éadóchas ach tá sé feicthe agam le 40 bliain i mo chónaí sa Ghaeltacht an chaoi a bhfuil an Ghaeilge á lagú. Tá díoma mór orm nár luadh sa Bhille seo atá os ár gcomhair go gcuirfí teilifís na Gaeltachta ar bun. Sin an méid a bhí le rá ag an Aire. Tá glactha ag an Taoiseach féin leis an gcinneadh go mbeidh teilifís na Gaeltachta ann. Maidir le hargóintí faoi airgead, níl a thuilleadh argóintí agam faoi sin. Nuair a fheicimse Bille atá ag dul a bhaint £12 mhilliún ó RTE, suim a chuirfeadh Raidió na Gaeltachta agus teilifís na Gaeltachta ar bhonn daingean, feicim deireadh na Gaeilge. An ghlúin atá anois ann, an ghlúin óg atá idir dhá bhliain agus cúig bliana d'aois, leanaí óga, garpháistí liom féin, a tógadh le Gaeilge, nár labhraíodh aon Bhéarla leo, tá Béarla acu, leanaí óga nach bhfuil ar scoil fós.

Ní bhfuair siad an Béarla óna dtuismitheoirí, fuair siad ón teilifís é. Faoin am a mbeidh na gasúir sin deich mbliana d'aois beidh an Ghaeilge imithe ar fad uathu. Is trua liom é seo a rá ach caithfidh mé é a rá. B'fhéidir gur cuma le Seanadóirí faoi sin. B'fhéidir gur cuma leis an Aire agus leis an Taoiseach faoi, ach ní cuma liomsa faoi. Tá na mílte duine ann sa tír seo agus ní cuma leo faoi, agus ní imeoidh sí agus ní chaillfear an cath gan troid a dhéanamh. Déanfar troid, agus treiseoidh an Bille seo daoine leis an troid sin a dhéanamh. B'fheidir go gcuirfí an cheist: cén fáth go bhfuil tú ag caint faoi theilifís Ghaeltachta a chur ar bun má chreideann tú nach mbeidh aon Ghaeilge ann ag an chéad ghlúin eile sa Ghaeltacht? Cén fáth go gcuirfeá airgead amú?

Tá dhá fháth ann: uimhir a haon, tá na milliúin phunt á chur amú anois, gan fáth ar bith, ó thaobh leas agus chultúr na tíre de; uimhir a dó, táimid ag cailliúint an méid a bhí againn, agus nuair a bheidh sé imithe, ní thiocfaidh rud ar bith ar ais. Ní féidir go dtiocfaidh sé ar ais. Tá sé ansoiléir domsa, de réir an Bhille seo, gur sin an meon atá ann, gur sin meon an Stáit, meon an Státchórais, na Státseirbhíse, an Aire, agus an Rialtais. Tá sé léirithe anseo agamsa gur sin an rud atá beartaithe acu. An bhfuil siad dáiríre faoi rud ar bith, an bhfuil siad dáiríre faoin Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo? Nílimse éadóchasach faoin Ghaeilge, ar bhealaí eile. Mar shampla, tá go leor scoileanna Gaeilge á mbunú ar fud na tíre — naíscoileanna Gaeilge, meánscoileanna Gaeilge, agus tá go leor daoine sa Teach seo agus i go leor áiteanna eile a bhfuil suim acu sa Ghaeilge, agus tá sí ag teacht ar aghaidh, ach tá tobar na Gaeilge fós sa Ghaeltacht.

Dá bhféadfaimis teilifís na Gaeltachta a bhunú anois, agus an Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo sa Ghaeltacht ar feadh 50 bliain eile, bheadh seans aici dul i neart. Nach fiú dúinn mar Stát, mar Rialtas, an iarracht seo a dhéanamh? D'fhoilsigh fear ó Shasana leabhar le déanaí, fear a rinne staidéar cliniciúil, neamhspléach ar labhairt na teanga sna Gaeltachtaí, agus séard atá scríofa aige taréis an-staidéar a dhéanamh ná nach mbeidh fanta sna Gaeltachtaí tar éis roinnt bheag blianta eile ach cúpla póca anseo agus ansiúd ag labhairt Gaeilge, mar beidh an chuid eile imithe. Dúirt sé gurb é an easpa Gaeilge ar na meáin chumarsáide an chúis atá leis sin.

Má deir duine liomsa nach cóir dom bheith anseo inniu ag iarraidh é sin a chosaint, go bhfuil sé chomh maith dom fanacht sa bhaile agus gan teacht ar ais anseo arís ar chor ar bith, is é an freagra ná go bhfuil mé ag iarraidh cearta na teanga a chosaint, ní don Teach seo, ní don Teach eile, ní dúinn féin ach do pháistí na Gaeltachta atá ag breathnú ar an mbosca sin de ló is d'oíche. Níl aon neart acu air. Níl aon neart ag a dtuismitheoirí air. Sin é an saol mar atá sé anois.

Tá dualgas orainn féin iarracht a dhéanamh leis an sruth seo a stopadh agus a chur ar ceal, agus níl aon bhealach lena dhéanamh ach trí theilifís na Gaeltachta. Má chuireann tú ceist ar aon oideachasóir sa tír seo nó in aon tír eile, déarfaidh siad leat gurb é an meán cumarsáide is treise agus is mó a théann i bhfeidhm ar intinn daoine óga ná an teilifís. Sin an fáth go bhfuil mé anso ag iarraidh an Bille a chur den talamh, dá bhféadfainn é, agus go n-iarrfainn ar an Aire dul ar ais agus é a scríobh arís agus go gcuirfeadh sé isteach an coinníoll go mbunófaí teilifís Ghaeilge nó Ghaeltachta. Níl mise ag dul a throid faoi cé acu, teilifís Ghaeilge nó Ghaeltachta a bheidh ann. Bíodh sé bunaithe, mar atá Raidió na Gaeltachta, sa Ghaeltacht, ach bíodh sé ann don tír ar fad. Bíodh sé amhlaidh, sa chaoi is go mbeadh sé neamhspleách, go bhféadfadh chuile dhuine éisteacht leis, Gaeilgeoirí na tíre agus muintir na Gaeltachta — i dteannta a chéile is ea is láidre.

Dá ndéanfaí é sin ní bheinnse ag rá anseo gur tórramh na Gaeilge atá á chomóradh agus á thionlacan anseo againn anocht. Tá sé ceart go leor ag an Aire Stáit a rá "beidhmid ag déanamh cinnidh faoi seo Meán Fómhair seo chugainn. Tá sé ag an Roinn Cumarsáide faoi láthair". Tá an Roinn Cumarsáide ag rá go bhfuil sé ag Roinn na Gaeltachta. Tá an Taoiseach ag rá go mbeidh sé ann, agus tá an tAire Cumarsáide ag rá linn anseo, "should a decision to that effect be taken". Tá an rud sin go léir ag teacht ar shála a chéile in intinn na ndaoine faoi seo. Níl an soiléiriú cuí déanta ag an Rialtas faoi seo ar chor ar bith. Níl na smaointe cearta dulta isteach sa Bhille.

Ní bheadh locht agamsa go pearsanta ar chúnamh éigin a thabhairt do Century agus daoine eile mar sin, ach tá locht agam agus an míle locht agam air má fhágtar amach teilifís Ghaeilge don tír seo agus don Ghaeltacht, rud atá déanta. Ach go dtí go bhfeicfidh mise é scríofa agus soiléirithe, agus go dtí go bhfeicfidh mise an Taoiseach sa Teach seo ag rá liomsa nó le duine ar bith eile go bhfuil sé ag dul a chomhlíonadh an ghealltanais a thug sé, ní chreidfidh mé go bhfuil se le tarlú. Níl aon rud sa Bhille sin a thugann uchtach dom go ndéanfaí a leithéid.

Tá sé ródhéanach anois mar tá an Bille seo ag dul tríd, ach beidh lucht na Gaeilge agus muintir na Gaeltachta go láidir in aghaidh chur i bhfeidhm an Bhille seo, mar níl ann ach cur i gcéill fad agus a bhaineann sé leo siúd. Tá an tAire, leis an mBille seo, in ann £2 mhilliún a bhaint de RTE agus ní bheidh aon airgead ag RTE le cuidiú le seirbhís mar theilifís na Gaeltachta a chothú.

Sitting suspended at 6.30 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

Fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Níl a fhios agam an amhlaidh gur éirigh an tAire a bhí anseo roimhe seo tuirseach de mo chuid Gaeilge nó de mo chuid cainte nó cén fáth nár tháinig sé ar ais chugainn? Mar a dúirt me cheana, ní le drochmheas a chaitheamh ar dhuine ar bith atáim ag labhairt as Gaeilge ach chun prionsabal tábhachtach ó thaobh na Gaeilge de a léiriú. Tá meas agam ar an té gan Gaeilge chomh maith leis an té a bhfuil sí aici nó aige ach tá pointe sroichte agam a fhágann go gcaithfidh mé é seo a rá i nGaeilge. Déanaim leithscéal leis an Aire Stáit nó le héinne eile nach dtuigeann me.

Tá trácht sa Bhille ar RTE3 agus cuireann sé seo amhras orm sa mhéid is nach dóigh liom go mbeidh tír bheagh mar an tír s'againne in ann an tríú bealach teilifíse a iompar. Mar is eol daoibh, tá RTE1 agus Network 2 againn cheana féin agus tá sé i gceist sa Bhille go mbeadh Bealach 3 againn. Tá údar le mo chuid amhrais, agus míneoidh mé mo chás le sampla ón Nua-Shéalainn. Tá an tír sin ar chomhdhaonra agus ar chomhfhairsingeacht le hÉire agus dob' fhéidir comparáid mhaith a dhéanamh idir theilifís na tíre sin, TVNZ, mar a thugtar air, agus ár gcóras feín. Bhí dhá bhealach ag an tír sin, mar atá againne anois, iad araon faoi cheannas iomlán an Rialtais ann. Ba é an Rialtas a bhí freagrach as iad a riaradh agus a airgeadú. Nach aisteach gurb amhlaidh go baileach atá sé sa tír seo, nó gur mar a bhí, go dtí aréir? Shíl siad an tríú bealach teilifíse a bhunadh sa Nua-Shéalainn, tamall ó shin agus é a fhágail ag an bhfiontar príobháideach, díreach mar atá fúinne a dhéanamh sa tír seo. Nach aisteach freisin go raibh na haidhmeanna céanna acu agus atá againn sa Bhille seo. Ach theip orthu agus ba é an toradh a bhí leis ná go bhfuil an tríú bealach a bhunaigh siad imithe den saol, beagnach. Cuirimis cúinsí an dá thír i gcomparáid lena chéile: bhí an dá bhealach ag an tír seo, RTE1 agus Network 2; ag an Nua-Shéalainn, tá 1 agus 2, an dá cheann faoin Stát go hiomlán. Táimidne anois ag iarraidh iad a bhriseadh suas anseo. Chomh maith leis sin shocraigh siadsan ar an tríú Bhealach 3, a oscailt faoin earnáil phríobháideach agus ní raibh leath na ndeacrachtaí acu is a bhí anseo.

