Friday, 30 March 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
 I. insofar as the Committee is requested to report to it with proposals, with necessary safeguards, for the televising of Dáil and Committee proceedings, Dáil Éireann takes note of the Report of the Committee dated 7th March, 1990, on Televising and Broadcasting of Dáil and Committee Proceedings and the Report of the Working Group on Televising and Broadcasting of Dáil and Committee Proceedings (hereinafter referred to as the Working Group) dated February, 1990 and, arising out of the recommendations therein, resolves
(ii) that a Broadcasting Control Committee be established to make the necessary administrative and financial arrangements for televising of the proceedings, this Committee to comprise representatives of Dáil Éireann and the national television broadcasters, the levels of representation to be a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges;
(iii) that the Broadcasting Control Committee employ a company independent of Dáil Éireann under contract to record, reproduce and supply a clean feed of the proceedings to Members and to the broadcasters and that broadcasters in turn contribute towards the annual production costs;
(iv) that the television system be supplied by the contractor on a lease/contract basis for a five year period which may be renewed at the discretion of Dáil Éireann, the installation and maintenance of the equipment and the production of the clean feed to be supplied under contract and the equipment under lease;
 (v) that a Broadcast Manager be appointed by the Ceann Comhairle following consultation with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to manage the televising of proceedings on behalf of and subject to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, including enforcement of rules of coverage; and to act as a general point of liaison for Members, broadcasters, and the contractor producing the signal;
(xiii) that the Government is hereby requested to initiate legislation to clarify the position of witnesses giving evidence before Committees with a view to enabling televising of the proceedings of Committees hearing evidence in public to commence;
(xv) that televised broadcasting of proceedings be authorised to commence with the Budget of 1991 and that broadcasting of proceedings of Committees meeting in public and not hearing evidence be authorised to commence as soon as possible thereafter; and
II. insofar as the Committee is requested to report to Dáil Éireann with proposals for a more general programme of reforms to Dáil Procedure covering limitations on the length of speeches, procedures for dealing with urgent matters and the relevancy and admissibility of Parliamentary Questions, the Resolution is hereby amended by the substitution of “by the Christmas Recess, 1990” for “by 31st March, 1990”.
The motion before the House asks it to note the reports of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and their working group on the televising and broadcasting of Dáil and committee proceedings and, arising from recommendations contained in these reports, to approve a number of proposals for the establishment of a parliamentary television system.
The motion also requests the House to extend to the Christmas recess the period by which the Committee on Procedure and Privileges must submit their proposals for a more general programme of reform of Dáil procedures. This extension is necessary because the investigation of proposals for televising the Dáil were so extensive that it has not yet been possible to examine Dáil reform other than in a preliminary way.
If the motion is approved by the House it will clear the way for the televising of the Dáil to commence with live coverage of the 1991 budget. The time required for delivering highly specialised equipment is considerable and as installation and construction work can only take place during periods of recess this is the earliest possible date on which it can commence.
 I have already intimated that the preparation of proposals for televising was a complicated task. It involved detailed research in a field in which none of the members of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges had any previous experience. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges, therefore, decided to appoint a working group, which I had the honour to chair, to examine the matter and to make recommendations. To assist us in our deliberations the Committee on Procedure and Privileges also appointed a technical support group of officials from the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Office of Public Works and my own Department. In addition, the services of technical, broadcasting and financial consultants were engaged to advise both groups.
I would like to place on the record of the House my thanks to my colleagues in the working group, Deputies John Bruton, Jim Higgins, Brendan Howlin and Liam Lawlor, for the tremendous dedication and commitment which they showed in preparing our report. I would also like to thank Anne Colley who participated in our early deliberations. I am sure that Members on all sides of the House will agree that Deputy Bruton is deserving of particular mention as it was he who, in proposing the original motion to televise our proceedings, initiated a process which is now hopefully reaching fruition.
On behalf of the working group and on my own behalf, I would also like to express our appreciation to Mrs. Pat O'Grady, who acted as clerk to our group and also chaired the technical support group. Finally, I would like to thank the other members of the technical support group for their help and advice.
Because the Dáil requested the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to prepare proposals only, it was decided to invite television production and film-making companies to make submissions, outlining their proposals for a parliamentary television service. Proposals were received from RTE, Windmill Lane, Gandon and a consortium of Strongbow/Screen Scene. Between  them, the working group and the technical support group held in the region of 50 meetings, taking oral evidence from these companies, examining their submissions and finally preparing a comprehensive set of technical, financial and adminstrative proposals for a parliamentary television system.
The working group also visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, the Ontario Legislature in Toronto and the House of Commons in Ottawa. These visits were of immense value to the group, as they afforded us an opportunity to see at first hand the systems in use in other countries and to judge which one might best be suited to our own particular needs. On behalf of the group, I would like to thank our hosts in the Parliaments visited for their advice, assistance and hospitality.
The technical proposals which are outlined in detail in the report of the working group were prepared by the technical support group, assisted by the technical and broadcasting consultants. The working group accepted these proposals in their entirety, as did the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The proposals cover, among other matters, the number and type of cameras to be installed, their proposed location, the type of remote control system to be used, the adequacy of the lighting, the replacement of the existing sound system, the provision of an archive, accommodation requirements and so forth. These and other technical recommendations are covered in a detailed manner in the report of the working group, so I do not propose to elaborate on them here.
I would just like to assure the House that the proposed arrangements will not noticeably affect or alter the existing fabric or appearance of the Chamber. The cameras, for example, will be located in the division lobbies and housed in specially constructed mahogany surrounds, so as to be as unobtrusive as possible and to blend in with the existing decor of the House.
