Wednesday, 15 May 1935
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £27,238 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íochta an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníochta i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun na dTuarastal agus na gCostaisí eile a bhaineann le Fóirleatha Neashrangach (Uimh. 45 de 1926.)
That a sum not exceeding £27,238 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, 1936, for the Salaries and other Expenses in connection with Wireless Broadcasting (No. 45 of 1926).
The amount of the Estimate for the Broadcasting Service for the year 1935-36 is £40,838, as compared with £38,796 for 1934-35 showing an increase of £2,042 mainly under sub-head B, which provides for expenditure on programmes.
The revenue from wireless receiving licences last year amounted to about £34,000 showing an increase of about £7,500. On the 1st October last the £5 licence fee for hotels, restaurants, and other public places, as well as the £1 licence fee for schools or institutions, were abolished and an all-round licence fee of 10s. was introduced. It is anticipated that there will be no loss of  revenue as a result of the reduction in the fees, owing to the increasing number of licences being taken out as a consequence of the reduction.
Fees for advertisements and miscellaneous receipts amounted to £13,600, which shows a reduction of £9,200 compared with the previous year. The general policy in regard to advertising programmes was reviewed in the course of the year in the light of the experience gained, and the present policy is to accept only advertisements relating to Saorstát products and enterprises. This involves a reduction in revenue, but there are obvious objections on the grounds of national policy to the broadcasting of non-Saorstát advertisements from State stations. The total Broadcasting revenue amounted to £47,600. The direct expenditure on the Broadcasting Service out of Votes last year amounted to about £47,500, so that direct Broadcasting revenue and direct Vote expenditure were about equal.
The number of wireless licences issued last year was 66,200, which represents an increase of 15,200 over the previous year. The number of licences in the current financial year may reach 76,000, showing an increase of about 10,000. Special Inspectors are employed throughout the country in detecting licence defaulters, with very good results, and a large number of defaulters were prosecuted during the year.
The estimated revenue from licence fees in the year 1935-36 has been estimated at £35,000, and from advertisements at £10,000, but if the present rate of increase of licences continues and the receipts from advertisements are maintained the total revenue may reach about £50,000.
The direct Vote expenditure during the year is estimated at £49,713, and it will be seen, therefore, that the revenue from licences alone without the advertising revenue, which is an uncertain item, would fall far short of the Vote expenditure.
I have to explain, moreover, that there is no Commercial Account for Broadcasting, as there is for the Post Office, and in considering total expenditure  on the Broadcasting Service it is necessary, in addition to the direct Vote expenditure, to allow for capital charges in respect of cost of erection of stations, interest, depreciation, etc., which can be provided for only out of general Exchequer revenue.
There has been a good deal of criticism of the programmes. Much of this criticism is perhaps unreasonable and reflects only individual views, but when criticism is constructive and helpful it is always very sympathetically considered by the director and every possible effort is made, so far as circumstances allow, to meet the views expressed if it appears that these represent the opinions of a considerable body of listeners and that their adoption would be likely to improve the general standard of programmes.
There has, in particular, been much criticism of the broadcasting news service in the Press recently. The provision of a satisfactory news service is, however, very difficult, owing to the fact that there is no general news collecting and distributing agency in the Saorstát and the cost of setting up a broadcasting news organisation throughout the country on the lines of a newspaper reporting service would be prohibitive.
Efforts were made some years ago to secure a news service through the newspapers but a satisfactory arrangement could not be come to at the time. The whole question of the news is, however, being examined afresh and it is hoped that in a short time an improved service will be given.
It appears to me that much of the criticism directed against the programmes is based on the assumption that the revenue from wireless licences more than covers the entire cost of the broadcasting service but this is of course quite incorrect as is clear from the figures which I have already given.
Notwithstanding the criticism, however, I have no hesitation in asserting that there has been an all  round steady, although admittedly slow, progress both in the scope of the programmes and the general standard of their presentation, and I can only promise that special efforts will be made during the course of the coming year to effect a considerable all round improvement.
As the House is aware Dr. Kieran, who has been Secretary of the High Commissioner's Office, has been appointed Director of Broadcasting and he is at present engaged in looking into the whole organisation of the service. It will be observed that provision has been made in the Estimate for a production manager. This matter has been held up for some time pending the appointment of a new director, but it is now intended to fill this post on a temporary basis for an experimental period until the director has had an opportunity of examining the staffing arrangements generally in the Dublin Station.