Mar shampla, sa Nua-Shéalainn, níl ann ach an dá sheirbhís. Níl aon BBC1, BBC2, UTV nó Channel 4 nó na satellites acu. Níl aon choimhlint ann. Ní raibh le déanamh acu mar sin ach díriú ar theilifís a trí ina dtír féin, agus anois, tar éis a bheith ar an saol tamall an-ghearr, tá deireadh leo. Chaill siad £20 milliún an bhliain seo caite. Bhí siadsan ag obair ar an choincheap chéanna is atáimidne sa tír seo, ach táimidne níos measa ar go leor bealaí. Ar an gcéad dul síos, táimidne ag dul i ngleic le BBC1 agus 2, le UTV, le Channel 4 agus na satellites ar fad, agus, chomh maith leis sin, táimid ag cur laincise ar stáisiún an Stáit mar a rinneamar leis an mBille seo.

Chomh maith leis sin arís, táimid ag baint an chúigiú cuid den teacht isteach díobh agus á thabhairt do dhaoine príobháideacha le muid a bhualadh, le muid a dhéanamh níos measa. Ag an am céanna, táimid ag dul amach ag troid in aghaidh BBC 1 agus 2 agus an stáisiún eile. Theip orthu sa Nua-Shéalainn le bealach a trí gan aon rud mar sin sa tslí, agus seo muidne sa tír seo ag iarraidh dul chun cinn a dhéanamh le Bealach a Trí a bhunú le dul inár n-aghaidh, le Bealach 1 agus 2 a lagú go mór lena thabhairt don earnáil phríobháideach le dul inár n-aghaidh.

Deir daoine gur comórtas atá anseo. Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil comhairle faighte ag an Aire agus go bhfuil a fhios aige faoi staid mhuintir na Nua-Shéalainne, go bhfuil comhairleoir ceart ag an Aire a déarfadh leis, "In ainm Dé ná bac le teilifís a trí. Níl an tír seo in ann í a iompar". Ba leor ar tharla sa Nua-Shéalainn an méid sin a léiriú dúinn. Is é an pointe atá á dhéanamh agam anseo ná gur trua go bhfuil sé i gceist fós Bealach 3 a oscailt. Tá imní orm. Tiocfaidh ciall cheannaithe chuig an Aire agus an Rialtas sar i bhfad nuair a fheiceann siad an brú a thiocfaidh orthu, nuair a fheiceann siad an chaoi a bhfuil an raidió áitiúil, mar shampla.

I gcathair na Gaillimhe féin, tá siad ar an dé deiridh freisin. Níl siad in ann an comórtas sin a choinneáil suas. Tá muintir an Chláir go hiontach ar fad, an-raidió go deo acu. Tá níos mó ag ag éisteacht leo siúd, thart faoi chathair na Gaillimhe agus amach i nGaeltacht Chois Fharraige ná mar atá ag éisteacht le Radio West i nGaillimh. Tá Radio mid-West, Maigh Eo, an-mhaith ar fad. Seo daoine anois nach bhfuil ag brath ar airgead ón Rialtas nó ó dhuine ar bith eile. Chuadar amach go proifisiúnta, chuir siad a nguailleacha leis an job agus rinne siad é. Ach an rud a tharlóidh anseo faoin Bhille seo, táimid ag dul a chur Teilifís 3 ar bun agus níl an tír seo in acmhuinn é a iompar.

Nuair a tharlóidh an trioblóid agus nuair a bheidh siad i dtrioblóid, beidh siad ar ais faoin reachtaíocht seo ag iarraidh cúnaimh. Cá bhfágfaidh sé sin RTE1 agus Network a Dó, agus cá bhfágfaidh sé sin an RTE Authority? Níl sé inoibrithe. Mar sin, má tá ciall ag an Aire agus é sásta éisteacht linn agus an t-ábhar seo ar fad a phlé, tá mé cinnte go mbeimid in ann a chinntiú agus a chur ina luí air nach fiú RTE3 a chur ar bun, a bheag nó a mhór. Tá dóthain sa tír againn le haghaidh RTE1 agus Network 2. Tiocfainn le cúnamh de chineál éigin a thabhairt do na cinn eile, dá mba ghá, cineál an-teoranta, ach bheadh sé mar bhunús agam go gcaithfidís dul amach agus soláthar dóibh féin ar an mbealach go mb'éigean do RTE a dhéanamh i dtús a ré. Bhí mé féin ar chomhairle Raidió na Gaeltachta agus is minic a chuamar, caipín inár lámha againn, ag iarraidh cúpla pingin ó sparán RTE le seirbhís mhaith fhoirfe, rudaí nua a chur ar bun ar Raidió na Gaeltachta agus cuireadh ó dhoras muid. Ní raibh aon airgead ann. Anois tá airgead ag an Rialtas, tá £12 mhilliún acu le scaipeadh. Is é an toradh a bheidh ar na hathruithe seo ná Raidió na Gaeltachta, Bealach 3 agus iad uilig a lagú atá i gceist anseo.

Tá mé anseo lena chur in iúl don Stát agus don Rialtas an dualgas atá orthu, maidir leis an reachtaíocht seo, freastal ar an Ghaeilge agus ar mhuintir na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Níl aon suim bhunúsach eile agam sa cheist seo mar go bhfuil a fhios agam go bhfuil na daoine a bhfuil spéis faoi leith acu sna cúrsaí seo, agus atá ag plé leis seo, in ann aire a thabhairt dóibh féin. Níl aon chall dóibh bheith ag plé le rudaí ar nós cúnamh a fháil ón Stát. Le go mbeadh, mar shampla, an teilifís seo, Bealach 1, Bealach 2, agus Bealach 3, 2FM, Raidió a hAon agus a Dó éifeachtach, ní mór, mar a dúirt mé, go mbeidh an t-éileamh ann. Níl aon mhaith rud a bheith ann mura bhfuil éileamh air. Bhí an-éileamh go deo ar Raidió 2FM, ach bhí an tAire ag iarraidh an t-éileamh sin a mharú. Dúradh leis é agus chonaic sé é agus d'athraigh sé a intinn faoi. Rud maith a bhí ansin. Bíonn meas agam i gcónaí ar an té ar tig leis a intinn a athrú, agus baineann sé seo leis an bpolaitíocht chomh maith le rud ar bith eile.

Tá saor intinn ag chuile dhuine agus nuair a léiriodh don Aire an toradh a bheadh lena chinneadh, d'athraigh sé a intinn. Fuair sé tréanmholadh ón dTeach ar maidin as ucht dul i ngleic leis an bhfadhb a bhí ann ach is é an trua é nár moladh dó dul i ngleic leis tríd an Bille a thabhairt abhaile leis agus ceann eile a thabhairt ar ais ina áit. Bhí éileamh ar 2FM agus déanadh iarracht deireadh a chuir leis; sin mar a dhéantar soláthar ar éileamh. Caithfidh sé a bheith neamhspleách agus meon neamhspleách a bheith taobh thiar dó freisin. Tá RTE ag iarraidh neamhspléachais anois ach níl an meon cuí ann toisc an Chomhairle a bheith ann. De réir mar a bheas airgead á bhaint de chun é a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí, is ea is mó a bheas sé faoi cheannas Stáit. Tá an neamhspleáchas a bhí acu á lagú agus á ídiú.

Ní foláir caighdeán ard craolacháin a bheith ann chun éisteoirí a mhealladh, agus ní thiocfaidh an dea-cháilíocht muna mbíonn an t-airgead ann chun í a fhorbairt. Tá pé farasbarr a bhí acu bainte díobh anois ionas go bhfuil siad beo bocht agus táthar ag súil go leanfaidh siad orthu leis an seirbhís fiú nuair a bhainfear £12 mhilliún díobh. "Sin é bhur mbuíochas", atá á rá aige leo. De bharr bhur ndícheall a dhéanamh chun RTE 1 agus Network 2 a thabhairt chun foirfe, bainfidh mé díobh anois bhur deis chun forbartha." Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil sé sin ceart ná cóir ná go mbeidh dea-thoradh leis. Ní oibreoidh sé agus feáchfar chuige nach n-oibreoidh sé. Is cuimhin liom fógra a fheiceáil ar an bpáipéar tuairim is trí seachtain ó shin a bhaineann leis an Bhille le Commissioned Television programmes. Chun an breágadóireacht atá ar siúl anseo a léiriú, léifidh mé é seo daoibh:

It is intended to integrate most of these commissions into existing Schedule strands, and priority will be given to runner series, production of entertainment and feature programmes. A significant amount of available resources will be allocated to Irish language, variety and children's programmes.

D'eisigh RTE an ráiteas seo agus foilsíodh é ar 22 Meithimh. Sin é an fógra agus tá sé ráite anseo go bhfuil sé sin le déanamh.

On a point of order, cad é an fógra sin?

Commissioned Television Programmes; Independent Commission 1991, Director of Television Programmes, Montrose House, RTE, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

Cén páipéar é?

Gheobhaidh mé daoibh é. Níl sé díreach os mo chomhair amach, ach tá sé ann.

An Phoenix, is dócha.

Tá sé ann. An bhfuil a leitheid de rud agus Independent Commission, 1991, ann? Feiceann sibh logo RTE ansin; tá an fógra dlíthiúil. Ní mise a chuir ann é, ach RTÉ. An léifidh mé amach an rud ina iomlán?

(Cur isteach.)

An rud atá á rá agam ná gur bréagadóireacht atá ar siúl. Deirtear ar thaobh amháin go mbeidh airgead ar fáil agus, ar an dtaobh eile, is eol dom go bhfuil fógraí á fháil ag daoine eile a deir nach mbeidh a thuilleadh airgid le fáil acu ó RTE le haghaidh obair theilifíse neamhspléach. Tá deireadh curtha ag an Rialtas leis. Nuair atá Bille mar seo os ár gcomhair, bhí an rud ceart á dheanamh ag an Aire nuair a thosaigh sé á tharraingt siar, agus is trua nár chuir bachbenchers Fhianna Fáil faoi ndear dó breis tarraingt siar a dhéanamh. Bille níos simplí, níos macánta a bheadh uainn sula bhféadfaí glacadh leis. Tá an Bille ina chíréib, gan chiall; tá se tagtha isteach anseo inniu agus táthar ag iarraidh é a rith tríd an Teach ionas go mbeidh sé ina dhlí ar an gcéad lá de Dheireadh Fómhair. Deirim libh go mbuailfear isteach an tairne deiridh ar chónra na Gaeilge ar an lá sin. Chruthaigh mé é seo inniu le mo chuid cainte agus chuirfinn faoi ndear duine ar bith mé a bhréagnú.

D'fhéadfaí caoi a chur ar an mBille. Bhí an deis ag an Rialtas; pléadh ceist theilifís Ghaeltachta trí nó ceithre seachtain ó shin agus bhíothas den tuairim gur rud fónta a bheadh ann. Tagann Bille os ár gcomhair gan focal ann faoi agus glacfar leis. Níor ghá ach líne amháin a bheith ann a déarfadh "Teilifís na Gaeltachta will be established". Níor ghá ach sin, mar d'ordaigh an Taoiseach é. Má chreideann sibh sa Taoiseach, ba chóir an méid sin a bheith ann, ach níl. Sin é an fáth go bhfuilim míshásta leis. Tá a fhios agam go n-aontaíonn na Seanadóirí uilig liom in a gcroíthe istigh agus nuair a mhachnaíonn siad ar mo chuid focal beidh a fhios acu go bhfuil mé ag insint na fírinne.

Dá bhrí sin, cén fáth nach n-úsáideann Seanadóirí an cumhacht atá acu agus a iarraidh ar an Aire an dearmad a rinne sé a cheartú ionas go dtabharfar an t-ómós agus an cúnamh is cuí don teanga agus do lucht na Gaeilge sa tír ar fad? B'fhéidir nach bhfuil an priority sin ag gach duine agus ní chaithim anuas orthu faoi sin. Ach ní féidir liom Bille a ghlacadh a chuireann deireadh leis an Ghaeilge mar theanga labhartha.