The recommended staffing levels to run the operation are also set out in detail  in the report. It is proposed that the contractor provide the technical staff. It is also recommended that a broadcast manager be appointed by the Ceann Comhairle following consultation with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The appointee, whose role will in fact be pivotal to the whole operation, should have a thorough knowledge, understanding and practical experience of the Dáil business and procedures. He or she will manage the entire operation, ensure that the rules of coverage are adhered to and act as a general point of liaison between Members, the broadcasters and the company appointed to produce the service. In general, the appointee should merit the confidence of Deputies and those involved in the broadcasting of Dáil proceedings.
With regard to the financial aspects, the introduction of televising will involve considerable expenditure on equipment, installation, maintenance and production. It is recommended that the installation and maintenance of the equipment, as well as the production of the service, be provided on a contract basis. The equipment, which is the most advanced of its kind available at the present time, should be leased to the Dáil by the company engaged to do the production.
The period of the lease-contract should be five years, with provision that it may be renewed at the discretion of the Dáil. The contract should of course be subject to annual reviews, so as to ensure that its conditions are being fulfilled. In order to protect the interests of the Dáil, it is also proposed that the company who are awarded the contract be required to obtain an insurance bond. For reasons of national security, it is also recommended that the contract be placed with a single contractor. The major advantage of the lease-contract option is that it will spread the considerable expenditure involved evenly over the five-year period of the contract.
In making its recommendations on the administrative and financial arrangements for televising, the working group, as required by its brief, was primarily  concerned with safeguarding the interests of the House. This can only be achieved if both the producer and broadcasters are fully committed to the project. The producer must produce material of top broadcast quality for supply to the broadcaster who, in turn, must transmit it in a way so as to ensure that the proceedings of the House are being relayed to the public in an interesting and informative manner.
At this point I would like to pay a tribute to RTE for their excellent contribution to and their interest in Dáil broadcasting over the years. We are now entering the new era of televised broadcasting and I have no doubt whatever that RTE will continue to occupy a major role in bringing the proceedings of Dáil Éireann to the public in a responsible and informative manner.
Returning to the motion, the majority of members of the working group concluded that there is a basic difference between the roles of producer and broadcaster. A producer's primary task is to produce a service with which his client, in this case the Dáil, is completely satisfied and which is of a sufficiently high standard so as to be also acceptable to the broadcasters. A broadcaster, on the other hand, must quite rightly be concerned about where the material for his next broadcast is coming from, be it a news programme or a “wrap up” of the Day's events in the Dáil.
Because of this basic difference between producer and broadcaster, the majority view of the working group was that the producer should be clearly distinct from the broadcaster and directly accountable to the Dáil. This is not to say that the appointment of a company which produces a service of the highest quality would in itself guarantee a top class parliamentary television system. The broadcasters must also play an important role. After all, it is only through them that the material which is produced can be transmitted to the general public, at home and abroad. It is necessary, therefore, that both producer and broadcaster have a role in the administrative and  financial arrangements for televising the Dáil.
In view of this, the working group recommended by a majority decison that a broadcasting control committee be established to make these administrative and financial arrangements. The committee should comprise representatives of the Dáil and the national television broadcasters, RTE and TV3, who are scheduled to commence broadcasting before the end of the year. The broadcasting control committee should employ, under contract, a company to produce a continuous signal or clean feed of the proceedings each day from the prayer at the commencement of the sitting to the Adjournment of the Dáil.
The company should supply the clean feed of the proceedings to the broadcasters, under licence and subject to the rules of coverage. As the clean feed of the material would represent a significant addition to the broadcaster's programme making and news resources, they in return should contribute towards the annual running costs of the service. The size of the contributions might best be regulated by the Broadcasting Control Committee, on which the broadcasters themselves would be represented. If that committee is unable to agree on the amount of contributions from each of the broadcasters, it is recommended that a monitoring committee — which it is proposed that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges establish to monitor televising on an ongoing basis — could be asked to arbitrate in the matter. This committee would also be responsible for ensuring that the rules of coverage are adhered to and that the broadcast quality of the material is of the highest standard. In this way, the interests of both the Dáil and the broadcasters would be protected.
Based on an impartial assessment of technical competence and costs, the technical support group recommended that the contract for producing the service be awarded to Windmill Lane. The majority of the working group concurred that this company would provide the best service to the Dáil, at a competitive cost. This  view was also endorsed by a majority decision of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
The Labour Party representative on the working group, Deputy Brendan Howlin, favoured the award of the contract to the national broadcaster, RTE. While I am extremely grateful to RTE and Gandon for the considerable amount of time and effort which they put into preparing proposals, I nevertheless fully support the conclusion of the technical support group and the vast majority of Members in the working group agree that Windmill Lane are the production company who can best meet the Dáil's requirements.
The Committee on Procedure and Privileges have also made detailed recommendations for the televising of committee proceedings. Members will be aware that the uncertainty surrounding the position of witnesses giving evidence before committees has prevented the sound broadcasting of the proceedings of these committees to date. The Minister for Finance is considering draft legislation to clarify the position of witnesses and thus remove any uncertainty in this matter. Once this legislation has been passed, it will be possible to televise the proceedings of all committees. In the meantime, however, it is proposed that only the committees which meet in public but do not hear evidence, be authorised to commence televising as soon as possible after the Dáil begins transmitting its proceedings.