Before concluding, I wish to refer to the recent reversion of Mr. Clandillon to his parent Department from which he had been seconded to the broadcasting service. Mr. Clandillon undertook the arduous task of organisation of the programme side of the broadcasting service on the opening of the Dublin station and I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing appreciation of his valuable service as director, under difficult circumstances during the past nine years. I may explain that the reason for the change in the directorship is that having regard to the nature of the duties of the position it appears desirable as a matter of general policy that changes in the programme control should be made occasionally.
Mr. Morrissey: At the risk of being classed as one of the individuals criticising the programmes from our national broadcasting service, I am moving “That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration,” and frankly, if I were to express what I really feel about the broadcasting service, and not only what I feel but what most people in this country who  have wireless sets and who try to listen in and who want to listen in to our own broadcasting station feel, I am afraid that I would be called to order by you, Sir, very quickly. I am quite prepared to admit to the Minister that there has been a certain amount of progress made in the last few months, but, frankly, we have got to face the fact that this is supposed to be a national broadcasting service, that our programmes are listened to not only by the people of this country but, it is to be hoped, if we have a proper national broadcasting service, by the people of other countries. So far as I am concerned, I would be heartily ashamed that people in other countries should listen to some of the programmes that are broadcast from some of our stations. It is hard to describe one's feelings on some occasions with regard to this service. The Minister said that there were individual criticisms, but that they were only individual points of view. I venture to say that there is no branch of the Government administration of which you can have such unanimous condemnation as you get of this.
The Minister talked about the difficulty of providing a proper news service. I think it would be a decent thing to abolish what is supposed to be a news service altogether if there cannot be a very distinct improvement on what is now called the news service. It is not only the news, but even the presentation of the news that I complain of. To be told on Sunday night “I have no news to-night,” I think is laughable; it is ridiculous. We were told on many Sunday nights that there was no news when we knew well from the Sunday papers and from the morning papers that there were matters of importance happening in this and other countries that should have been available to users of wireless.
There is another point that I wish to raise again. I raised the matter on the Vote for the Office of Public Works. It is one of the numerous little irritants that we have to put up with. When the announcer is giving the news, such as it is, you have talk, laughing, shifting  of musical instruments, apparently by those who are to follow. The talk apparently comes from the studio; perhaps doors are left open. On some occasions you cannot get important parts of the news. These are matters, it seems to me, for which there can be no real excuse.
With regard to the programmes, I realise that one of the great difficulties —perhaps what has been largely if not wholly responsible for the quality of the programmes from Athlone—is that the service is being starved for want of sufficient money. A director of production should have been appointed long ago. Even now we are told that we may get a director of production on a temporary basis. There is not the slightest necessity for anyone to buy the Irish Radio News or to look at the radio columns of the newspapers to see what we will get from Dublin, Athlone or Cork. There is to be a bit of a change to-night; we are going to have the Minister for Finance. Even that will be welcome. It will give some idea of how people welcome any little bit of a change. The sameness of the programmes night after night is most remarkable. Without looking at the Radio News one can tell exactly what is coming on. I am quite prepared to admit that it is impossible for anybody to please everybody. People have different tastes. I wish especially to refer to the traditional music. There is a very definite demand for that, more especially in the country. Personally, I should like to hear more than 15 or 20 minutes of ceilidhe music from the Mansion House on Sunday nights. There is no reason why we could not get at least half-an-hour of it. There are very many people, particularly in the rural areas, who enjoy that class of music and want it. I am not a judge of music, I can only praise what appeals to me. Many of the violinists or fiddlers I have listende to were exceptionally good in my opinion, but I do not know how some of the others ever got to the microphone. I often heard infinitely better on a fair evening.