Ba mhaith liom mír a fheiceáil sa Bhille a léireodh domsa go bhfuil an Rialtas seo i ndáiríre faoi cheist na Gaeilge agus chuile shórt a bhaineas leis.

É sin ráite, éireoidh mé as, mar tá Seanadóirí eile le labhairt. Beimid ar ais nuair a bheidh an t-ábhar seo á phlé tuilleadh. Idir an dá linn, tá súil agam go n-éireoidh le Seanadóirí a chur in a luí ar an Aire gur cheart dó an Bille a tharraingt siar.

I welcome the Bill to the House and I welcome the debate. It gives us all an opportunity to hear what the Opposition have to say on the thorny question of broadcasting.

The first thing I wish to say in respect of comments from the Opposition is that the Government have brought this legislation to this House: one could say that they have bitten the bullet on the broadcasting issue in this country. It is something that was necessary. I remember a couple of years ago when there was a chaotic situation here with something like 70 pirate stations operating illegally, flaunting the airwaves and paying no revenue to the State. While that was going on the then Coalition Government, from 1973 to 1977, did nothing to regulate the broadcasting system. This Government have taken it on themselves to regulate this area, as they have done in other sectors. They had to make a lot of unsavoury decisions over the last number of years. When the economy of this country was going down the drain they had to put their house in order. They had to introduce health and educational cuts; the list was endless. But, suddenly, when a piece of worthwhile legislation is being introduced, there is turmoil.

I have never seen so many television reporters, cameras or radio announcers outside this House in my life as I have since this Bill was introduced. One could ask why they were not there during the passage of the Finance Bill or when old age pensioners were getting an increase in their allowance or when the unemployed were being given an extra bonus and so on. That was all sidelined when things were being put in proper perspective. But when they thought that their cosy, cushy jobs could be pushed in any direction, suddenly there were all sorts of cries. The cries are coming from the other side of the House. I am surprised at that, because they know that broadcasting has to be regulated in some form or other. As I said, when they were in Government they ducked and dodged the situation.

There was a consensus on the original Bill introduced. The people indicated that they wanted a choice of broadcasting, and the support for the pirate stations was a manifestation at the time of the desire of people to have an alternative to RTE. This was introduced under the 1988 Act. Arising from that we now have the new stations being set up around the country. Senator Ó Foighil indicated in his speech that the people of the west, who may have been crying with RTE that they had to subsidise the airwaves, are now saying that they cannot afford these new charges. I can say without fear of contradiction that the people of the west have an opportunity now to have their own local stations and they can advertise locally at a discount rate. The Broadcasting Act, 1988, was a step in the right direction. We are coming on air in Kerry this week, and I congratulate them. I am sure the people of Kerry will be delighted about this because I do not think it would be proper for them to have to advertise their wares to the eastern side of the country when they would only need them to be advertised locally.

RTE have been established for a long time and they have given a very good service to the people of Ireland. However, times move on and modernisation takes place. RTE will have to move with the times also. One would have to look at the dual funding arrangements at the moment from which RTE are benefiting. There is the licence fee, which amounts to about £45 million per annum, and there is substantial revenue from advertising, which amounts to £55 million or over. It is because of these inbuilt moneys and so forth that they are in a position at any one time to move in the heavy weaponry and kill off any new independent stations. It reminds me of the time when the big chains of supermarkets were moving in and were putting the small fellow completely off the scene.

RTE seem to be very concerned that they are going to lose something in the region of £10 million or £12 million out of a £100 million budget. Suddenly, their attitude is changing, they are beginning to scream and holler and all they can see on the horizon is massive unemployment, massive job losses and massive this, that and the other. With their experience of the airwaves down through the years and watching all the manufacturers in this country who were faced with similar type problems, did the various managements in this country suddenly say: we have lost an order here, we will have to start laying off people immediately because we want to save the cushy jobs of the people up the ranks? One would have to wonder about that. These are business people we are talking about. They have a board of management, the collar and tie jobs, the backroom boys, as they are called, in nice cushy positions. They have the experience of the past few years of doing business with other countries, buying and selling programmes.

There is a new market out there if RTE are so concerned about unemployment. There is a new market and they have the resources to get out and find it. Just think of some of the more popular TV programmes in this country. "Coronation Street" and "Home and Away" are foreign programmes and are very popular. These programmes are getting huge audiences here. Why can RTE not sell "Glenroe" abroad? Why can they not go to Australia and sell it there, because it is a worth-while programme? Why can they not get the extra revenue from that? They could go to the UK with it or the other countries. We are watching German programmes. Why can they not get "Glenroe" interpreted and have Miley speaking German or French, and sell it to French or German stations? In that way they could get extra revenue and stop crying about job losses and so on.

What I am most concerned about is this. I can see the authorities coming in here with the axe and taking it a step further. I can see them hitting the smaller sections of the community. I can see them hitting at our heritage, more than likely the cultural programmes, the ceoltas programmes and so on. The people who are going to shout loudest will be cut off. All these people will say they cannot get their programmes on the air and RTE will say "Blame Burke and blame Fianna Fáil because they introduced it". That is exactly what will happen and what they will say. I say to these people: you have a challenge, you are business people, your budget is being cut by maybe £12 million a year, get out there and make up the shortfall on the open market, you have the resources and you have the experience.

There is something I wanted to say for a good number of years and have not been able to say it. I have been involved in the entertainment business in this country and in other countries for the past 25 years and I have seen very good young artists. I remember about 15 years ago trying to get these young people interviews on RTE television and radio RTE were not interested, but if it were a Michael Jackson, Prince or whatever they were very interested indeed. They neglected our local entertainers. That is why the Broadcasting Act, 1988, is giving a new opportunity, particularly in the local arena, for these people to make new recordings and get on the airwaves. It is high time that the Irish people were looked after.

I was disappointed with RTE last week when they had a kind of a work to rule about what is happening — they said it was a dispute because of this Bill going through the Dáil. This was one of the excuses given. That proved to me that these people were acting in a very irresponsible way. If it were the ESB——

That would not have been the view of the Minister for Labour yesterday under the Industrial Relations Bill.

The Chair would be pleased if Senator Kiely could speak without interruption.

If this was the view of, say, the ESB, if something went wrong, all they would do is to go around and start pulling switches and say "We will make them suffer" and, against that, crying "Blame Ray Burke, blame the Government" or Bord Telecom, for that matter. I remember when the Department of Posts and Telegraphs were being divided between An Post and Bord Telecom. There were loud screams that there would be fierce unemployment and all the rest of it. Bord Telecom went in and did their job. It was a great job and they must be highly complimented. Now they have one of the best telecommunications systems in the world. They had a job of work to do. They did not start whinging or crying. They just went out and did it. They made fantastic inroads into their business. RTE should take a look at them.

The major element which creates a distortion in the market vis-a-vis competing services and RTE is dual funding. While the primary purpose of RTE's State subvention is to enable them to meet certain public service obligations, the effect of the subvention goes beyond that. It enables RTE to sell their advertising time in effect below cost, thereby creating an artificial domination over the market. The competing independent stations, whose legal mandate in terms of public service obligation is exactly the same as RTE, are prohibited from that type of funding. The argument would then have to be made: is that fair play? That is what this Bill is all about, fair play.

The licence fee that is paid to the Exchequer each year is paid to RTE in the form of a grant by the Department of Communications. The Minister's description of this is that it is a grant subvention and his explanation is therefore quite correct. The recent Joint National Listenership Research/Market Research Bureau of Ireland figures are ample evidence of the success of emerging radio stations. It appears that in an average week over one million of all listeners are now tuning in to one or more of the other independent stations. The independent stations have to be congratulated on their initiative. It is a fantastic step forward.

Can we look forward to the Century Symphony Orchestra?

There are other independent stations besides Century. All you can see is one radio station. We have a new one coming on in Kerry this week. I will be up here and I will ensure that we will get part of this revenue so that the people of my county will get their entitlements on the airwaves. I tried to say many things about RTE over the years but was unable to — things about unemployment in my area, emigration from my area, the lack of jobs in the area etc. We were not even listened to, but at least now we will be listened to because we will have our own airwaves.

We were on together.

We were, but it was controversial, as usual. The only reason it was picked up was because it was controversial. There were cameras all over the place because they thought they were going to see the downfall of a very honourable man.


Name him.


This Bill underlines the Government's commitment to fairness, equality and opportunity for all sectors. In particular, section 6 enables the independent radio and television stations to enter into contracts with TV3. This is another worth-while venture. I have heard it criticised and people saying, "Why TV3?" and "Why have RTE2?". I will refer to Kerry again.

We and the people of the west are a deprived race. Until lately we had RTE1; we barely got RTE2, and very bad reception at that. All of a sudden we had all these satellites and RTE had to pick themselves up because they were in a competitive market then. The west carried RTE for a long time, I can tell you, because the eastern side were able to receive all the channels for a good number of years. The west kept them alive and kept the revenue coming in. Now, we are going to see some fairness and equality and I am glad of that.

I want to thank RTE for coming down in the recent past and improving the signals in the hills of Kerry. I am sure all the people in the west of Ireland would appreciate another station since they were denied the other stations like the BBC1, BBC2, UTV and all the rest of them. In particular I am sure the RTE authorities would have to appreciate and be thankful for section 9 of the Bill.

I am fully satisfied that the Minister and his Department have gone into this Bill in depth. I am quite sure they have seen all the pitfalls it contains and that it is covered well. I think all in the communications business are protected in this Bill.

Take any private enterprise in this country. Say, for argument's sake, somebody lost a portion of their business. Are they going to start crying or are they going to get out there in the market place and find a new market? As I said earlier, I think the challenge is there for RTE. They can get out and sell our home made programmes abroad and bring in the lost revenue. I say to RTE: do not cut off our cultural and smaller programmes which are enjoyed by many people — our language programmes, our Ceóltas programmes, our documentary programmes. Many people are associated with those programmes, people who are on small contracts with RTE and so on. I know exactly where the axe will fall, and they are going to make a public outcry about it. I say if they are honest enough and decent enough people, let them get out there into the market place and bring up the shortfall. If it happened in any business in this country, in the Smurfit group or in any other group, there would be a call to get rid of the people at the top. I will refer back to what the Government did when they were forced into their cost cutting programme to try to save the future of the country. They cut right from the top, from the engineers and the white collar section all the way down. They did not just go in and take all the workers off the roads in the county councils and so on. They distributed the cuts evenly across the way. When RTE are getting the knife out to do the cutting I am quite sure, if they look into their hearts, they are going to be fair and reasonable about this. A sum of £10 million out of a budget of £100 million is a small amount of money. If it gives the people in this country an opportunity to have a variety of programmes, I feel that that is what should be done. All my life I have found that competition is the life of trade. I think the Irish people want a choice, that they will not be forced into listening to one programme, that they can turn on their radio or television to whatever they want.

There is a saying: if you cannot stick the heat of the kitchen, get out of it. If they cannot run their authority in a proper fashion and streamline it to deal with the new satellite programmes coming on air, then I think they should retire or resign, get out of the business and let people in there who will do the business for them. We have plenty of people in the country quite capable of doing that.

I cannot see why RTE and the Opposition Members of this House are putting up such a determined fight to try to scuttle and upset this legislation that has been badly needed for a number of years. The Government should be congratulated for bringing the 1988 Bill. I am delighted that they have the guts and the determination to bring in this legislation. The last Government during the four years they were in power ran away from their responsibilities by not bringing in legislation and allowing over 70 illegal pirate stations run riot in the country. At least Minister Burke had the determination and courage to introduce that Bill at the time and now he has the determination as well to introduce this legislation. I feel confident that this is a move in the right direction. There are many other things this Government have done in the last number of years. Even though they were unsavoury and did not look right at the time, if you go back over the track record of this Government since they came into power——

They were very unsavoury?