The introduction of televising will be undoubtedly the most significant and far reaching reform ever introduced by this House. I believe that it will affect Members in a way which no previous reform has done. Television will bring the proceedings of the Dáil into every home in the country. It will have a significant impact on the public's perception of Parliament, which, as Members are well aware, is all too often a negative one. I believe that this perception arises from a lack of understanding of the role and functions of Parliament. It is my hope that television will help to correct this impression.
 Through television, the public will be able to experience at first hand the operation of the Dáil. Many for the first time will see their elected representatives performing their legislative duties — contributing to debates of national and international importance as well, of course, as safeguarding their constituents' interests in matters of local concern.
The televising of debates will go a considerable way towards increasing public awareness of the way in which we — their representatives — carry out our work on their behalf. In this regard, it is important that Deputies themselves strive to give the public the right impression of how we conduct our business. Most Deputies will agree that creating scenes or causing disturbances — while they might attract some attention — do nothing to enhance the reputation of the Dáil or improve the public's perception of it. The working group have designed rules of coverage, endorsed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, for the producer and the broadcasters to ensure that the material which they use reflects the dignity and decorum of the House. However, it is also up to the Members themselves to play their part. I believe that the drawing up of a code of conduct for Members would be offensive and insulting to them and I hope that, when televising commences, nothing will occur which would make it necessary for us to do this.
The introduction of televising may cause Members to look at the existing procedures for the conduct of business and wonder whether they are serving us as well as they might. I am well aware of the view which holds that our procedures are totally antiquated and need to be overhauled radically. While I accept that some changes are required, I do not accept that the system, which has served us well for many years, needs to be completely dismantled.
The Committee on Procedure and Privileges have, of course, been requested by the House to prepare proposals for reform of procedures. The working group will be conducting a  detailed examination of all aspects of Dáil reform and will make recommendations to the House before next Christmas. As I mentioned earlier, this matter has been investigated in a preliminary way and it was, in fact, the subject of an interim report by the working group to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Arising from recommendations in that report, a number of reforms — including the new arrangements for the adjournment debate — have already been introduced.
For their part, the Government will be submitting their reform proposals to the working group in the near future. Dáil reform, however, is an area which affects us all and we in Government will be delighted to listen to and consider proposals and suggestions from the other parties.
The publication of the the Committee on Procedure and Privileges report means that the Dáil now has a blueprint for the introduction of a parliamentary television service. If it is implemented immediately, the Dáil will be on the air at the beginning of next year. The Government fully support the recommendations in the report and, accordingly, we commend this resolution to the House.
Mr. J. Bruton: The definitive decision we are about to take to televise the Dáil will be of very great benefit to democracy in this country, to the widespread understanding of the operation of this House and thus of the essential democratic nature of our society. As the Constitution provides that all proceedings of the Dáil should be in public, it is only natural that they also should be televised, because only a tiny minority of people could be accommodated in the Public Gallery of this House to exercise their constitutional right to see what we are doing in their name.
The most appropriate way of allowing that constitutional right of public access to our proceedings is to allow the Dáil proceedings to be broadcast on radio and television. I believe that the changes we  are making will change the nature of politics in an important respect — the Dáil Chamber will again become the centre of political discussion.
Over the past number of years we have seen the development of the politics of the press release where Members never actually speak the words attributed to them but issue a supplied script to media, sometimes perhaps from a fictitious location which they did not attend, or they issue a statement without giving any particular location and that is then published. The fact is, of course, that nobody can be cross-examined by other Members of the House on the contents of a press release. The tendency over the past number of years has been for more and more political dialogue to be conducted by means of conflicting press releases.
The introduction of television cameras to this House and the ability of television to show what is termed actuality, that is, a person speaking the words reported, will mean that press releases will become less important and the words spoken in this House will have greater impact. On television, we can now see the person speaking whereas a press release can simply be reported and accompanied by a still photograph of the Member issuing the press release. I think the quality and nature of public debate will change in that increasingly it will be focused again where it was originally, here in this Chamber, rather than by means of anonymous press releases by-passing one another in newspaper offices throughout the country.
Of course in the first place the main use to be made of Dáil television will be in the form of 30 second clips of speeches in an edited form on news bulletins. Presumably, there will be a “Today in the Dáil” programme broadcast possibly at a time of less than enormous viewership. However, the main impact will be in the form of clips inserted into the news bulletins. In a sense that will have the effect I described but it will not change things all that much.
My ambition, and it is the ambition of the members of the committee and I am sure of Members of the House, is that we  will soon arrive at the stage with the increased numbers of channels available on the MMDS system — I understand that almost an unlimited number of channels will be available on that system — that the Dáil will, as is the case with many legislatures throughout North America, be broadcast in full from the time it opens to the time it adjourns. This step provides for that and it will happen much sooner than we expect because of the pace of developments in communications technology. That, when it happens, will have a far greater effect than the initial usage and availability of edited versions of our debates.
I should like to join with the Minister of State in paying tribute to our colleagues on the committee and the staff who serviced our committee and prepared the motion before the House for the work they have done. As the Minister of State said, with the exception of one important issue, the members worked in a spirit of unanimity, compromise and agreement in virtually all their deliberations. The fact that we were able to work in that light in the interests of the House made my membership of that committee one of the most satisfying activities of my entire parliamentary career. I found it extremely satisfying to be able to work with colleagues of different parties in a common endeavour, and virtually never did party considerations enter into our deliberations. The fact that that was possible was due in considerable measure to the patience, the tact and the open mindedness of our chairman, the Minister of State, Deputy Vincent Brady, for which he deserves public tribute.
