IN COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - VOTE No. 63—WIRELESS BROADCASTING.

Thursday, 10 May 1928

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 23 No. 11

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MINISTER for FINANCE (Mr. Blythe): Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £18,355 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun ioctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith ínioctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1929, chun na dTuarastal agus na gCostaisí eile a bhaineann le Fóirleatha Nea-Shrangach.

That a sum not exceeding £18,355 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the salaries and other expenses in connection with Wireless Broadcasting.

PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTER for POSTS and TELEGRAPHS (Mr. Heffernan): Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  The full amount of the Vote for the Broadcasting Service for the current financial year is £27,355—a reduction of £1,700 on the amount voted last year. Expenditure last year was £29,050 and receipts amounted to £12,271 from licénces; £26,000 (approximately) from the import duty on wireless apparatus; and miscellaneous receipts £96, making a gross revenue of £38,367 and, after deduction of cost of collection of 10 per cent.. net receipts of £34,531, giving a surplus of £5,481, resulting entirely from increased yield of the import duty.

Five thousand additional licences were issued during the year, making a total of 24,000—or eight licences per 1,000 of the population. The number of licences for the current year is estimated at 32,000. Increase beyond this figure will depend mainly upon the development of the service, but an eventual total of 60,000 licences or one in fifty of the population is probably a conservative figure.

The question of development is receiving close attention. We wish to bring easy reception of Irish broadcasting within the reach of as many of the people as possible. There are, however, serious problems, technical and otherwise, to be overcome. The wavelength question is one on which international co-operation is essential, but various alternative schemes of giving a service to increased numbers of listeners are now being carefully examined. The delay in development is unavoidable, but it might eventually prove to be an advantage, as we will be able to profit by the experience of other countries in dealing with the problems involved, and thus ensure that the scheme of development adopted will result in the maximum technical efficiency and give the best service to the public.

Expenditure in excess of current revenue will be necessary for development, but it is believed that any money provided would be recovered from broadcasting receipts within a few years.

The Vote now before the House provides only for the Dublin and Cork Stations, and it will probably be necessary to present a Supplementary Estimate covering development proposals later. There has been a considerable [1285] improvement in the general standard of programmes during the past year. Whilst entertainment must, perhaps, remain the chief function of broadcasting, it is the policy, as far as practicable, to direct and develop public taste by always giving in the programme something a little better than the average listener wants and so to create gradually a demand for the best in everything, whilst at the same time providing a sufficiency of light entertainment for simple recreation and amusement.

Special features of the musical programme have been a series of symphony concerts given in public in Dublin. Many operas have been given in full, including “Il Trovatore,”“La Traviata,”“Lucia di Lammermuir,”“Lurline,”“The Rose of Castille” and “Les Cloches de Corneville”; also a very fine rendering of Hayden's Oratorio, “The Creation,” was given. Much development of these special performances is hoped for next season. We have also relayed occasionally items of B.B.C. programmes, such as the big symphony concerts and operas, which it would be clearly impossible to produce in our own stations. A relay of American stations was tried recently and proved fairly successful. It is hoped also to arrange for occasional relays of Continental programmes next winter, when the conditions will be more favourable than during the summer.

As regards other programme items, it may be of interest to mention that a novelty last winter was a debate on Free Trade versus Protection. It is hoped to arrange in future for similar debates between well known persons on subjects of general public interest. The educational side of broadcasting has also been developed, but it is hoped to do much more in this respect in the future, both in the way of adult and juvenile education. Domestic economy subjects have been fully covered in the programmes, and a series of lectures on health and hygiene has been given.

A special course of “talks” on farming subjects is being broadcast by specialists of the Department of Agriculture, and extensive market reports for farmers are given weekly. Special [1286] prominence is, of course, given in programmes to the Irish language, Irish history, music and all subjects of importance to the development of the national characteristics of our people.

The Broadcasting Advisory Committee has been very helpful in regard to programme construction, and its recommendations have been adopted, so far as possible. There has, of course, been criticism of programmes, but every broadcasting service has to face much the same kind of criticism. It arises mainly from the fact that it is impossible for even the richest broadcasting organisation in the world to please everybody all the time. The money available for broadcasting in the Free State amounts to a little over £30,000, as compared with income approaching a million pounds of big broadcasting organisations in other countries.