Mr. Morrissey: The Deputy, I am sure, was often in town on a fair evening and he knows quite well what I mean. There is another important matter about which there is a good deal of controversy. Sunday is a day on which most people in this country are at liberty to sit down and listen to the programmes. What do we get from our national broadcasting service? We have gramophone records from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The less said about some of the gramophone records the better. But after 3 p.m. there is a complete close-down, until 8.30 p.m. I want to suggest to the Minister that that should be remedied. So far as the ordinary household in the country is concerned, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on a Sunday is about the busiest part of the day, when the principal meal is being prepared. It is from 3 o'clock, particularly in winter time, that people would have most opportunity to enjoy the programmes. The same thing applies to week-days. From 6.30 p.m., unless you are a native Irish speaker or pretty fluent at German or French, the broadcasting service is of no use to you. You have nothing until about 8 o'clock and the station closes down at 10.30 p.m. I want to say frankly that were it not for the sponsored programmes it would not be worth while tuning into Athlone at all. That is, perhaps, a very hard thing to say; perhaps it will be said that I am unduly harsh and critical of our own station. It is because I want to see it improved. I think it is right that we should be critical of our own programmes. They are supposed to represent the culture of this country. They are being listened to by people in other parts of the world. It seems to me from what the Minister has stated that the new director, Dr. Kiernan, is not going to get a fair chance. In my opinion, he has not sufficient money to get the proper material.
We know quite well that you will not get good material in this country unless you pay for it. The Minister tells us there was an increase of £15,000 last year. We have 66,000 licences. There would probably be four times that many if wireless and  broadcasting were not being killed at the source by the Government through heavy taxes or duties. There will, however, be another time in which to refer to that. What I want now to get the Minister to realise is this, that broadcasting is either a national service or it is not. If broadcasting is a national service it should be a national service worthy of this country, a service of which we should be proud. In that case we should finance the service. Otherwise we ought to scrap it. I am satisfied that the majority of listeners-in in this country very rarely listen to Athlone. They tune-in to other stations abroad. The Minister may say that that is far-fetched. It is not. I have been told on numerous occasions, and I am sure the Minister can ascertain the same thing from his friends in city or country, that they very rarely tune-in to Athlone. The programmes may be improved, can be improved, but they can never be improved, in my opinion, without additional staff and more money.
I want to get back to the news service on this station, because that is a very important feature of the broadcasting. That service at present only exists in name. The service is bad, the presentation of the news is not good and, as a matter of fact, there is not one bit of originality about the programmes from beginning to end. You can tune-in any night at any particular hour and you will know exactly what you will hear. I am sure, from what we know of Dr. Kiernan, that he will do his best, but Dr. Kiernan, no more than his predecessor, can give you first-class programmes and first-class news service unless provided with the two essentials —money and staff. Unless these are provided you cannot get a broadcasting service worthy of being called a broadcasting service.
Mr. McMenamin: About two years ago when the Athlone Station was about being completed we were viewing the situation in this House and examining the prospects for the future. The Minister's predecessor in office  replied and I recollect what he said. With that sanctimonious gravity that is characteristic of him he told the House that this station when completed would be a credit to this State, to its culture, and to its educational life. That is two years ago. I wonder is there anybody, the most enthusiastic admirer of that station, daring enough to-day to say that it is a credit to the cultural life of this State? Let us be quite frank about it. Before I go on to deal with that I would like to join in the tribute that has been paid to Mr. Clandillon by the Minister. He is a man who undertook a very big job. He undertook it with enthusiasm, with the enthusiasm that is characteristic of him all his life as an Irish Nationalist and Gael. I join with the Minister in paying a tribute to the service he rendered under great difficulty. The shortcomings of the station are not in their essence due to him. They are due to the causes referred to by Deputy Morrissey—lack of money and lack of staff. About two years ago when the station was nearing completion I suggested to the then Minister that any money required to make this a first-class station should be voted irrespective of what the sum was. Either that or the station should be closed down. I still hold that view. It is appalling when you listen-in to Athlone. You are forced within three or four minutes to go to the keyboard and switch on to some other station. That perhaps is putting it in an extreme way if you like, but that is what people do. People do not want to hear Athlone at all. You have either to close down the station or make it a success. The Minister apologised for himself. He said the news system was due to the fact that they had no separate news agency in this State. He is a very innocent man. No wonder he gets the name of being a decent fellow. There is a Government employee in this State drawing £1,000 a year and I understand he has an additional staff in the Government Bureau. What is he doing? What is he getting £1,000 a year for? In the broadcasting station you believe only in having a temporary man for the news service for the  station. Cannot this man who is employed in Merrion Street drawing £1,000 a year be put on to this broadcasting news service?