I should like to refer to some of the items in the motion before us. One of the important changes being made, apart from the broadcasting of the House on television to the public, will be that henceforth every Member will have in his or her room a screen showing what is happening in the House. It will show the Member who is in possession. That will make a huge difference to the House and the way it works in that Members who have to work in their rooms for long  periods when the Dáil is in session, will be able to see the person in possession and, if we wish, to listen to a contribution; we will be able to turn up the volume and hear what is being said. That may seem trivial but in my view it will be crucially important. It will mean that speeches in the House will return to what they were originally intended to be, methods of persuading other Members to agree to a point of view. The fact that Members all over the House will be able to see other Members on the screens will mean that more attention will be paid by all Members, by the staff, by those in the press gallery and by those concerned with the business of the House, to what is being said in the Chamber.
A good speech containing persuasive arguments will have more effect as a result of the introduction of this inhouse system than it has at present where virtually the only people who pay any attention to what is said in the House are those who are sitting in the Chamber. That will no longer be the case. The audience for what is being said in the Chamber will be much wider. It will make the proceedings in the Chamber more influential and central to the political process than they were in the past.
It is also important to recognise that the introduction of television will place a very heavy burden on the Ceann Comhairle. A duty will fall on him when new business is being introduced to give some brief explanation of what is about to be discussed. When the debates are broadcast live, as I believe they will be in the near future, and we are moving from one item to another, we cannot have the cameras in the House switched off while a commentator explains what the old business was and what the new business will be. It will be necessary for the Ceann Comhairle to make some brief explanation of what is happening.
Another change that will be required to make the proceedings understood by the wider public will be in regard to parliamentary questions. At the moment a Minister answers questions and the only way one can find the content of that question is by consulting the written Order  Paper. A television viewer will not have a copy of the Order Paper and he or she will not know what question is being answered by the Minister. If we move, as I believe we will quite quickly, to simultaneous live transmission of the entire proceedings of the House, we will have to provide an explanation of what the question is that is being answered. Otherwise the House proceedings will not be as understandable as they should be.
We will also have to have a requirement to reduce the enormous length of time spent taking divisions. Frankly, viewers will move to another channel if we spent 15 minutes milling around the Chamber and then going through the lobbies to vote. I propose that we arrange, if possible, for the taking of as many divisions as possible at one time, possibly by means of a show of hands rather than by the procedure of walking through the division lobbies. It should be possible, as they have in the European Parliament, to have a voting hour — in our case it would probably need to be a half hour — during which all the votes that have to be taken in a particular week, with the exception of votes on Committee Stages of Bills, will be taken at one time rather than having the proceedings interrupted by divisions in the present fashion which is more time consuming from everybody's point of view.
The role of the Ceann Comhairle in maintaining order will be extremely important. During our discussions in Canada there was reference to the fact that when television was first introduced in one of their parliaments a member decided that he would attract interest to the problems of his constituents who were engaged in fishing by carrying into the house a dead fish. He held the fish in front of the cameras and demonstrated that this would be more likely to be reported on the evening news than if he simply made a few bland references to his interest in his fishing constituents. I am not sure what he did with the fish afterwards, whether he threw it across the house or not——
Mr. J. Bruton: That sort of behaviour should not be encouraged. If people start doing that it will change the House into an entertainment forum rather than a forum where we would continue to do business as previously.
Mr. J. Bruton: The Ceann Comhairle will need to have strong powers to deal with that sort of situation and to penalise Members who engage in any breaches of the rules of conduct. On the other hand, there will have to be restraint by the Ceann Comhairle in exercising the power he has of standing up. At present if the Ceann Comhairle stands up, theoretically everybody is supposed to stop talking. The result, under the rules we have provided for, will be that as soon as the Ceann Comhairle stands up the camera will go straight on to him and nothing else will be shown, all other microphones will be switched off and that will be the end, all you will hear will be sounds off and all the viewers will see will be the Ceann Comhairle with a pained expression on his face. If the Ceann Comhairle does that too often virtually the only output at certain hours of the day will be the Ceann Comhairle's face showing concern at what is going on. There will be a need for the Ceann Comhairle to allow slightly more latitude to minor infractions so that he will be able to deal with the authority and finality which is needed with major infractions.
In view of the importance of the role of the Ceann Comhairle in ensuring that this experiment is a success and that the House present itself effectively to the public at large, it is important that the Ceann Comhairle, in addition to the members of the committee, should have an opportunity to see the workings of television in other parliaments, in discussion with colleague chairpersons of  those parliaments, so that we can present our work as effectively as possible.
One of the other benefits of the introduction of the television camera will be that actual Dáil debates will be capable of being used in special television programmes and video presentations aimed at those in the education system, for example, school children and, perhaps, third level students who are studying particular issues. The availability of videos in schools and in homes is so wide now that there is, as never before, a rapidly enlarging market for educational television of this kind and increasingly the use of footage from the Dáil will be an important ingredient in videos related to public affairs. One of the reasons that swayed me in favour of the particular contractor who is getting this job was my feeling that that contractor——
Mr. J. Bruton: ——would be more active than others in promoting the use of the material contained in the debates, in addition to simply providing a fee for the actual broadcaster, and that there would be marketing of this footage for responsible use in the preparation of other videos and so forth. It would be extremely important that we should make every effort, as we will, to ensure that that happens.