Who is talking about unsavoury?

You are. Look at your notes.


Of course, we never ran away from unsavoury policies. Of course, they were unsavoury. I did not want to see job losses in Kerry County Council. I wanted more jobs in Kerry County Council. But if you want the country to slide away from us completely and the national debt to go from £12 billion up to £25 billion under a Coalition Government, if we wanted to go in and say "Hurrah, hurrah, keep it going, lads, and we will make it £50 billion" we could have done that. But we had a responsibility not alone to ourselves but to the future generations of this country. If they were unsavoury policies, at least we faced up to them like men and we did not run away from them. I think this Bill deserves the support not alone of the members on this side of the House but, if you are men enough of the other side of the House as well.


We certainly heard something this evening when we heard Fianna Fáil boasting and proud of the many unsavoury things they have done in the last few years. I would like to start by asking: what is the purpose of this Seanad? What do this Government and you, Minister, see as the purpose of this Seanad? I understood that the purpose of having a second House was that the Upper Chamber could examine and revise Bills. Having given them due consideration in an unheated atmosphere, they could reflect on them in a mature way, consider them and then make whatever amendments were necessary. This has always been the purpose of a second chamber. It seems to me that that is particularly important when public opinion is so clearly divided on an issue, as is the case with this Broadcasting Bill. I think that nobody will deny that it has been a highly controversial piece of legislation and that there has been a huge public outcry and unprecedented protests. I do not think that the screaming to which Senator Kiely referred has only come from RTE. Understandably, RTE are unhappy when they realise the motives of the Minister in trying to do them down. What is different in this case is that the opposition to the Bill has been right across the board, right across all parts of this country. It has incensed and united the entire Opposition — and that is something fairly remarkable — and there were also clearly Government backbenchers who were very unhappy with the legislation when it was introduced.

I was amused this afternoon to hear the Progressive Democrats Senator, Helen Keogh, referring to the antidemocratic tactics of the Opposition in the Dáil. That is a huge irony, because I think we are all fairly clear that the anti-democratic tactics which are being used are clearly being used by the Fianna Fáil Party to steamroll this Bill through. They have guillotined the Bill in the Dáil and they would do the same here except that they do not want to have that accusation. Instead, we are going through this charade, I suppose we could call it, of giving the impression that in fact there is mature discussion of the Bill.

This is a fundamentally important Bill for the future of Irish society. I think the way the Minister rushed in here this morning read his script at a gallop, rushed out again, and his whole demeanour during the debate has shown the utter contempt — I am not referring to the Minister present; I am referring to the Minister for Communications — and disdain which he clearly shows for this House. That is something which I greatly resent.

I endeavoured to ask the Minister a question this morning — if I knew then that I would have to wait until 8 o'clock to ask the question officially I might have tried even a little harder — but, of course, the Cathaoirleach refused to allow me to continue or to allow the Minister to reply. I wanted to ask if he was going to allow any amendments to the Bill. We all know that the answer to that question clearly is, "no". That is why I call this a farce and a charade.

We come here to discuss Bills. No matter how serious a flaw there is in the Bill, no matter how worth while an amendments is suggested and no matter how well constructed or well argued it is on Committee Stage we know that no amendment will be allowed because the Minister is determined to get this legislation through as quickly as possible and to try to quell the opposition to it. I find that extremely frustrating and there is a degree of futility in the whole exercise.

This is the way dictatorship operates. A dictator does not operate democratically, he simply comes in, says what has to be done and like it or lump it, citizens have to accept it. We are here, apparently, putting some sort of veneer of respectability on the passage of the legislation, but we all know it is only a charade which is taking place. I would like to ask the Minister what urgency there is about this legislation.

I reluctantly want to make a point of order because Senator Hederman is making a very constructive contribution at times. I understand, as a Member of the House, that it is a matter for the Seanad if we want to oppose or accept amendments to any particular Bill. Is that not the case?

Acting Chairman

That is hardly a point of order.

The charge has been made that this is a charade and a farce.

Is Senator Cassidy telling us that amendments will be accepted by the Minister to this Bill? The Senator knows as I do that there is no way that any amendment will be agreed to by the Government. He knows that the Dáil has risen and that there is no opportunity for that.

In 1988 we proposed 104 amendments here and they were accepted. That speaks for itself.

Acting Chairman

Senator Hederman to continue without interruption.

I do not mind, even if it is 1,004; it makes no difference to my case that it is abundantly clear that no amendment will be accepted because the Minister is determined that this legislation will go through. There have been appeals. If I am proved wrong, I will be the first to apologise. I hope the Senator is right and that I was wrong. Sadly, I believe that is not the case.

There originally appeared to be some urgency when there was a question of trying to save Century Radio, but since that aspect of the Bill was been changed I cannot see now what the unseemly rush is. I am only repeating what has been said by the Leader of Fine Gael, and other speakers. It would be the prudent thing, in view of the seriousness of this legislation, to give a time for, perhaps, tempers to cool down, for everybody to take a long and mature look at it during the summer months and to come back here in the autumn to debate the Bill.

A highly respected Member of the Seanad, the late Senator Alexis FitzGerald was, I understand respected by all sides of this House for the enormous contribution he made. I regret that I did not have the opportunity to serve in this House with him. I read some essays in his memory recently and I would like to quote from them. He said:

It is the better Ministers who are prepared to yield to amendments. The weaker ones, people who do not really comprehend what they are introducing, are afraid to agree to amendments.

In this case, I do not think any of us would call the Minister for Communications weak and I do not think we could say that he does not really comprehend what he is introducing. The Minister knows all too well what he is introducing. Why will he not accept amendments? What is he afraid of? I believe we all know. Quite frankly, he is afraid of public opinion; he is afraid that if he lets this Bill lie until the autumn public opposition will mount and there will be a great deal of downside for the Government. The best thing is to try to lose as little face as possible, get it through fast and sweep it under the carpet if they feel guilty about it.

I found it ironic, on reading through some of the Dáil debates, to see that on 29 June the Minister for Communications was appreciative of some comments which were made by his colleagues with regard to his flexibility and willingness to make changes. The Minister said, according to the Dáil Official Report, on 29 June:

It is essential in a democracy that Government listen and are flexible to points of view put forward by the Opposition.

That is very ironic in view of the situation we have here today. The Government, apparently, pay lip service to the idea of having an Upper Chamber but they treat it with contempt. That is what we are experiencing at the moment. I feel that the Progressive Democrats are, perhaps, a little more honest in that they have said they feel the Seanad should be abolished. They have given a frank opinion on that. It is not something I agree with, but if this kind of charade continues I suppose that will be the outcome.

With regard to more specific items in the Broadcasting Bill, the primary function of radio and television as a communications media is to entertain, inform and to educate amongst other things. The largest audiences can roughly be divided into, (1) the mass market, (2), local community interests, and (3), minority interest groups. It is important that all these sectors are catered for.

I believe that to promote professional excellence in all fields of endeavour competition is vital. Other speakers have referred to how this worked very successfully in the case of Aer Lingus. One could give a number of other examples. I, therefore welcome the advent of community radio. Indeed, like other speakers, I would like to see more done for it. I also welcome the advent of national independent radio and TV. To have a vibrant, independent sector is a good thing and something which is to be welcomed.

As a small nation our aspirations must necessarily be tempered by the financial resources which we have at our disposal. The obvious sources of funding are advertising revenue, licence fees, revenue from sales of home produced programmes abroad and, perhaps, tax on other mass forms of entertainment like video rentals, and so on which could augment funds from licence fees.

The mass markets and community markets are, presumably, the areas which are of primary interest to advertisers. It is, therefore, logical that radio and television, whether State or private, catering for these demands should and can be funded exclusively from advertising revenue. This is not the case where we have radio and TV catering for what I call the minority interests. Minority interests are the Irish language, for which Senator Pól Ó Foighil made such an impassioned case earlier on, music, other than pop music, drama, current affairs, education, information and so on. These have to be funded by a combination of advertising and licence fees. I believe, along with many other speakers on this side of the House, that these areas have been very well served by public broadcasting by Radio Éireann and by RTE as it is now.

The commercial stations would not be interested in these areas because they are not viable, are not income generated and, so, they will steer away from them. One of the good things — we hear a great deal about the quality of life in Ireland and it is something we all appreciate — has been the standard of broadcasting of our television and radio stations. Senator Kiely spoke at some length about the need to have a range of options.

I know when one goes to the Continent or, more particularly, to the United States, one can go into one's hotel bedroom and receive anything up to 40 channels, all equally bad, I feel that is what will happen here. The standard of our broadcasting will go down. We need to ensure, by whatever means we can, the future of quality broadcasting in Ireland. RTE need both the licence fee and the revenue from advertising if they are to be able to invest in the kind of quality programmes we have come to appreciate. I feel certain, with the passage of this Bill, that RTE will be obliged either to reduce quality or fail financially. They simply will not be able to keep up the standard of programmes given the curtailment of their financial resources.

Senator Kiely also exhorted RTE to go out and canvass the markets abroad and to be entrepreneurial. Many of us feel that RTE were formally something of a bureaucratic institution. We know that they were in a loss making situation. However, when challenged, they turned themselves around and are now a financially solid operation. They responded creatively to that challenge. They increased the number of hours of broadcasting, they have very good ratings. They increased the home produced programmes by 40 per cent. They have done precisely what they were asked to do but now we intend to go out and crucify them because they have been successful. This is not very encouraging for other semi-State companies; it would be very worrying for them. It is now intended to penalise their success by capping their advertising and reducing their advertising time to five minutes per hour. That will represent a reduction in their income of between £10 and £12 million. This will have the effect of destroying their revenue base. The licence fee will not be allowed to increase. That will remain static. While I believe they will do everything they can to face the challenge, and although they have been streamlined considerably, RTE cannot go on endlessly without a reduction in the quality of their service. We will find shorter hours, there will be fewer RTE made drama and documentaries, fewer home produced programmes, and we will find ourselves watching night after night the Dallas type programmes which I despise. We should expect our national broadcasting company to come up with something better.

How will the RTE Symphony Orchestra be able to keep going? Will they be hammered as a result of this? The most disheartening thing about the whole Bill is the way initiative in RTE will be stifled. This must be very demoralising for the staff. If the staff in RTE protested, something Senator Kiely seemed to resent, I do not think that is to their detriment. If they did anything else we would be critical of them. It is up to them to go out and fight their corner as best they can. The same applies to those in RTE who are worried that there will be job losses. We cannot expect them to take that sitting down and not do everything they can to reverse the situation. There will be very little incentive left in RTE. They probably feel, no matter what they do at this stage, that they are doomed. In the view of the general ideology of Fianna Fáil, which normally is to encourage enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit, this aspect of the Bill seems to be very antienterprise.

I am in favour of independent commercial radio but I do not think it should be at the cost of the demise of our public service broadcasting. People have mentioned that in the UK the BBC only have licence fees and that ITV only have advertising revenue. They want to know why the same thing cannot happen here. Quite clearly the population differences have a bearing on this. We are talking about £20 million in licence fees there. Obviously it is unrealistic to make a comparison between that level of revenue and what the position is here. People have spoken of RTE having a monopoly. RTE have to compete with a number of other stations, UTV, BBC1, BBC2, Channel 4, Sky, etc. It is not realistic to say, therefore, that RTE are in a monopoly situation.