Mr. McMenamin: Could not this man in Merrion Street be put on to do this work and select the items to be broadcast? Then we would see that he earned his money in some capacity and that he gave some value to the public and not the stuff that we do not want to hear at all, the stuff that evokes suspicions.
Mr. McMenamin: Because of the fact that no definite expenditure can be undertaken with regard to this station it will be difficulty to make it a first-class station. Everything about it is temporary. And now the Minister is to make a temporary appointment in the case of the man who is to supply the news service. Does anybody expect success from a temporary man? Let the Minister get a first-class man, pay him a first-class salary and make him permanent. Then you will be going the way of making it a success. The present method is only tinkering. Success is not to be got by policy of that kind. You are going on tinkering and tinkering and then on Sundays you have those horrible gramophone programmes from one to three o'clock. What is the position of the people in rural Ireland? One half of the family go out in the morning to the eight o'clock Mass and by the time they reach home the other half of the family is going out to the last Mass. These latter get home between one and two o'clock. It is three o'clock by the time dinner is over. It is during these hours that the station is giving a series of records when no one has time to listen to them. When the family is ready to sit down to the wireless the station is closed down. That surely is not good  business. I wonder how the Minister expects the station to be a success under such a system. It is just during the time when the people are busy about getting the dinner and when one half of the family is not in the house that the station is giving its programmes. That is the time the records are broadcast. Does the Minister think he can make the potatoes boil to the tune of the records?
Apparently, the Minister is afraid to fight for these two Departments of which he is in charge. He is afraid to give his Departments a chance. He is afraid to stand up to the Minister for Finance and say: “I am in this job; I am your colleague; you may make your job a success by gathering in taxes; but if I am to hold this job, I am going to make a success of it, and the money has to come from somewhere.” I should like to hear from the Minister what money he would actually require to make this an assured success. I would rather he should tell us that than tell us how much revenue came in and how much money went out. As I said two years ago, I would prefer to see the station closed down if it is not made a success. I should like the Minister to tell the House what amount of money would give us a first-class station with first-class programmes and ask the House what they think about that. If it is anyway reasonable, I venture to think that the House will agree to vote that sum, or otherwise will agree to close down the station. We get this news of the day at 10.30 at night and it occupies about two minutes. I thing it is disgraceful. All we get is a couple of mean, petty and miserable items and then it closes down. All the news of the world is gathered in by that time and should be available. A selection should be taken from that and given to the public.
Although I am not a music critic, I join with Deputy Morrissey in saying that there should be an acid test applied to the musical selections broadcast. No one should be allowed to slip through except first-class musicians. I join with him also in asking that there should be better selections of traditional  music. Of course, the country generally is over-run with experts on traditional music. Anybody who knows anything about it poses as expert and thinks he should be heard on the wireless. They are like the people of this country generally who think they are all fit to be presidents, generals and ministers. All those who know anything about traditional music think they are first-class and should be heard on the wireless. I think the selectors should apply a very rigid test and that nobody should be permitted to broadcast except those of the very highest standard. It would be good for the people who want to hear it and it would make these people, who are fairly good, improve themselves before they come along and inflict this unfinished product at us—this half-boiled stuff.
The Minister, as in the case of the Post Office last week, is engaged in a balancing feat. We heard no word about borrowing from him in order to get efficiency. The Minister for Finance this evening was not afraid to throw out his chest and ask for millions; and that was not to benefit anybody outside this State. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has to send this all over the world as evidence of the cultured standard of this country and he is afraid to ask for a few thousand pounds. The Minister for Finance, if he cannot get sufficient money directly, asks for power to borrow. I ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to stiffen his back a bit and ask for funds to make this a success. Let us try at least for one year and see what spending money will do and whether we can get something that will be a credit to the country. If we cannot get something that will be a credit to the country, let us scrap the station.
I should like again to refer to the previous Director, Mr. Clandillon. I certainly would not like it to be thought, as many people throughout the country may think, that the failure has been due to him and that in consequence of his failure he was called upon to resign. So far as I am concerned and, I am sure, most of the other Deputies in the House, that is  not the opinion held of him. Any shortcomings there were, were not due to him, but to the starvation of the station from the point of view of funds.