Differences in taste about cancel out —as many people like as dislike almost every programme item, and it remains, therefore, the very difficult task of the directors and the Advisory Committee to arrange programmes to please at least most of the people most of the time. It can be claimed that steady, all-round progress has been made, but it is admitted that it will probably be slow until the problem in regard to station development has been solved.

Mr. MORRISSEY: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  I want to say at the outset that I have not any complaint so far as the programmes of the Broadcasting Station are concerned. I think that the programmes can compare very favourably with those of any other country; I mean so far as we can gather from reading the papers. But my complaint is that we cannot get the programmes. So far as those down the country who possess receiving sets are concerned, it is all the same to them whether the programmes of 2 RN are good or bad, because they cannot get them, and that is the real difficulty. I am informed by those who are supposed to be authorities on the matter, that the strength of the station is not sufficient, and that if it were three kilowatts instead of one and a half the reception all over the country would be much better than it is at present. As far as I am concerned, following the programmes [1287] from day to day in the papers, I think they are very good programmes, considering the amount of money which the director has placed at his disposal. I think he is providing very good talent, talent that the country can be rather proud of. But the complaint is that the people cannot get that, and I think that that in itself goes to show that the programmes are good, because if they were bad people would not be very much concerned whether they could get them or not.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it would not be good business to increase the power of the Dublin station. I believe that it would. There is also a matter in regard to income; it may not be strictly relevant to this Vote, but I think it has a big bearing on the income, and that is the tax on wireless sets and parts. It has a very big bearing on the income, because I suggest that if the tax were not there the amount received for licences would be much larger than at present, and certainly if the reception from Dublin were as good as it is from, say, London, there would be a much larger number of people in this country having wireless sets than there is at the moment. But so far as my information goes, the great fault found by most of those who are in possession of wireless sets is that they cannot ever get in touch with Dublin. I may mention that on the night that the Dáil was dissolved prior to the September Election. I happened to be listening in and I tried to get Dublin. I was not trying to listen-in for the dissolution, because I was not expecting it, but something else of importance was on in Dublin the same night, and I was trying to get Dublin in the hope of hearing the news. I learned the next morning through the newspapers that the news about the dissolution had been broadcasted the previous night, but although I had a five-valve wireless set I was not able to get it. That goes to show that so far as the majority of wireless people in, this country are concerned, they are paying licences for a service that they do not get. That is the point. They pay the broadcasting people for a licence for which they receive no service, [1288] and that is true as far as the greater part of the South of Ireland is concerned; they cannot get in touch with Dublin, but still they are compelled to pay for these programmes. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to look into the matter, with a view to having the power of the Dublin station increased.

Mr. MULLINS: Information on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  Zoom on Thomas Lincoln Mullins  With regard to the point made by Deputy Morrissey as to the power of the Dublin station, I think that two years ago the hope was expressed here by Deputies that a high-power station would be found possible within a short period, and no later than last year the then Minister for Posts and Telegraphs expressed the opinion that it was quite on the cards that he would be asking the Dáil to give a Supplementary Estimate for that purpose within the following twelve months.

He said that the Government had accepted the principle of the matter and that it was only a question of negotiation between the Minister for Finance and himself. Deputy Morrissey's complaint is certainly founded on fact, as anybody who uses a wireless set knows, and the people are paying in most parts of the country for services they do not get. I was sorry to note that the Parliamentary Secretary omitted all mention of the possibility of a high power station. If we may take his reference to his coming to the Dáil for a Supplementary Estimate as an indication of the establishment of a high-power station, that would give hope to wireless users in the country. Now that the broadcasting scheme has paid its way and shows a surplus of £5,000, there is no reason why attempts, at all events, should not be made to construct a high-power station, which would give programmes from Dublin and Cork to practically all parts of the country. As to programmes, I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that arrangements are to be made in the coming winter to relay continental programmes. The one fault which the man in the street who uses a wireless set has at the moment is that the Irish programmes, in contrast with those of Daventry and London, are too classical. [1289] Wireless, after all, is an amusement, and though sometimes it may be educational, most people use it for relaxation in the evening after a hard day's work. Their complaint is that the programmes are too classical, in other words, too high-brow. I think that some steps ought to be taken by which the Director would give more programmes for the plain people of a little bit more of a jazzy nature, if I may describe it so. I think the Director would find few complaints if he gave a more general all-round type of programme, even only on one evening of the week. As regards relays from London, some of the best concerts in the Albert Hall were relayed, but although one or two other items could have been relayed with profit, no attempt was made to do so. In regard to the broadcasting of weather reports, a subject which was mentioned here before, no action has been taken. I commend that to the Parliamentary Secretary, as the broadcasting of such reports in coastal areas would be very valuable, not only to the fishermen, but to the people generally.