I presume we will continue to rely on RTE to project the cultural identity of this country — that is extremely important as Ireland takes its place in the EC — and that they will project it beyond even the EC to other parts of the world. The issue, therefore, is one of promotion. I am speaking of the promotion of our national culture. That is something extremely important in regard to national identity. We also depend on RTE to develop the export potential of our native industry in home produced programmes of international quality. That is extremely important for our image abroad. It is a subject that has been touched on by other speakers.

It was mooted in the Dáil that there should be a broadcasting policy review council which would monitor standards and endeavour to maintain good taste. While I support the idea of editorial freedom, I believe there should be some specific reference in the Bill to the responsibilities this freedom entails. The moral and social fabric of our society is the prime concern of all of us and is important for the welfare and the happiness of the people of Ireland.

The cost in both human and financial terms, indeed, of abandoning standards of social behaviour is very obvious in those countries where an amoral philosophy prevails. We have seen in this country a worrying increase in things such as drug addiction, pregnancies outside marriage, teenage drinking and a range of other problems. These are areas which parents are understandably concerned about. It is important that we do not allow our broadcasting to undermine our youth, I am not proposing any excessive restrictions but the trend to trivialise and destroy fundamental values for entertainment value, while offering nothing else in their place, is of great concern.

I am concerned that the Minister will have control of the licence fee and of the total revenue of RTE and is at the moment penalising RTE. It is hard in that context to see how RTE can remain independent and impartial in regard to the Government of the day and how they can be objective. I suspect the outcome of this Bill will be that we will end up with the worst of both worlds, with both public and private broadcasting services in serious trouble.

The Bill, in my view, is an attack on RTE which I believe to be one of the fundamental organs of this State. I urge the Minister again to reconsider this matter. The Bill should not be rushed through. Its potential for reasserting national values and maintaining and improving our already high standards of broadcasting is too important an opportunity to miss for the sake of some obscure deadline.

I am glad the Minister for Communications has returned to the House. Listening to the debate over the past——

Sorry to interrupt the Senator but I was dealing with an Estimate in the Dáil. That is why I had to leave the House earlier.

I was not questioning the reason the Minister was not here, I am glad he is back. Listening to the debate over the past few hours I am amazed at the element of shock, surprise and horror expressed by Fianna Fáil Senators and, in particular, a PD Senator and their wild accusations that this side of the House are being exceptionally confrontational, aggressive and out of order.

This is a very serious issue. I can honestly say that this side of the House are not just expressing our own fears and our views; we cannot be totally off-course when the country at large is crying out, not because of hype or because they are inflamed in some rather unconstitutional way but because they really are alarmed and shocked at this legislation. They are alarmed at the whole sad passage of the Bill through the Dáil and now that it has been presented to us here.

This Broadcasting Bill is a threat to democracy. Senators on the other side of the House will find my remarks difficult to accept. This controversy began when the Taoiseach, who was disappointed and bewildered at losing the election, blamed RTE. It is common knowledge, it is not something we are picking up from the street, we cannot all be wrong, there are investigative journalists, there is an organ of communication, people think, even though at times the Government would prefer that they did not. When the RTE programme "Morning Ireland" were looking at the health cuts apparently the Taoiseach was not happy at the presentation of his comments, when he said that he was not aware that the health cuts were so severe and were affecting the people. I am informed by an RTE employee — I have no reason to doubt his sincerity or to suggest that he was lying to me because I do not think he would have anything to gain from it — that a senior Government Minister stated — I will not use the exact quotation, I will substitute a word because decorum prevents me — that they would square RTE. At that time RTE were blamed by the Government for the drop in the opinion polls. I do not know why Senators on the other side seem to think this is something that has been fabricated the past few days. That is why I am so concerned.

There are Third World countries, perhaps not always Third World countries, socialist countries in the past with dictatorial regimes, where Presidents have sought to cut down organs of communication. I interpret this Broadcasting Bill in the first form as put before the Dáil as doing the same thing. Though some amendments have been made they have done little to improve what I consider a most insidious and invidious piece of legislation. It is interesting that, while various motions have been proposed in the Seanad and the Dáil, lauding and applauding the new wave of democracy from the frontiers of Russia right across Europe, we in Ireland seem to be going in the opposite direction. Generally we can be very casual and very blasé in relation to the rights and the freedoms we enjoy but the general public are aware of the insidious effect of interference with an organ of communication.

Television over the past few decades has done much to inform people that there is a world outside, that there is Europe, that there are global problems, that there are Third World problems, that at the end of the day we are no longer an island but are part of Europe. An example over the past few days has been the GATT talks; luckily some of our fears in that regard have subsided to a certain extent.

I regard the efforts by the Government in this Bill to control and to stifle legitimate criticism and objective reporting as most ominous. I said we are rather blasé as a nation about our rights and rather casual about our constitutional rights and our rights under the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. One of them, which is relevant to this debate, is freedom of expression. I intepret that as freedom of expression on the airwaves. The Bill, as presented originally to the Dáil, in relation to the make-up of the Independent Radio and Television Commission and the RTE Authority with Fianna Fáil majority representation, is a most important aspect, in relation to the question of political involvement in broadcasting. It is one of the areas that has not been discussed and debated because of the other aspects of the Bill which overshadow it.

The Irish people have seen through the arrogance of the Government and they have rallied spontaneously to the defence of our public broadcasting system. It has not just incensed the workers of RTE, it has incensed the country, every single interest group and it has even incensed the newspapers. Despite the fact that it is a fait accompli, that it will pass through the Seanad, I do not think this controversy will die during the summer months. Of course at that stage it will be too late; we will all live to rue the day. It may be many months, it may be even years before we will feel the full effects. It is a pity the Bill was not completely withdrawn; there is still time for the Minister to withdraw it.

I want to deal with the specifics, the commercial and financial implications of the Bill. There is the impact, first of all, on RTE of the reduced advertising time and the cap on revenue. The structure of the RTE advertisement sales allocation and placement of advertising is very complicated. I was not fully aware of the complexity. In one way the controversial nature of the Bill has caused people to become more aware of the structures within RTE, something we have taken for granted. The structures are obviously achieving maximum revenue when audience levels are high. It is commercial business. The present hourly authorised levels of advertising are six minutes, 10 per cent on average and the maximum level, seven minutes at 12.5 per cent. The proposals will reduce the overall level by 25 per cent and at peak viewing time by 33? per cent.

As an example, on one of the major programmes with a very high TAM rating, the revenue derived from each "Late Late Show" will be reduced by £28,000 approximately. Obviously that will have an influence on the quality of the programme from now on. With the proposed time reductions and the reduction in the advertising per hour there is doubt whether RTE can reach the cap levels in the short term. If the linkage is to be maintained, obviously, it should relate to more flexible air time proposals.

What RTE, particularly, will be looking for over the next two years with regard to phasing would be that the impact of this Bill would be reviewed after two years.

The structure of RTE advertising is such that they do not force advertisers to buy advertising time. Advertising is carried on both radio and television because advertisers want to advertise their wares. Good programmes make for good audiences and good advertising. You can take that cycle whatever way you like. If you have good revenue that, obviously, gives you scope and potential for good programme making. If you have good programmes, you are obviously going to have good audiences. No matter what way you take that cycle it refers back to revenue.

I also wish to look at the video and film companies. They will be caught on two fronts. First, there will be the loss of advertisements being made for television, and, secondly, their product will not be bought by RTE due to lack of finance. Going back to the loss to advertising agencies, commission comes to £8 million, with £1 million to each of the three leading companies advertising with RTE, and pro rata to the other companies depending on the amount of advertising. We are really talking about quite sizeable amounts.

I was amazed at Senator Kiely's reference to the fact that £10 million to £12 million is just a drop in the ocean of the overall budget. I believe that £10 million to £12 million is a tremendous amount of money to RTE — or to any organisation — they have been scrimping and saving in local authorities. I am amazed that he trivialises £12 million as if it were just a drop in the ocean. I am sure if Kerry County Council had £12 million cut from their budget Senator Kiely would be in here screaming and looking to the Government to reinstate that £12 million as fast as possible. He must be a very wealthy man if he can speak so flippantly of £12 million and say it does not matter one way or another.

The advertisers themselves at the very least, would incur expense and inconvenience in finding other means of marketing their wares if they cannot advertise on RTE. At worst, they will find their product sales down and new product launches difficult because of less effective media presentation.

Another specific relates to sponsorship. It is interesting that the whole country lauded RTE for its excellent coverage of the World Cup. We could not but notice Bord Gáis advertising, day in day out. They paid £100,000 for that spot. It certainly was money well spent from their point of view. They took a chance. They could not know in advance that the World Cup was going to become such a singularly successful event for Ireland. We are talking about a State company which showed flair and innovation.

I want to refer to another sponsorship, that is the weather forecasts by Bord Telecom. They too showed initiative and made the weather forecasts far more attractive than they had been. They are far more relevant to the ordinary man and woman in the street. I am afraid, within the sponsorship area, that this sponsorship will get the hatchet. That income was very relevant and important to RTE. There was a double gain, both for the State companies and, obviously, for the audience.

I am surprised that much more has not been made of job losses. People seem to think — and the impression is given — that the idea of job losses is something that might happen and that it is just a case of crying wolf, we might as well cry "wolf" now because we are going to lose all of these jobs. During the week we saw the successful settlement of the Waterford Crystal dispute. It was interesting to note the similarity between RTE and Waterford Crystal in the sense that they have approximately the same number of employees; this puts it in the context of a business. They are employing over 2,000 people. The loss of the so-called trivial £12 million can only be accommodated by a reduction in the numbers of people employed.

I would again refer to Senator Kiely who said over and over again that he was worried about the loss of jobs for the county council workers in his beloved Kerry. He must have had some input into the fact that there may not have been county council jobs lost in Kerry, but county council workers certainly lost their jobs in Limerick. These jobs were essential. When we are talking about RTE we are talking about a reduction in the number of people employed. That is a fact. I am sure everybody will be monitoring the staff numbers between now and next year and over the next couple of years.

The normal commercial way of dealing with this type of loss would be to achieve two-thirds by cuts — £8 million in salaries and one-third, or £4 million, in general expenditure. I am not an accountant or an economist — but I believe that actually leads to the loss of 400 jobs. Even if half the jobs were saved, and if the saving was £6 million in general expenditure, that would still leave 300 jobs being lost. Unless RTE have plans for compulsory redundancy, accommodating the reduction of these numbers, I do not see how these jobs can be saved. To maintain the competitive thrust which has enabled RTE to improve programming, to cut costs and to clear all their debts, it is essential that there would be a review, after two years, of the whole commercial aspect.

It is interesting — and extraordinary in a sense too — that RTE in making a profit have been penalised. I find this rather ironic. A new commandment introduced in the last few weeks seems to be: "do not make a profit at all costs, because profits mean trouble, particularly for State companies, and if you do we will cut you off next year". Where is the incentive to bother if you are to be penalised for being successful? Why not phase out the licence revenue altogether and tell RTE to operate as a commercial venture. It is interesting that they have a record of not owing one penny to the Exchequer. That is extraordinary and mindboggling.

I wish to turn now to regional coverage and to make a plea to the Minister, whatever happens in the future, that RTE in Limerick will not be adversely affected. Over the last 12 months this coverage has really improved enormously because of the personnel there. This improvement happily has been married with the boom in the city. There has been plenty of scope for coverage. Many people have suddenly found Limerick on the map. Once upon a time Limerick was the Confraternity city and there was all sorts of scare-mongering of Reds under the bed, there was no great effort to welcome foreigners, and all sorts of extraordinary biased and prejudiced comments in relation to Limerick.