General Mulcahy: I should like to say a word with regard to the position of the Irish language in the broadcasting programmes. I have a Bill before me, which the House will be discussing in a day or two, and which provides that where an industrial employer pays a worker by piecework there shall be hung up in every room in which industrial work is carried out a piecework particulars placard which shall be in both Irish and English. We insist that railway tickets and such things shall be printed in Irish and English and, generally, there is a policy being pursued in the country which accepts that the Irish language is a living language with the people and that it is a medium of thought and expression at least equal to anything coming over the wireless. Nevertheless, we have the position that while news is broadcast twice a day, and while we make provision that piecework placards and lots of other things must be in Irish and English, no news bulletin is sent out from the Broadcasting Station in Irish. The news bulletin has been criticised here. I do not want to go into that, but we hope it will be improved in future. I am simply discussing the matter from the point of view of the future. I was going to suggest that the earlier news might be broadcast in Irish and that the material in it should be worth listening to; and that the later news bulletin, perhaps, could be in English and perhaps sent out at 10 o'clock rather than at 10.30. It does seem an extraordinary thing that in a country which is pursuing the language policy that we are pursuing here in the schools and in legislation, the language does not appear to be fit to report the news.
There is another aspect of the matter to which I should like to refer. Such broadcasts as are given in the Irish language are to the extent of 90 or 95 per cent. nothing but an advertisement  that the Irish language as a medium of expression or as a musical language should be scrapped, because the material dealt with in the broadcasts in Irish is hardly worth listening to, and the type of broadcast—the diction, the phraseology and the swing of the language—does not represent the living speech that people in the country recognise.
The Minister has, and, no doubt, many members of the House, have sat down by the fireside in an Irish cottage or stood in the countryside in the Irish-speaking districts and listened to discussions going on there on nearly every subject under the sun. Their own experience would tell them what Fr. O'Leary, in the preface he has written to the Táin Bó Cuailgne, declares to be a fact with regard to the language, that it is a vigorous and racy language. In the preface he describes two old men who had a dispute and who came to argue the matter with him and he tells of the beauty and vigour of the language which these men used in dealing with their case and the deep way in which they followed the intricacies of their arguments and their thought in dealing with the matter. He compared the speaking and address to their subject and the ground covered by these two men with those of some of the very prominent and, one might say, world political figures of the time whose capacity for speech-making Fr. O'Leary was aware of. His description of the capacity and range of the language and its vigour only bears out what anybody who has, as I say, sat down in an Irish-speaking district, where the language is a living thing, can bear out from his own experience.
The language which we hear, however, from speakers who are permitted to broadcast Irish essays or Irish contributions over the radio is a very different thing. It is a structure made up of rough lumps of crudely-put-together concrete compared with a building on which there was architectural design and splendid workmanship employed. It is a fact that if the Irish language, as a medium of expression or a musical language, is nothing  better than what we hear over the radio, we certainly do require an inquiry into whether what we are doing with regard to our legislation here and with regard to our tram tickets and railway tickets and particularly what we are doing in the schools, is not all utter waste of time and all utterly wrong. I think this is a matter that requires the very special thought of the new director.
There is a desire amongst the people in the country to improve their musical knowledge and to raise the musical standard in the country. The position of music in our primary schools has been very neglected, and bad, in the past. I am told that it is improving in the secondary schools, but the complaint can be made that we have no top to our musical education in this country at all. There are a certain number of institutions working on their own, but there is no co-ordination of them and the Department of Education hardly provides any top. In circumstances like those people, particularly in country districts, have to grope ahead to assist themselves in the best possible way to advance both their capacity to deal with an instrument and their musical appreciation. There is one thing which the Minister could perhaps arrange to have done through the radio and that is to make himself, to some extent, an information bureau for persons in the country who, hearing music of a class with which they wish to make themselves more familiar, could write to the Broadcasting Director and ask where that piece of music could be obtained. It would be a small matter, but it is really the only means that many people from the country have for following up their musical inclinations along the lines they wish to pursue. If something could be done along those lines, the Minister would find that he was of considerable assistance to a much greater number of people throughout the country than he might expect.