There are some other changes that should be made in the House to allow the television debates to have a greater impact and usefulness. One of the procedures which they have in the Westminster House of Commons, which we do not have here, is the procedure whereby a speaker in possession is permitted to yield to a brief interruption from another party, or from his own party — the interruption would only be for less than 30 seconds — he then replies to that interruption and resumes his speech. Such a facility would be useful addition to our procedures given that the safeguard remains that the speaker can refuse to accept the interruption. If he refuses to accept the interruption, the interruption  may not be made, but if he is prepared to accept it the Ceann Comhairle should allow it. It would make for more interesting debate, more of dialogue than we currently have in this House, less of a succession of monologues and would be not only good television, but better legislation procedure in the sense that members would actually have their views challenged as they express them rather than challenged subsequently when they may no longer be in the Chamber to justify them. That would be an improvement which we should make on its own merits but also with an eye to presenting the House in the most effective way possible.
I am particularly disappointed — and this is another factor that influenced me in favour of the contractor who is getting the job — at the lack of usage on local radio of the existing broadcast output on radio of the Dáil. The national broadcaster has had available for a number of years the radio rights of broadcast of our proceedings. The broadcaster has used them on their own channel but they have not, to my knowledge, made any arrangements to sell them to local radio stations. I believe there would be a considerable demand from the radio station broadcasting in Wexford for an edited version of contributions by Deputy Howlin, Deputy Yates, Deputy Browne and other Deputies and the same would apply for the other Members of the House. Unfortunately that is not being used. The copyright of this radio signal is owned by RTE. It is up to them to use it, but they have not done so. I do not know why but I think we should find out.
In this case that will not be so much of a problem because under the arrangements we have made here, the copyright will be retained by this House. Therefore, it will be possible for us to ensure that adequate on-usage of the signal occurs after its initial availability for broadcast on the day in question.
I believe that attendance in the Chamber will improve considerably as a result of the introduction of television. Instead of sitting strung out along the Front Bench, Members may tend to congregate  in a little cluster behind the person who is speaking so that they will be on the television too. This is a change that may or may not be beneficial. Anyone speaking will have to be prepared to have their personal space, so to speak, restricted in the sense that they may tend to have people who may not be close to them in any other respect being close to them while they are speaking in the House. That will be an interesting dimension to our proceedings.
I am very concerned about the need to initiate legislation to clarify the position of witnesses giving evidence before committees with a view to enabling the televising of proceedings of committees hearing evidence to go ahead. This is a problem I tried to deal with, and failed, when I was in Government in the period 1982-87. In that Government we tried to get such legislation introduced. The present Government have been trying to get such legislation introduced for the last three years, and neither of us succeeded.
To the best of my knowledge the problem resides in the parliamentary draftsman's office in that they cannot make up their mind what is the right way to do it. It is not a question of there not being sufficient time available to employ draftsmen to draft the legislation. It is not a question of the Government — this Government or the previous Government — not being willing to contemplate the changes. It is simply that the lawyers in the Government service cannot make up their minds how this problem should be solved. I urge the Minister to make sure that this problem is addressed at the highest level politically so that if the lawyers cannot make up their minds, the Government will make up their minds for them and we will introduce such legislation.
The Minister of State will have our support in seeking to get such legislation introduced quickly. I would not underestimate the difficulties he will face in dealing with this but deal with it he must because this is a crucial part of making this programme a success.
Mr. J. Bruton: Thank you very much but I have had the advantage of 12 years compulsory education in Irish at great public expense so I have achieved the ability to understand that without the assistance of Deputy McCartan, who I think attended a school similar to the one I attended.
There has been some rather interesting chit-chat in the papers that the rules of coverage are extremely restrictive, etc. As the Minister of State, I and others in the public media have pointed out, we opted for the most liberal set of guidelines we could get, subject to having some safeguards against disorder. We are allowing for some wide angled shots and fairly liberal usage of the cameras in the House. We are allowing for much more liberal coverage than that initially proposed for Westminster, for example, and that which applies in the Federal Parliament in Ottawa. We are going for the liberal end of a continum, so to speak, so far as broadcasting rules are concerned. I believe we are right to do this because I have great confidence in the discretion of both the broadcaster and the contractor in their usage of this facility. I believe their professionalism is such that we need have no worries in this respect.
Some people are still concerned that the rules may be too restrictive, even in the liberal form that we have provided, while others believe they are too liberal and will show the House in a bad light by focusing the camera for an undue length of time on the part of the House where nobody is sitting, on Members who are yawning while other Members are speaking or on Members making faces to indicate disagreement at something some other Member is saying and in a fashion which would take from the value of what that person is saying. Some people are  worried that irresponsible use of the camera could present a good speech in a ridiculous light by focusing on Members who are making faces or gestures to indicate disagreement at what is being said.
Paragraph 11 of the report before us provides that the rules currently put forward will be reviewed on an on-going basis and modified where necessary. The rules of coverage set out in the report can be modified between now and Janaury of next year if the Committee on Procedure and Privileges receive representations from broadcasters which convince that that modification is necessary. I do not think anybody should be worried that the procedures will be unduly restrictive. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges are willing to go for the most liberal rules feasible and to listen sympathetically to representations which may be made in the matter.
My final point relates to the effect the introduction of television will have on conduct of Members of the House. The experience in those parliaments we visited was that for the first few weeks there was a tendency by Members to get involved in grandiose displays in order to attract attention to themselves but when those Members returned to their constituencies they found that those grandiose displays which succeeded in getting them on television had a negative effect on their standing in the sense that they were seen to be unruly, which their constituents did not like. In the long term the introduction of the television camera put a greater premium on well researched, brief, concise and responsible speeches delivered in a measured tone of voice without an undue amount of histrionics. That is what makes the best sort of television. The change effected by television was towards that type of speech rather than towards the more elaborate histrionic type one.