I have to applaud RTE — and RTE Limerick in particular — for creating a far more positive picture for the city, and for the mid-west in particular. I applaud the efforts of regional coverage of RTE Limerick. Next Friday night RTE are launching their regional coverage. I would be very sad to think that they are launching something which might be closed shortly after it opens. I would hope that regional representation of coverage will not be hit by any cutbacks. I know how strongly Senator Honan feels about regional coverage. She would not like the mid-west to be left to flounder, as it has been doing in the past, through lack of RTE coverage. It is a service in an area where the private sector coverage survive, and do not want to be involved. I would liken it to Iarnród Éireann, or CIE, who have offered a service in the past to remote areas where commercial transport companies would not bother travelling to see that Mrs. So-and-so six or seven miles down a cul-de-sac would get to where she wants to go. There are still many isolated areas in Limerick, Clare and so on. Everybody likes to see his own "cabbage patch" covered by RTE. That coverage is very much appreciated by people living in remote areas. After all, they have President Gorbachev in their front parlours. They also have coverage of what is happening locally, which is far more relevant to their lives than many world events. That service is a vital organ of communication in these isolated communities.

I would again urge the Minister to take the concept of decentralisation to heart. Again, citing the Limerick area, I am alarmed that the Progressive Democrats Minister for Industry and Commerce seems to want to axe the whole concept of decentralisation in relation to his attitude to SFADCo. I am drawing the parallels because regionalisation does not seem to be important any more. At a time when Europe is telling us that we must have regionalisation, we seem to be going backwards. The regional aspects of RTE are going to cost money, although not a huge amount. I am afraid those regional areas will be vulnerable.

In the Limerick area, RTE provide employment for up to 12 people. If one multiplies that by the six other regions we are talking of about 70 jobs. Seventy people may not seem a huge number but they are extraordinarly important in their own areas. Those 70 people provide a service to the remote areas. They have their noses to the ground. They cover everything. They are not specialists in one specific area. They are covering everything within those regions. If the costs in six regions were to be multiplied by £150,000 — which apparently is the approximate cost for running a regional service — we are talking about approximately £1 million. That is a very important £1 million, or should be to Senator Kiely. Let us hope that the £12 million that he is so casual about will be left intact, and the £1 million will not be taken from it. If we are to think in terms of the Limerick region we are talking about the service there in 12 months carrying 300 news packages. The past 12 months has been exceptionally successful. I would plead with the Minister to decentralise the service. It seems that where there is competition, it is not accepted. I will go back again to the Progressive Democrats Minister for the area, who when there was competition between SFADCo and the IDA did not seem to like it. Now, where there is an element of competition within the Broadcasting Bill it seems to cause problems.

What other areas are going to be affected? Many speakers have referred to them. We have had proposals for an Irish language channel. Of course, Seanadóir Ó Foighil gave us much food for thought with his interesting contribution.

We are all now aware of the demise of the Irish language, and the efforts that he is making to revive it. We all applaud his efforts to keep the Irish language alive and well within Seanad Éireann. Many Senators across the House will make the effort too. The need for an Irish language channel is increasing, not just in the Gaeltacht areas but throughout the length and breadth of the country. We should make a concerted effort in this House and all 60 Senators should contribute at least 15 minutes in Irish, as was done during the debate on the establishment of Telefís na Gaeltachta. I am sure all Senators could make an effort to keep the Irish language alive. They should do so now by looking for an Irish language channel. The operating cost would be between £6 million and £8 million. That sum may be part of Senator Kiely's £12 million, which he so flippantly dismissed as being of no importance.

Our National Symphony Orchestra, which costs £2 million, is something I would hate to see go, especially now that we have the National Concert Hall. It is extraordinary that there is still a tremendous lack of planning. We build our concert hall and we are delighted with it in our capital city, both from an aesthetic viewpoint in relation to the building itself and the aesthetics of music. I hope that our National Symphony Orchestra is not in jeopardy. We also have our national choral society. The members of the National Symphony Orchestra are not just there for love of music; it is their bread and butter. I am sure they are there primarily for love of music, but they have to live. I am sure they are shivering in fear and trepidation lest their future might be in jeopardy.

With reference to the RTE Players, they are bringing tremendous entertainment to people living alone and to people in hospital. Some patients tune into RTE Radio 1 and look forward to the tremendously high standard of drama that RTE produce. They produce Irish plays and not necessarily Chekov.

I hope that programmes like "Looking West" with Jim Fahy are not in jeopardy. Think of the audience he has, think of the culture that has been preserved in the more remote parts of our country, think of the taped conversations and recordings he has made of the most extraordinarily interesting people. That brings radio back to the individual. I hope that in a united Europe — politically, economically and otherwise — we will not lose sight of our Irishness and our values. To me they are encapsulated in many of the programmes that Senators today enumerated. We could think of Ciarán Mac Mathúna, a Limerick man who certainly does not think parochially. His programme on Sunday morning has done much for the cultural aspects of the country. I will refer to Senator Paschal Mooney, to whom I tune in very often. He has done a tremendous amount to link up with our emigrants, not in Britain alone, but throughout the world. He is compulsive listening for many of us. I even know when his programmes are on, tune in, and often comment on what I would like to hear. I hope I will be able to continue to listen to Senator Paschal Mooney's harmonious and eloquent tones. He is less confrontational when he is on the airwaves than in the House. He has a pleasant entertaining side which we see, too, in this House, but which we particularly hear on radio. I hope he will not be cut out as a result of the loss of £12 million that Senator Kiely dismissed so quickly a few moments ago.

We also have the Thomas Davis lectures. There is something for everybody on RTE Radio culturally, from an historical and archaeological viewpoint. There are the most extraordinary programmes. There are programmes relating to medical coverage and there are some excellent programmes on Sunday. We have a marvellous RTE, whether it is radio or television. People who come here on holidays find it extraordinary that such a small country, with a small population and on such a small budget, can entertain so widely and in such quality.

May I make a reference to costs? Millions and millions of pounds are spent by BBC on their news coverage. I have the costs and will refer to them again. Their "Newsnight" budget alone is greater than the full budget of RTE for news. I can tune into RTE news or BBC news, but I certainly opt for RTE. We do not fully appreciate what we have.

If you look through our specialist correspondents, the name on everybody's lips at the moment is Orla Guerin. She started off in the Limerick Post, the local paper in Limerick. It is a free newspaper and is put through all the letter boxes. Her reporting was excellent. We knew that she was not going to stay very long before she found her way to more important channels of communication. Now she is our Eastern European correspondent. She is excellent. I can see Orla Guerin coming back. I do not think she will have to come back to the Limerick Post, but I think she will be snapped up immediately by international media coverage, who will see her potential as a broadcaster and as an excellent correspondent.

I would also like to refer to a past student of mine, Ann Daly, whose rise to fame was associated very much with being in El Salvador at the time of the murder of Archbishop Romero. She is on RTE very regularly. She has given us enormous enjoyment, although I suppose I would not call it "enjoyment" in relation to her coverage of Third World countries. She gave us a most extraordinary appraisal last week of the disaster in Iran. Will these excellent communicators have to be sent on their way and snapped up by other stations maybe here, or ITV, or Welsh TV, the BBC or whatever? You are talking about European networks because these girls have foreign languages. That is why they are where they are. I worry about their future.

What about the specialist correspondents? Will we find that, for instance, in the mid-west the particular RTE employee there will have to be a jack-of-all-trades? Will he have to cover agricultural issues? Will he have to cover all the areas which have news coverage? Will the specialist correspondents have to go? The budget for news coverage for the BBC is £120 million. It covers salaries and production costs. The budget for RTE is £5 million. The budget for "Newsnight" on BBC is £6 million, for just one programme.

They did not need it this year because of the excellent budget.

I am asking if the quality of news coverage will suffer? Will our excellent correspondents be lured to more lucrative territories? May I refer to charitable organisations which have special concessions at present from RTE for their advertisements? People in this country have a special feel for those who are less well off than themselves. I am thinking particularly of coverage in relation, for instance, to famine in Ethiopia or to famine and poverty in Sudan. The advertisements that are carried are related to local charities but they are also related to non-Government organisations who certainly could not advertise as frequently as they do unless they had reduced costs from RTE. I know the Minister recommended yesterday that the extra 30 seconds allocated could be given to charities. A recommendation is fine but will the Minister be able to make that statutory? I do not expect he will. We are again going against the tide of public opinion, where the people respond so well — and always have — to the needs of the less well off. Perhaps they will not be as aware of the need for funding if those advertisements are not as frequent as they have been. There was a comment that newspapers find advertising far more lucrative than television coverage. I would question that.

It is true.

It is probably true, but I am not sure. The actual starkness of the advertisements in relation to Third World crises — and in relation to all charities, it does not have to be Third World — really switches on a consumer society. We are all consumers. We have other things to do with our money, but we are reminded over and over again by the harrowing pictures and by the continual appeals that we get at 6.25 p.m. on Sundays and at other times, too. The slots are filled by well known personnel who get across to the general public the crisis and poverty in particular parts of this country and, I suppose, more so in Third World countries. I hope that those advertisements will not diminish as a result of cutbacks. That is a very important consideration.

As the mother of a teenage daughter who is permanently clued in on a "Walkman" to 2FM, I know that all that matters to her is 2FM. It is the most listened to radio station in the country. Opinion polls have shown that. The public are very pleased. I do not know why the Minister sought to restructure it. I do not know why he targeted this station. I would use the word "manipulation". Perhaps he feels that most of our young people have gone, and that there is no longer an audience for 2FM. It is not just young people who tune in. By Gerry Ryan's coverage we know that he is a second runner in relation to huge TAM ratings on radio. It disturbs me that something that is so successful has to have restructuring. Whether we do or do not like pop music — I like it to a degree but I certainly would not go around with a "Walkman" day in and day out.

I listened to Paschal Mooney and he gives us a certain element of pop music, which is sufficient in RTE1. I listen to 2FM for their hourly news coverage, which sometimes gives news that we do not get on RTE1. I would also listen to some pop music, but I can honestly say that the young poulation of this country listen to 2FM all the time. They are the spenders and the people who will tune in and will increase TAM ratings. They are the people towards whom the advertisers on 2FM are gearing themselves. It is all to do with money at the end of the day. The advertisers would not be going on 2FM if they were not getting value for money. They are geared towards the young wage earners who have no family responsibility as yet and who have huge spending power. They will buy the jeans, tapes and the consumer products which are the flavour of the month. I am afraid that any restructuring of 2FM will lose more revenue. So why does the Minister think in terms of restructuring it?

RTE has been a shining light as a semi-State company. It should be praised for its success and enterprise. I must refer to the ambivalent attitude of the partners in Government — the Progressive Democrats. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is from the Limerick East constituency. Obviously I read his comments on the local newspaper as well as hearing him on the regional coverage on local radio. He makes no secret of his — I do not know whether to use the word — hostility or the word, antipathy. State enterprises seem to be anathema to him. RTE have improved sufficiently, which is something that the Minister is always looking for and always seeking. Surely when RTE have improved their profits and competitiveness they should be applauded, rather then denigrated. I find the ambivalence disturbing.