Mr. Brennan: I think the Minister will admit that broadcasting in this country has not reached the standard of excellence which we all desire so much. It is really time that we recognised  that it has gone beyond the experimental stage, and that the thing must be attacked boldly if we are going to catch up with other countries. One item to which I want to refer is the broadcasting of traditional music. That is a matter in which I am very interested and, as a matter of fact, I was a performer in that direction myself at one time. I must say I think it is very undesirable that night after night and week after week the same programmes should be broadcast—they may be a little mixed up, and you may get No. 1 to-night and No. 6 the next night—by different players and sometimes very mediocre players. We get people playing wind and stringed instruments who are not at all good exponents of traditional music, and looking at the broadcasting programme, one finds that to-night some man from Donegal is playing “The Flogging Reel,” and to-morrow night some man from Clare is playing the same thing. That is really disgusting people down the country. If it is to be done, it ought to be done well and it is worth doing well. I merely want to draw the Minister's attention to it and to express the hope that the new director will keep an eye to the matter. If we want to popularise the traditional music of this country and to have it appreciated, we must give the very best, and only the best, of it and we must have the very best performers, and we must not repeat programmes even though we vary them by calling one No. 1 and another No. 6. We must tackle the thing properly and systematically before it will come right.
Mr. Corish: I support Deputy Brennan in this matter, and I would ask that we should have more variety so far as traditional music is concerned. As Deputy Brennan says, you have one man playing a thing to-night and another man playing the same thing to-morrow night. It sounds more like a Feis than anything else, and I suggest that the new director should pay special attention to that. Another matter about which everybody is complaining is the interruption in the Athlone programmes especially between the hours of 7 o'clock and 10 o'clock.  I think there are two stations, Palermo and Stuttgart, around that wave-length and they are very hard to cut out, no matter how good your set is. I think some effort ought to be made to get a new wave-length, or whatever is necessary to be done should be done.
Another matter to which I should like to draw attention is the ridicule into which, in my opinion, the national anthem is brought at the close of the programmes each night. There is an old record—it must be about ten years old—being played night after night. Surely, it should be possible to get the station orchestra to play the national anthem. We have the national anthem played through the medium of tin-can music—that is how it sounds to me, at any rate—night after night and the tempo at which it is played is something like that of jazz music. It is an insult to the national anthem and to the country to play it under such conditions and if it is not played properly, I should like to see it withdrawn.
I support Deputy McMenamin so far as Sunday programmes are concerned. Nobody wants to listen to the radio between one o'clock and three o'clock on Sundays. People have something elso to do, and something else to think of. If they had a programme between two and four o'clock or between four and six o'clock it would be very much appreciated, especially in winter time. If you switch on to an English station on Sunday evening you get a religious programme—a religious programme which the people in this country do not want to hear. The strange thing about it is that if you want to hear a Catholic programme you will not get it from Dublin or Athlone; you have to switch on to supposedly pagan England. During Holy Week, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Athlone Station was turned off and we had to get Holy Week ceremonies from the Continent. That is a disgraceful state of affairs. I would call the new director's attention to those matters. If broadcasting is to be made popular in Ireland it is absolutely essential that they should be attended to.
Professor O'Sullivan: In regard to this matter, I personally was most interested in the question of the news, and probably that has been dealt with by the previous speakers. It is positively ridiculous. I can give the Minister a case in point. I remember when there was an attack on a Guard on Sunday morning. I switched on to Athlone that night at 11 o'clock to get further information. The incident had created a certain amount of excitement in Government circles, I gathered from what occurred afterwards. I duly heard “Irish news.” Then I got: “There is no news.” That happens again and again. So far as news is concerned, I have heard criticism on account of the way in which political matters are reported, but I have not had any experience of that myself and therefore cannot speak on it; but as regards other news, if he listens-in I think the Minister will find it about as exciting and interesting as reading the Iris Oiflgiúil.