In view of the fact that Deputy McCartan's party have gone so European I expect him to be offering me simultaneous translations in French, German and “Brusselese”. I will expect that service from him the next time. I believe  television coverage of the proceedings of this House will be good in terms of its internal working and enable this House to resume centre stage in political dialogue. Unfortunately in recent times press releases, press conferences and other events outside the House tended to take over from this House in that respect.
This is one of the most important debates in which we will ever participate and will mark a watershed when the Dáil decides later today about whether television cameras should be installed here so that for the first time every home in the country will have direct visual access to this House. The importance of this cannot be understated.
As a member of the Labour Party I was privileged to be part of the discussions. I endorse the comments made by previous speakers about the work carried out by the sub-committee. The members of that sub-committee were drawn from three political parties and we worked very well together. Generally there were no divisions on a party political basis and the report which went before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and their report which is now before the House are very good. The only caveat I will put down is one I argued throughout the deliberations and which I will develop during the course of my contribution.
I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Vincent Brady, for the way in which he approached his job. He was open at all times to suggestions and constructive advice. I think everybody had an input into shaping the report now  before us. There was no way in which people felt excluded or that the Government's had a fixed view which would steamroll over everybody else's view. I want to compliment Deputy Bruton for initiating the whole process by way of resolution before the House some two years ago and to join with other speakers in complimenting the clerk of the committee who, in a very diligent and unstinting way, carried out a tremendous job for the committee. After many hours of debate he managed to put together in a cohesive way a variety of views and bring forward a resolution which pulled together umpteen strands of thought in a way in which the participants believed was impossible. There is one fundamental flaw in the report in regard to the award of contract.
This is a technical amendment because I understand a broadcaster is an individual whereas what the Committee on Procedure and Privileges had intended was a broadcasting company. There is only one national broadcasting company currently in operation and that is why I have the word “company” rather than “companies”.
That is a very important addition to which I do not think there will be any objection. Copies of the contract should be available for perusal by the Members of this House. As this will affect every Member, it is a reasonable request to make.
The section as written now provides that the rules of coverage will be reviewed but it does not say by whom. It should be clear who it is intended should do that review. In my view that should be the Broadcasting Control Committee.
In paragraph I. (xiv), after “archive of recordings of proceedings” to insert “in a place and in a manner that will enable members of the Dáil and other interested Parties to have ready access to such archive”.
The Labour Party welcome and strongly support the decision in principle to introduce television cameras to the floor of Dáil Éireann. In our view that occasion can only be good for this House and for parliamentary democracy. The committee which drew up the various reports before the House worked together in a very constructive way but their recommendations, embodied in the motion we are now debating, are wrong in one critical aspect. I have argued consistently that the only logical outcome of a decision to broadcast the national Parliament is to entrust that task to the national television station. Any other decision would be wrong in principle.
It has often been said that our parliamentary democracy is under threat. It has been threatened in the last 20 years by the fear that Northern violence would spill over into this Republic, by the frustration of tax marchers who took to the  streets to argue their case, by the militancy of vested interest groups, by the pressure brought to bear on legislators to pursue interests in which they did not believe, and in many other ways.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the stability of our democracy in the medium-term is the growing sense of alientation and disenfranchisement among large sectors of our population. The people are disillusioned with politics and with politicians. They see us as overpaid and underworked. They want some of us playing ducks and drakes with the Constitution and others shying away from important fundamental issues instead of taking them on. The people watch everything that is going on in this House and many of them wonder why they sent us here in the first place when they see the antics that sometimes occupy our time here.
It has often been said that the price of democracy is internal vigilance. If democracy is boring or cheapened by the antics of some politicians it is hardly surprising that vigilance turns to cynicism. It is cynicism we have to confront in persuading the people who elected us that our democracy is worthwhile.
If we look at the democratic revolutions that have taken place in the last few months it is clear that democracy in action has lost none of its attraction for other people. It is clear too that television has played its part in helping democracy to be reborn in Eastern Europe. Few will ever forget the moment it dawned on Nicolae Ceausescu that he had lost the trust of his people. Standing addressing the crowds, he saw that he had lost it and that moment was caputred and frozen by a television camera. It is little wonder that the opposition in Romania subsequently established their headquarters in a television studio and that it was television that provided the proof to thousands of anxious Romanians that Ceausescu was finally dead.
Without television people power would never have taken off in the Philippines. It was television that made the breakthrough that led to the Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel.  It was television that led the way to a deepening conviction on both sides of the Irish Sea about the innocence of the Birmingham Six. It was television that moved millions throughout the world last November when the Berlin Wall began to crack and fall. No one who saw it — thanks to the medium of television — will ever forget the sight of Nelson Mandela walking out of captivity and into a possible new dawn of democracy for his country, South Africa. Against this background no one can dispute the power of television.
It is equally clear from looking at the Westminster experiment that television has reawakened interest in the daily workings of parliament. Even the broadcasting of the House of Lords had an audience and the number of people who watch and discuss developments in the Commons is growing every day as we found out when we visited Westminster a few weeks ago.
Television, therefore, should be welcome in this house and we should be prepared to adapt all the procedures to ensure that we live up to the demands that television and the people, through television, will place upon us. There are two words that best characterise the essential quality of television. The first is “immediacy”. Television images can be flashed around the world in a matter of seconds. The technology is available which enables a television crew to be on the site of a major new story in minutes and pictures from the scene flashed around the world and viewed by millions of people in their homes. Whatever word we can use to describe the procedures of this House, “immediacy” is not one that immediately comes to mind. It takes a very major event indeed before we are allowed to disturb the even tenor of our ways here.