Mr. LITTLE: Information on Patrick J. Little  Zoom on Patrick J. Little  Dissatisfaction in regard to broadcasting is, apparently, universal. People in Waterford complain that owing to the low power of the Dublin station the sound is drowned by other stations or greatly interfered with by morse. A high-power station was promised, I think, for Athlone, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us when we may expect to have it erected. I suppose that promise will be carried out at some time or another, but meantime the people are not getting the value they deserve for the tax they pay. It is not fair to sell something, as it were, get money down, and not be able to deliver the goods. That is what it means. There is another question to be considered, namely, securing representation on the International Board. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could give some information as to what progress has been made in that direction.

Mr. CASSIDY: Information on Archie J. Cassidy  Zoom on Archie J. Cassidy  The Parliamentary Secretary stated that it was the object of his Department to bring broadcasting within the reach of as many people [1290] as possible. As he has made that statement, I would like to draw his attention to the question of the thirty-three and one-third import duty on wireless sets and components, which, in my opinion, is damping the enthusiasm for broadcasting among the people.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I am afraid that that is a point for the Minister for Finance, as the Parliamentary Secretary has no power over it. That is a question of taxation rather than the Parliamentary Secretary's estimate. I know it is difficult to keep from referring to it, but the Deputy cannot actually make a speech asking that the tax be taken off. That is another question.

Mr. CASSIDY: Information on Archie J. Cassidy  Zoom on Archie J. Cassidy  I submit that I am in order, as it affects the revenue of this Department in regard to broadcasting.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  No. It is impossible to argue about taxation at this stage. However, the Deputy can be only three minutes out of order now.

Mr. CASSIDY: Information on Archie J. Cassidy  Zoom on Archie J. Cassidy  That was really the only point I wanted to raise. I would associate myself, however, with the suggestion made by Deputy Mullins in regard to the broadcasting of weather reports for the benefit of the fishing industry. I believe that the fishing industry could be greatly helped if the broadcasting station could supply to the various fishing centres, or to post offices in towns which are concerned with fishing, reports of the cross-Channel and Continental prices for fish, and announcements regarding the demands for fish in the various markets. If this suggestion were carried out, I believe that it would in some small way help the fishermen in regard to the prices of fish in the various markets.

Mr. BRISCOE: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  I move to report progress.

The Dáil went out of Committee.

Progress reported. Committee to sit again on Friday, 11th May.

Mr. MacENTEE: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  On the motion for the adjournment, might I ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary? When will the Post Office commercial accounts for the year 1926-27 be [1291] printed and published or are they yet printed and published? Has the Parliamentary Secretary seen a copy of them?

Mr. HEFFERNAN: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  This is hardly the time for questions. As a rule publication in final form of the Post Office commercial accounts takes place about eighteen months after the close of the year. The accounts have to be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General before they can be published. I cannot say at the moment when they will be published, but if the [1292] Deputy puts down a question I will let him know. I have seen the accounts, but not in the audited form.

Mr. MacENTEE: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Definitely then, they are not published and are not available for ordinary Deputies?

Mr. HEFFERNAN: Information on Michael Richard Heffernan  Zoom on Michael Richard Heffernan  No.

Mr. MacENTEE: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Very well, how could I consult them then in reference to the year 1928-29?

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. till Friday, 11th May, at 10.30 a.m.


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