As regards Century it is extraordinary that in the whole debate it tends to be the forgotten Cinderella. The survival plan to rescue Century has turned sour. Hopefully Century will not be allowed to collapse. All that was needed was an injection of capital and it could have been given, as was suggested by Fine Gael, in the form of a temporary borrowing from the proceeds of licence fees, even up to 5 per cent of the annual total of the £45 million which would be £2.25 million. This could have been made available, free of interest, to alternative radio to ensure that it would not collapse. All they needed was a once off payment to help them get over their teething problems. I ask the question: where goes Century now?

The Minister may be sorry he did not set up an independent review body. It is not just now an option for the Minister, it is — I hope the words do not contradict each other — an imperative option. "Option" surely is the wrong word. If the Minister set up an independent review body it would indicate his willingness to undo, although at this stage I feel it is impossible to do so, the damage done to date. It would surely be the vehicle through which we — Government, Opposition, RTE and the general public — could be assured that broadcasting would be an independent organ of communication, free from political infiltration, a concept we cherish very much in our democracy.

The Minister accepts the diversion of £12 million as a projected loss, but he does not call it a loss. He uses the rather euphemistic term, "the diversion". He states that it will be up to the different media "to earn their share of this diverted revenue on the merit of their own worth and relative cost attractiveness". I find those extraordinary words when RTE have merited, and shown, their worth. Why is it something that has to be done now when it has already been done? He selects 1988 when there was a heavy load on RTE, and he cites the programmes that cost them quite a bit. He referred to the broadcasting hours, higher programming standards, the fact that we staged the Eurovision Song Contest, the fact that there was extensive coverage of the European Championship in West Germany and extensive coverage of the Olympic Games in Seoul. He says that at that time the station, though it incurred considerable costs, turned in a surplus of £5.3 million. He then spoke about a new corporate environment created by the Bill. They are buzz words. I do not like the word "corporate". It is a very vague term.

The Minister suggests that RTE should develop a whole new set of strategic goals. It is reminiscent of typical IDA language — job projections and what not. I hate those words because they are ambiguous. They are generalisations. They are theoretical and they are conceptual. We are not interested in that type of language because it cloaks the reality that all those pious aspirations actually cost money. This is the problem all the time. We are beginning to see through that type of mid-Atlantic terminology and buzzwords.

The Minister states that this legislation will consolidate RTE's position as our prime broadcaster. He is looking for innovative pioneering thinking. There is no need for him to look for that because it was innovative pioneering thinking that brought RTE to the level at which they are today. Of course, we can always be more innovative and pioneering, but they are the qualities that RTE are being penalised for having. He states that he has confidence in the organisation and staff and that they are equal to the challenge. They are sublime sentiments. I call them theoretical rather than practical. The Minister is turning a blind eye to the necessity for continued capital to do this.

I ask the Minister to reconsider this Bill. It has become a burning issue and will be remembered in the same way as the euphoric response of the Irish people to the World Cup will be remembered. Every time the people remember the World Cup coverage, they will also think of the Broadcasting Bill. If the Minister could find it in his heart to begin again on the well worn analogy of the level playing pitch, he would have the full support and sympathy of the people for his commitment towards maintaining RTE as it should be, an organ of communication, not a medium that can be manipulated, which is what was being sought in relation to the drafting of this Bill.

I welcome the Minister to the House, though not the Bill he brings with him. I remember last week we were discussing a different Bill, the Criminal Justice (No. 2) Bill, which the Minister introduced under his other portfolio and, on that occasion, I welcomed the Bill. Perhaps the Minister was not here to hear the complimentary remarks I made in his direction. It is strange that the Minister should be complimented for the production of good legislation in the area of justice and bad legislation in the area of communications. Maybe there is a lesson there in that the same Minister should not be responsible for the Department of Justice and the Department of Communications.

This is a dastardly Bill. It is not so much a Broadcasting Bill as it is an act of vandalism against RTE. It is a major attack on free, independent broadcasting under a different guise. It undermines the role that has been pursued by RTE in their public broadcasting function. It is, for the first time, placing a major question mark over RTE's viability, as a public broadcasting service. I regard it as nothing less than scandalous that RTE should be treated in this fashion. In terms of the presentation of the legislation, the suddenness of how it came about in the first instance and how it was dealt with is very unsatisfactory.

When we are dealing with something as important as the national broadcasting service and the extension of broadcasting that is no way to do business. I am afraid I do not see it as something that is not organised, confused or ill-directed but rather as very carefully prepared legislation in terms of both the philosophy behind it and the direct intent of the specifics in it. I do not regard it as something that appeared out of the blue in terms of the activities and philosophies of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats since coming to Government. There is a Government policy in the context of privatisation which has come to the fore in recent months. We have seen an example of that in Aer Lingus where Ryanair were given a specific section of Aer Lingus to ensure that they would be able to conduct their own independent commercial activities. They were given a monopoly of a section of Aer Lingus air routes. This was changing the playing fields to suit a private company which could only happen in a country like Ireland. That is the perception of how a free market operates.

There is an element of privatisation in relation to semi-State bodies. It has been extended to another area such as Irish Life. Cablelink has already been hived off to Bord Telecom and the intention is to hive off Bord Telecom to the highest bidder as well. We heard recently that public transport is due for fragmentation, again to be sold to the highest bidder.

There is a vendetta against RTE in this respect. It is not something new. RTE has been a scapegoat for many years now in the Fianna Fáil perception of public broadcasting. RTE does not toe the line. RTE has exercised its independence to an inordinate degree and because of that it has misbehaved. It has not followed the traditional Fianna Fáil ethos of subservience. Consequently, it will be punished for that. It was quite clearly indicated under the Lemass Government what should be the role of a public broadcasting service. It should be one of subservience, not one of independent broadcasting.

Hear, hear.

Hear, hear? That would be the worst way to undermine the constitutional provision that we have in that area. All Members are aware that Article 40.6.1º of the Constitution states:

The right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions.

The education of public opinion being however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or mortality or the authority of the State.

Exactly. That is not The Workers' Party line for once.

Do not forget "including criticism of Government policy". Part of the function of the broadcasting media is to be able to criticise not just the Government but the Opposition and other sectors. It must have the freedom to do so and be independent; otherwise we would live in a State we had too much experience of some decades ago. We saw what happened in totalitarian states, whether they be of the right or the left. I hold no brief for either and——

That is an argument for independent radio.

We must take cognisance of that fact that there is nothing worse than a totalitarian state where freedom of information is constrained. We have seen examples of that. It happened in some of the largest countries in the world. It is an easy role to fall into. Our Constitution specifically provides that in terms of the organs of public opinion, the radio, the press, etc. reserve the right of liberty of expression, and that includes criticism of Government policy. That is extremely important.

The Government of the day introduced section 31 into the Broadcasting Act as they were quite entitled to do and indeed they were duty bound to do so under the Constitution, when there was a threat to public order, morality or the authority of the State, but that was done for the good of the people. That was done because there was a threat to the State, to public order and to public morality. It was not done because of the specific perception of the functions of RTE by a specific political party. That is a horse of a different colour. One is talking on the one hand about the interests of the country and, on the other, about the interests of a political party. While RTE has the function of communicating and providing information, it must be free to do so without undue constraints. It must not be influenced or controlled by political factors.

I will give an example in that context. The Irish Press was established in 1931 for what at that time seemed a very good reason. Fianna Fáil were a very radical organisation and had very fine policies, for example, their social policy in relation to the distribution of wealth and equity in our society, in that day and age and it was very difficult for them to get the then organs of the State——

Get the truth across.

Yes, where credit is due I will give it and where criticism is due I will criticise.

Not too much credit comes our way.

Fianna Fáil were a fine party in the past. The record is there to prove it.

Long may it continue.

That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to ensure they do not take steps which may bring them down the road to perdition. We want to ensure that Fianna Fáil have a long and fine future. One of the ways of ensuring that would be to withdraw this Bill.

It is because of the mess you made when in Government——

That is why the Irish Press came into existence. The party were discriminated against in the very conservative media that existed. Thankfully, the Irish Press developed its own independent ethos and it is a very fine paper. I would be sorry to see the end of the Irish Press. It would be a very sad day if the Irish Press, which has develped into one of the finest organs of the print media, were to go under.

Put your trust in Bertie.

Bertie is one of the people who will do something about it.

Acting Chairman

The Senator without interruption.

The Minister has stated that it is his function to establish choice and competition in the area of broadcasting and in the media generally. He says this is an international trend. Of course competition is good. We all know that. He says that it is his duty to level the playing field and ensure that fair competition is allowed. The theory sounds good but in the background to the theory, there are a lot of other matters.

RTE was taken on to some extent by the pirates in the eighties, a number of whom were very successful in the areas on which they focused. They showed up the vulnerability of RTE in terms of popular music and popular programmes, this is the catalyst behind this development. The Coalition in the mid-eighties wrangled over the type of broadcasting that would be introduced. They were committed to the principle but they wrangled over it because the Labour Party wanted strict community broadcasting. It caused problems within the parties at the time. The pirates have been used us the excuse to impose limits on RTE. Since Deputy Burke became Minister for Communications, limitations were introduced in the context of the Independent Radio and Television Commission which was set up to organise the introduction of commercial radio and television. Its membership was chock-a-block with Fianna Fáil supporters. More recently we have seen attempts by the Minister to nobble the RTE Authority, and all of that has been to introduce commercial radio which would be more favourably disposed to that party than RTE. That is where we come to Century Radio.

Century was the high flier. Century was the great new consortium that was going to take on RTE and prove it could all be done commercially. Now you had a satisfactory form of broadcasting that was favourable to the Government, and you were onto a winner. The national franchise went to Oliver Barry's consortium. There were big names and big money in Century and it was expected to go from strength to strength. Unfortunately the opposite happened. It was a disaster. Century was badly organised, badly funded and badly capitalised. It did not research the market properly. It did not identify what its strengths were or where RTE's weaknesses lay. It tried to do too much too quickly and fell between two stools. Consequently, Century had an enormous debt after its brief period in operation. Century is going to the wall in terms of its inability to operate independently. In other words, it has been a commercial failure.

It is picking up now.

I have no objection to any of the independent stations. It is desirable that the independent stations should be successful. Anything I say in respect of what has been happening is not a criticism of the policy to extend broadcasting licences. I am not saying that at all. I am talking about this legislation which has been introduced for a reason which is not quite proper in the context of a particular broadcasting station. Century came a cropper because it did not identify its audience and did not get its act together. Perhaps it is improving now; good and well if it is.

That is the background to this legislation. This legislation would not have been presented in this manner with such haste if that problem had not arisen. Initially, this legislation was introduced to save Century. It was going a step further because the Government perceived that RTE could be sorted out by the simple open market commercialism of independent radio. This did not work. RTE have got stronger and the station I referred to never got off the ground. Then we had to go one step further. Something had to be done to weaken the opposition and prop up the ailing competition in the independent world.

Now we come to the crazy, illogical package that the Minister came up with. This package first had to nobble 2FM by introducing different areas of operation it had to enter, and which everybody knew were not popular. It had to operate in areas way beyond music and what we would regard as standard entertainment, such as education, the Irish language, agriculture and all sorts of areas where it would not compete with a station like Century.

The Government had to do something to limit RTE's ability to advertise, so they had to cap advertising and they had to do something about the licence fee. They had to deal with RTE in as broad a way as possible. That was the Minister's original intention — first, a handout to Century to support that ailing station and, second, ensure that future competition would not be so strong that Century would be unable to meet the challenge. A nice combination. It was a package to nobble RTE. I cannot put it in any other terms. That was the intention behind this Bill. If the full force of those drastic proposals had been implemented, RTE, as a public broadcasting operation, would have been undermined so seriously that we could not rely on them to do the job they have been doing for the last 60 years.