Professor O'Sullivan: I have not the slightest objection to that publication. Probably the Government finds it necessary. A number of things have to be published in it, but I do not think it has much circulation from an entertainment point of view. Night after night, when there is a tram strike in Dublin and you want to know what is to be the fate of your feet next day, you hear “The Minister for Industry and Commerce has issued a statement,” or it may be his colleague the Minister for Agriculture, and then you get a most complicated statement——
Professor O'Sullivan: ——as if anybody who was interested in those matters would rely on what he heard casually over the air in that way. He would get a copy of the actual order in question. The Minister will recognise that there has to be competition with other services, and some of the competing services are remarkably good. I know that the task of the new director is an extremely difficult  one, and that his resources are not unlimited. He must get all the encouragement possible, because the competition he is up against will be remarkably good. Unless there is an improvement in the Irish programmes I wonder whether it is worth the money we are spending on it, because a great deal of the licence fees would come in if that station were never there, and therefore all the cost of this station is spent on the station. There is an almost unanimous criticism of it, and unless a great improvement takes place I wonder whether the Minister would not consider a still more drastic method of dealing with the matter.
Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Boland): I think this is the first time this Estimate was referred back. It is a strange thing that when we are definitely tackling the job and have got a new director this is the occasion chosen for referring the Estimate back. I think we should at least get a chance now. It was not easy to get a new director. We advertised, and did not find anybody considered suitable by the Civil Service Commissioners. Those things involve delay. Everyone who has anything to do with a Government Department knows that those things cannot be disposed of right away. I have said that the whole organisation of the station is being considered. I admit frankly that the news service can scarcely be called a news service. That is very largely because it would take a great lot of money—much more than I believe even Deputy McMenamin would be prepared to spend—to have a really efficient news service, and the most I hope to be able to do is to give a tolerably fair one in the future. It is all very well to say a guard was shot in Dublin and the news was not broadcast. He might have been shot in Ballyporeen or somewhere else, and it would be necessary to have a newsagent or Press representative in practically every village in Ireland——
Mr. Boland: That is a fact. I must admit that most of the speeches in regard to this matter have been reasonable: you have to be reasonable and listen to our case. If we could get what we tried to get a few years ago from the Press here, a news service at a reasonable figure, it would simplify matters, but they would not give it to us. That was tried in the time of the last Government. They could not get a news service in this country for local news. There is no general Press agency in this country as there is in England, and therefore the only alternative would be for our Department to set up something approaching the editorial department of a newspaper. That would be a very costly thing.
I have said in the statement that we are going into this whole question again, and are hoping to be able to get a satisfactory Irish news service. We are also trying to get a satisfactory foreign news service. That is a very difficult thing, too. We have tried to get it in the past and the figure was prohibitive. I understand that there is now a chance of getting a reasonably good bulletin twice daily at a much reduced figure, due to the reduction in telephone charges and things of that kind. Of course all this is going to cost a lot more money. It is the habit of most Oppositions to want all sorts of new services, but when it comes to paying they will not agree to it. If a Department is paying its way everyone complains about taxing the people.
I admit that the cash question has been an important one. It has been at the bottom of the whole matter. If there had been plenty of money there may have been a better service, but even if we had twice as much money as we have I think it would be very difficult for—and very unfair for the House to expect—a station like ours to compete with the station that they mostly listen to—the B.B.C. Remember they have at least £1,500,000 for their own services. The total revenue to the Post Office there is from something like 6,700,000 odd licences, and the total amount of  money received was something like £3,390,000. I say that if any Deputy listened-in to the B.B.C. every night he would get as sick of the B.B.C. as he would of any other station. If people would only choose their items and not do as Deputy McMenamin did—switch on; wait for a minute; say: “The same old thing again,” and switch off—there would not be so much criticism. What sort of test is that? Surely any reasonable man should not expect to judge a station by switching on and off. I am surprised to hear Deputy McMenamin speaking like that. I agree with Deputy Mulcahy that the Irish programme is certainly not what it ought to be, but he will realise that there is one difficulty about the news in Irish. When we do get a better news service the difficulty will be that it will be sent in in English, and unless we are going to have people who are competent Irish speakers sending in the news bi-lingually—and it will not be easy to get them—the Deputy will realise the difficulty of having an all-Irish news service. Is not that what he suggests?
General Mulcahy: I do not realise the difficulty at all in looking at a piece of news and putting it straight into the Irish language in a country that considers that Irish ought to be in the position in which it is here to-day and wants to have it in that position. The Minister does not suggest, I am sure, that there are not dozens of people in Dublin City who could look at a piece of news in English and translate it right off into good Irish.