Perhaps the best example I could mention occurred only a few weeks ago when the Labour Party, at Question Time, placed on the Order Paper a question for special notice about the impending execution of a journalist in Iraq and it was ruled out of order for lack of immediacy; the poor unfortunate man was  executed a few hours later. In using this example I am not in any way trying to criticise the Ceann Comhairle or his officials because of the way they use their judgment, but it must be clear to every Member of this House that our procedures are archaic in the way in which they inhibit all of us from reaction to all the events that are unfolding at an increasingly fast pace day by day.
The point is particularly relevant today as we prepare to rise for a three-week recess. We shall do so without the opportunity to hear from the Taoiseach about his recent European meetings or to question him about issues which arise in that context. We will have to rely on newspapers and television to establish what preparations are being made for the major European summit to be held here in April. Our immediacy and our relevance to these and other major events are significantly undermined.
I said there are two things which capture the essential spirit of television. If immediacy is one of them, the other is the transient nature of television. This House does not take decisions quickly, but very often the decisions we make are lasting ones. Television is a medium which is always on the move. There will for this reason be a temptation to play to the cameras in the Chamber. In some ways this will be a good thing. All of us have had the dispiriting experience of speaking in an empty Chamber. It is disappointing that there are not more Members here today for this very important debate which will affect every Member in a very real way. We know that Deputies are about their business in offices throughout the building, but the public do not know that. It is clear that television will transmit images which do not reflect well on this House unless we respond by changing our procedures and getting our act together. By the same token, television will provide a gallery to play to and that is another temptation we will have to resist. The rotten fish has already been referred to and that would be a temptation in the initial stages. The public would be able to discern for what  they are the cheap stunts sometimes pulled in this House and I have no doubt that any Deputy who uses the television cameras to raise issues for their stunt value rather than for their substance will receive no thanks from the electorate.
I want television in the House to inform, to educate and even to entertain. We need to entertain people as well. We have to show them something worth watching. It will not be entertaining if we adhere to some of our present practices — two-hour speeches for the sake of hearing one's own voice will not add to anybody's reputation. Above all, I want television to provide access for all the people. I want to be able to say at the end of the first year of televised proceedings that there is a better understanding and appreciation of the way we do things and that we responded positively to the lessons television offers us. For that to happen, it is essential that we be prepared to adapt.
For all those reasons I have argued strongly that the televising of the Dáil should be entrusted to the national television station, RTE. Even after sitting through all the arguments of the working group and all the discussion on presentations we have received, I still cannot understand how any other decision could be arrived at. It is well known that the working group invited submissions from all interested parties in respect of the contract we are about to award. It is perhaps less well known, but needs to be said by me for the sake of honesty and consistency, that one of the worst submissions we received in the early days of our deliberations was from RTE. It was clear to every member of the group, including me, that RTE were extremely blasé in their approach, apparently in the belief that there was no competition and that they would automatically be chosen. Once that notion was dispelled, RTE made a submission which was extremely professional and competitive. There is little to choose now between the submission made by RTE in terms of facilities, expertise and cost and the recommended  submission from Windmill Lane which is before us.
If cost factors were the only consideration the advantage surely lies with the submission from RTE. It is clear from the report before the House that the net cost of the proposal by Windmill Lane is only cheaper than RTE's because Windmill Lane are including estimated marketing income of £280,000 per annum. RTE made their submission on the basis that they would supply a free feed to other Irish stations and to European stations as part of their EBU obligations. If RTE had assigned any substantial income to their proposal from marketing, as in my view they were entitled to do, the net cost of what they put forward would be considerably cheaper to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
There is another question mark about the costing, particularly in relation to the Windmill Lane submission. I raise this in good faith. The estimated income in the Windmill proposal comprises an estimated income from RTE in respect of a feed of £130,000 and an expected income from TV3 of £150,000. The wording of the motion before us implies no obligation on RTE to pay more than a contribution to production costs. If RTE take the view that they are prepared to supply a free feed they would surely be entitled to the view that they should not be expected to pay another contractor more than a nominal sum. We can look in a jaundiced way at the marketing figures.
A second point is that there is no TV3 at present and no certain knowledge of when TV3 will be established or what the financial arrangements of that company will be. All we know for certain is that the front runner for the franchise appears to be a company in which Windmill Lane, the company to whom we are about to award the contract, will be a major shareholder. It is possible therefore that Windmill Lane will find themselves in the position of relying for a substantial part of their revenue in respect of the contract we are awarding on a broadcasting company of which they themselves are a major shareholder. If our experience of the inception of national and local  commercial radio is anything to go by, several years will elapse before any new television company will be on a sound financial footing. In the interim there is a possibility at least that Windmill Lane, if awarded the contract to televise the Dáil on the basis outlined in this motion, will find themselves confronted with a difficult conflict of interest. On the one hand if they are to honour their contract they must extract £130,000 in revenue from TV3 and on the other hand they must ensure the survival of TV3 through its difficult initial years.
RTE, unlike their competitors for the contract, were unable to build in VAT refunds to their costings. The State will refund VAT to Windmill Lane in respect of expenditure but would receive VAT from RTE at a negotiated rate in respect of RTE's outlay. Having made all these points, I should add that all the submissions were equally professional and I have little doubt that any of the applicants is capable of doing a competent and professional job. But that is not really the point. Unless there are compelling financial reasons or serious inadequacies in the technical approach, RTE should be the natural choice of this House to do this important job.
In the first place RTE are the national television station and our own report recognises their singular important position. For years we have charged RTE with ensuring that the public interest is served through the media of radio and television. Nobody in this House can say that RTE have never made a mistake or have always been balanced and fair, or that we agree with every decision they make. I do not stand here and say that about them, but I have always found them to be professional and competent. RTE have served the national interest well and in all their dealings they have upheld and protected high standards of public service broadcasting.