What we have then is an attempt by the Minister to get the private sector, which has proved unsuccessful, airborne once again by giving them State subsidies from the successful public sector. While we must have an open market in relation to the public sector, we are going to give subsidies to the private sector. That is the anomaly in the policies of the Government.

The Senator will be aware that this was proposed by his party in the Dáil in the form of an amendment.

Does the Minister mean an amendment in relation to the levy?

What was proposed in that was something quite different. That amendment proposed to levy all broadcasting media, including RTE, Century Radio and every aspect of the broadcasting media, so that we would then have a pool of money which could be used for public broadcasting functions. For example, that money could be used in the context of Raidió na Gaeltachta, which I doubt we will ever have now. This Bill reduces the amount of money to be allocated to RTE and, therefore, it will be impossible for RTE to expand in terms of fulfilling their broadcasting responsibility. The levy proposed by the Labour Party would ensure that sufficient money was produced by all broadcasting sectors and this, in turn, would ensure that public broadcasting was fully catered for.

In relation to 2FM, this was the most successful of all the stations. It was established to take on the pirates. It was thought up in the seventies and, eventually, launched in the eighties. RTE then realised there was a market they were not catering for. Radio 2FM became commercially successful and popular. The Minister's intention is to make that station non-viable which is closest to the independent stations in terms of attracting the same age group, in terms of popularity and in terms of providing entertainment of a different fashion to what RTE 1 provide. That station was directly competing with the new stations, was the most successful and was perceived as taking most of the advertising and listenership from the independent stations. The Minister proposes to reduce their attractiveness and encumber them with a new social and public service responsibility that was not imposed on any of the independent stations. Therefore, the likelihood is that they will become a lame duck in commercial terms and their ability to compete will be weakened. This will allow the Minister's favourites to have a clear run in the marketplace. That is what the Minister seems to mean by levelling the playing field.

The Minister said that he will hive off 2FM from RTE 1 and make them stand alone. According to the Minister, they will not be entitled to any licence funding, the element of news time on the station will be increased and there will have to be more emphasis on the public service ethos. While the Bill is not as drastic as was originally proposed, the intention is to ensure that 2FM become non-viable and are weakened to the extent that they will be unable to compete in the open market with the other commercial stations. The 2FM station, in terms of entertainment, have always been loyal to Irish artists. In comparison with any of the commercial stations they have played Irish artists' records more often than any of the other stations. They have been a valuable source of income and employment to that industry and we must not disregard that. There are no such requirements on any of the commercial stations. 2FM have operated loyally and patriotically. Irish music of international quality has been played on 2FM. This music has been neglected by some of the other commercial stations and there is no justification for that. That is one of the main reasons 2FM should be assured of their proper place, their ability to stand up in the open market without being weakened in the context of broadcasting and the market they represent. They have served us well and it would be a shame if they were to be undermined in any way.

It was the Minister's intention to take some of the licence fee and advertising revenue from RTE and to disburse it among the commercial stations. He saw the licence fee and advertising revenue as dual funding but to say that dual funding is unique is not true. The BBC are the only station in Europe funded by their licence fee. Dual funding among public service broadcasting stations throughout Europe is quite common. That is normal practice. The principle of the public licence fee, which is paid by the taxpayer, being transferred to what essentially is a private enterprise and into the pocket of a private entrepreneur, could not be stomached. The purpose of the licence fee is to provide a public service and that money should not be disbursed to an operation like Century Radio which have not been successful and do not have to provide a public service as RTE have to do. To think that that money could be transferred into the pockets of the directors of Century Radio, an ailing station, is simply deplorable. They do not have to fulfil a contract of public broadcasting as RTE have. To take money from the public to give to a private operation of that kind cannot be countenanced in any circumstances. The money was to be handed over without any strings attached to the area of public service broadcasting. There was no suggestion of ownership being transferred, that there would be public shares taken by the State or that there would be any attempt to control, or to take an element of control, of the independent stations. No, it was simply a subsidy that was being given to an entrepreneur who had made a mess of the operation. That was the intention and the Minister recognised that in his contributions. He withdrew that intention from his original Bill. Of course, the Bill before us is vastly different from the original Bill. The Minister recognised that it would not be proper for the public to support the private inefficiencies following the popular outcry about the Bill but he should have thought of that earlier. He did not think it was proper that the State should embark on new areas of State funding. He did not think it would do anything for the independence of the independent stations, that it would interfere with the concept of independence if they were subsidised out of the RTE licence or the subvention that was equivalent to the RTE licence. On the discrimination between print and broadcasting, the subvention was to be distributed to the broadcasting media and not to the print media and that would have created anomalies.

For all of those reasons the Minister had to admit that he had made a mistake and he has withdrawn that provision. Why did he introduce the idea in the first place? That is what makes this such a shambles of a Bill. The first Bill the Minister introduced bears virtually no resemblance, except in one area, to the Bill we have before us. The Minister admitted that a lot of hasty decisions were made that were not properly thought out. He eliminated some, but not all, of them.

Section 3, formerly section 2, attempts to cap advertising broadcasts by the Authority. The Minister has argued that his reason for including this in the Bill is that RTE have an unfair advantage, that they are charging below-cost advertising and he wants to limit that. There are major questions of a constitutional nature about how the Minister can attempt to limit the right of RTE to advertise and attach a costing to it. The Bill may be subject to a constitutional challenge, if it becomes law.

This is the third plank in the Minister's approach to supporting ailing independent stations and, indeed, to supporting some of the Minister's own supporters in that area. It is the most damaging plank because it substantially weakens RTE. It reduces the level of daily advertising from 10 per cent to 7.5 per cent, from seven-and-a-half-minutes, which is at present allocated to RTE, to five minutes. That is a 33.33 per cent reduction. That compares poorly with the EC standards of 12 minutes which is far in excess of what RTE presently have, and of what the Minister now intends. He intends to limit it to five minutes while the EC maximum is 12 minutes.

RTE are only broadcasting four minutes overall on average.

The average in Europe is about ten minutes.

What about the effect of the next section?

Senator Costello, without interruption, please.

The present level of daily transmission in the EC is 15 per cent, whereas the present level in RTE is 10 per cent, and the Minister intends reducing it to 7.5 per cent. That is roughly half the EC level and for the Minister to introduce a statutory limit and then to have further capping arrangements, in sections 2, 3, and 4, is imposing severe restrictions of a competitive nature on RTE. That is at the heart of this legislation. The Minister is ensuring that RTE's popularity, which automatically would result in success in advertising, is limited and restricted far below the average levels in other EC countries. That is totally unacceptable.

The Minister intends, of course, that the outstanding advertising will go to other Irish media, particularly to the commercial sector, about which the Minister seems to be concerned. In effect, according to the Minister's figures — perhaps it will not work out now because the Bill will not come into operation until 1 October — RTE will lose £6 million in advertising revenue in the second half of this year and £12 million over the full year. That would be a substantial loss in RTE's advertising revenue and of course, that would have an impact right across the board in many other areas. According to RTE statistics they are breaking even at present.

The entire payroll for RTE in 1990 is expected to be in the region of £51 million and £44 million for operational costs. When they include VAT the total will be £102,439,000. Broadcasting revenue for 1991 is expected to be in excess of that, by just over £500,000. As it stands RTE are barely making ends meet and anything further they get will be through their own commercial enterprises. It is not a question of RTE having "fat" that can be taken from them and usefully diverted to other purposes. RTE face job losses which will affect the production of programmes — something RTE have become good at — part production of drama and of films. We have all seen in recent years the success of RTE in this area. We have always been anxious to capitalise further on this area but if no capital is available, we simply cannot do that. We are talking about very considerable amounts of money. The film and drama industry, once it comes on an audio-visual level, is extremely expensive. RTE estimate that this legislation will result in up to 500 direct job losses and we can assume that there would be many consequent job losses in ancillary activities that RTE would have pumped money into for the purposes of broadcasting.

The Minister has introduced an amendment to section 5 for the purpose of ensuring that RTE will continue in the coming year to use programme material made here and in other European countries. This will also ensure that a reasonable proportion of RTE's programme material and television service is devoted to original programme material produced in the State or in other members states of the European Community by persons other than the Authority, their subsidiaries or other broadcasting organisations and that, as far as practicable, the proportion shall not be less than that broadcast by the Authority in 1989. How can that possibly be done if funding is capped and RTE are unable to operate within the resources limit they had in 1989? While it is desirable that the emphasis should be on using home-based productions so far as possible, how will RTE be able to finance or pay for home based activities? If they do not have the resources they had a year ago they will not be able to do the work that it was intended they would do. While the intention is good, the ability to operate as in the past will be very limited.

The Minister expects that the money will be used within the context of the other broadcasting media and that the advertising will go there but, in fact, advertising moves from one form of broadcasting to another. Therefore, what will be lost by RTE, as a television broadcaster, will not necessarily go to either the print media or the existing commercial radio stations. The likelihood is that they would look for a similar advertising channel but there is none in existence. TV3 have not come into existence and there is no sign of their coming into existence in the near future. We do not know when it will be operating effectively or when it will establish the reputation that it can compete for advertising with RTE. That will not happen overnight. People who have money to spend on advertising will not buy a pig in a poke, they will spend their money where they see it will give them a good return. That will take some time as well.

What will happen in the interim? RTE can only advertise for a limited period during transmission. Therefore, advertising will go to stations outside the country that can beam into this country, stations like UTV and BBC. Already, UTV have the capacity to beam in to two thirds of the country as a whole, and into up to 85 to 90 per cent of the Dublin area. The money that will be floating around from the capping of advertising revenue in RTE, will simply not go back into the commercial sector. The Minister has not properly addressed that area and, certainly, I would like to hear his views on how he will ensure that money diverted from RTE — the whole thrust of the Bill is to divert money that at present goes into RTE's coffers and is used for the purpose of public State broadcasting — will go into the commercial broadcasting area. How will he prevent, for example, UTV, Sky, BBC and other channels that beam into this jurisdiction availing of that revenue? I predict that much of the money will flow to the competitors of RTE and other commercial stations. Has the Minister any information that would put the matter in a different light?

Also, in relation to the capping of advertising, the Minister must face up to the constitutional issue. The constitutional issue is a major issue and unless the legislation conforms with the Constitution we will find that the whole controversy we have been through, the serious undermining that is taking place, and the serious concern that is being expressed about the Bill by the public in general and by the broadcasting sector in particular, will have been in vain. We will find that the legislation will go through both Houses and then face a challenge in the courts.

I read earlier the relevant Article of the Constitution and what it states in relation to public broadcasting. It does not give the authority to any Minister to undermine that broadcasting operation. The following quotation is from the editorial in the Irish Law Times of July 1990, volume 8, No. 7 in relation to Article 40:

This Article does not permit legislative provision seeking to make broadcasting the preserve of the State. Under the freedom of expression provision there is an open market to publish or broadcast... there is no distinction in Article 40 between the right to broadcast and the right to publish and accordingly the assumption that the Minister for Communications has the right to dictate who should broadcast is incorrect.

It goes on:

If the Oireachtas passes legislation giving the Government, in effect, the right to decide what can be broadcast and the conditions of same, such legislation may be unconstitutional unless it is within Article 40.6.1º.

If the Broadcasting Bill, 1990 has the effect of restricting the amount of advertising which RTE or any other station can seek, the Bill is restricting or interfering with the right given by Article 40.

Debate adjourned.

When is it proposed to sit again?

It is proposed to sit at 12 noon on Tuesday, 17 July 1990, for the continuation of this Bill.

Why not tomorrow?