Mr. Boland: As regards news, that is a thing that needs to be delivered almost as it is got. If it is to be news at all, you cannot send it to the translation department. Deputy Mulcahy quite rightly expects the best possible service, and I admit it should be secured, but I do not see how it is going to be easy to get a person who will be able to translate what must be handed to him in English, because the news he gets will scarcely be other than in English. I do not think it will be possible, but if it is possible, we will do  it. I anticipate great difficulty in getting a news bulletin in Irish. The editor, whoever he may be, will have to translate it into Irish if it is going to be news.
Mr. Boland: I am personally very sympathetic to the suggestion, and if it is found at all possible it will be done, but I anticipate difficulties. Everybody will not be as fluent in Irish or be able to translate so readily as Deputy Mulcahy thinks.
Mr. Boland: I have nearly been hit on a few occasions when I suggested that it was like tinned music. That shows you how difficult it is to get people to agree on the subject. I did not know that Deputy Morrissey was such a radio fan. I thought he was selected to put forward this motion because he was the best loud-speaker on the other side. I find that that was not the reason at all, and that the Deputy really does know a good deal about the subject. All the same I think he was not quite fair. I think he listens-in too continuously to our station or else, like some others of the critics, he has not listened-in for the last six months. Perhaps, like Deputy McMenamin, when he tuned-in, on one occasion he felt inclined to say: “It is the same old thing again that I listened to somewhere else.” There may be occasions when the programmes may not be good, but on the whole I am not prepared to admit that they are  anything like as bad as has been stated here. If any Deputy cares to go to the broadcasting station he will find testimonials there from all parts of the country and from outside the country also praising our programme.
All that any Deputy here can say is that he is speaking for himself, and perhaps for a few friends. It is largely a matter of opinion. I agree there is need for a general improvement and every effort is being made and will be made to bring the programme to what it ought to be. I will ask Deputies to bear in mind that they are comparing this station with a station that has almost £2,000,000 per annum. I must say there has been some misinformed criticism in the Press. In a leading article in the Irish Times they said that we were actually getting more in licence fees than we were spending on the station. That is quite wrong. We never got anything like it. On this occasion, however, between licence fees and advertisement revenue we about balanced our expenditure with our revenue, but that is about all. Unlike the Post Office Estimate the other day, this is a service for which I will demand that we get as much money as will be necessary to make it what it ought to be.
Mr. Boland: We cannot possibly expect to get anything like the revenue of another country, the revenue our neighbours have. There has been a complaint made about traditional music. I do not pose as an authority on music, but I have an idea about it. I often have to listen to the jazz. I listen-in as a sort of duty since I took over responsibility for the station. If I was not in charge of it I would go out when any broadcasting was on, the B.B.C., as well as Athlone. However, I do listen-in and it strikes me as a non-musical man that the jazz music appears to be quite the same; it all seems to me to be the same, or very much alike. I am told that as regards traditional music there does not seem to be such a selection. Deputies should  remember that there are seven days in the week and 52 weeks in the year and a programme has to be arranged for each day. It is only natural that there is bound to be some sameness especially when it is dance music. I like the traditional music when it is well played, but it gives me a pain when it is not well played. Somebody suggested that there might be chloroform for some traditional fiddlers. I will not go so far as that.
I can assure the House that there is first an audition, and it is only when an item is selected by the musical director that it is allowed on. They are allowed to broadcast only when passed by him. If he finds a person not up to standard, that person is not allowed to broadcast. I do not know whether anybody here poses as a musical expert. I do not know if Deputy Morrissey poses as one. He may be like myself, he gets an indescribable pain when some music is being played and he enjoys other tunes. I think I know when music is good, but I am not prepared to swear it is good: in that respect I bow to superior musical authorities. The House, however, may expect an all-round improvement in the news and the other items. If people want to get the best out of any broadcasting station, ours or any other, they ought to select what they are to listen to. If they listen all the time to the one station, it does not matter if it was the best station that ever existed, they will get disgusted with it.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister rather suggested that this motion to refer the Estimate back was unfair in view of the fact that the new director has only just been appointed. It is precisely because he has just been appointed that I put it down, my object being to secure as far as I could that the new director is going to get a better chance than his predecessors. I think it is a very good thing that we have had this discussion
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