Moreover, RTE news and current affairs programmes have played a major role in ensuring that the people of Ireland have always been able to play a significant part in our democratic process. It is poor  reward for that contribution that they have to buy a feed of everything that happens here in the centrepiece of our democracy from a commercial contractor.
One thing is essential if broadcasting in the Dáil is to work in the public interest. I want to see an independent journalistic approach brought to the job. I want to see all of us put on our mettle by the thought that there are journalists watching us and filtering what we say and do according to their precepts of where the public interest lies. Journalists will want to push back the boundaries of coverage and to expand the degree to which the public will have access to the floor of this House. The process will create a healthy tension between those who do not want to see changes in the structures and those who want to see more access and more openness in the way we conduct our affairs. The creation and resolution of that tension are an essential part of the journalistic role and one where RTE have established a long track record.
The same cannot be said of Windmill Lane Pictures. Windmill Lane are an industrious, professional company with a solid track record and an established international reputation for their productions, but these values were honed and polished in the production of pop videos and advertisements. The company have no track record to speak of in journalistic terms. Published comment by the chairman of that company already suggests they see their role as the production and distribution of pictures and little else. I argue, with no disrespect to Windmill Lane, that we need more than simply production values to be brought to bear on the broadcasting of the Dáil.
I know that one of the terms of reference of the working group is the protection of the interest of the House itself. I would hate to think any Member of this House sees the interest of the House in any way in conflict with the interests of the public whom we serve. The preference being shown to Windmill Lane demonstrates to me a reluctance on the part of some Members to place trust in  RTE, that the majority have opted for what they perceive to be a safer option that they can control in the interests of Deputies. That is why the Labour Party will vote against this proposal to award this contract to Windmill Lane and that is why we place the amendments before the House which seek instead to give that important watershed contract to the national broadcasting company.
I want to comment on a few general aspects of Dáil reform. The motion once adopted, once we start bringing the cameras into this building, will have a momentum all its own. It will require us to adapt in a way that many Members resisted, and that is a fundamentally good thing. I have instanced the way we deal with urgent business. The earth can be shaking outside but if it is not on an order paper agreed the previous week, we are precluded from commenting on it in this House. I believe the public will not tolerate that. They will not tolerate us ignoring the realities as if we were somehow in a cocoon here, oblivious to the goings on outside the portals of this grand House.
My party leader this morning on the Order of Business referred to the voting mechanisms here where, if a division is called we can use 20 minutes of time. There is no reason for that. Electronic voting is in use in many parliaments and I hope it can be included in the remit of the committee in relation to Dáil reform.
Deputy Bruton talked about the use of the radio feed and commented on my local radio station. I am glad to say that that radio station use a great deal of political comment. He is right to suggest they do not get a live feed from here. That is important.
I conclude as I began by saying I do not believe this decision has been fully appreciated by many Members who, when the division bells ring, will march through and vote. I am not sure all of them know it is our intention to have live television from January next year. I think it will come as a shock to some, but in my view it is a fundamentally good initiative. I do not want the caveats I have placed on the report to diminish in any way the measure of unanimity that existed on that committee on the very positive aspects, which constitute 98 per cent, of the report which I and my party partly endorse. On the one issue which is central to success, a mistake is being made and I hope that on reflection Members in whose hands the final decision rests will make the right decision when I call a vote on my amendments.
Mr. McCartan: ——ar dtús abair cúpla focail ar an ábhair seo atá an-tábhachtacht leis an Teach seo. It is a very important and crucial day in the life of the Oireachtas, and The Workers' Party join in full support and favour of the principle of televising Dáil proceedings as contained in the substantive motion on the Order Paper. However, we have some serious reservations about the detail of the motion. In particular we believe the contract should be given to the national broadcasting service, RTE. Lest anyone looking at amendment No. 3 misconstrue my membership of the Labour Party, The Workers' Party are cosponsors of that proposal——
Mr. McCartan: ——at the conclusion of today's debate. I am quite happy to have my name on the list beside Deputy Howlin on this issue, as The Workers' Party and the Labour Party have done on many progressive and important issues in this House in the past and will do so again in the future.
We believe the contract should be given to the national broadcasting service, RTE, rather than to a commercial organisation which has no proven track record in this area. The Workers' Party equally believe the public should have the widest possible access to information about what is going on in the Oireachtas. Indeed, we consider it part of the media's general duties to keep the public informed as to what is happening in the Dáil. Unfortunately, this is not being done in a satisfactory way at the moment.
The amount of column inches in the press allocated to the reportage of Dáil business seems to have declined significantly in the recent years. When there is a debate of major public interest the coverage is reasonable but we have all had the experience of spending long hours in this Chamber dealing with details of important legislation — particularly during Committee Stage — only to find that the debate received virtually no coverage in the following day's newspapers.
The radio broadcasting of Dáil proceedings has been going on for several years without creating any damage to the Oireachtas. It is extraordinary that it should have taken so long for a proposition for televising Dáil business to come before the House. We must be one of the few parliaments in the world which has up to now refused to allow the voters to see what goes on in the Legislature.  That fact that the Dáil is now dragging itself into what is left of the 20th century is welcome. I hope that what we agree to transmit is an honest view of this House and its Members — warts and all — and not a censored or sanitised version of what goes on here, because a proper balance needs to be struck.
This is a national parliament and should not be allowed to be depicted as some sort of variety show. At the same time it does the House no service to attempt to cover up some of the more unsatisfactory aspects of our activities. Some of the suggestions have been quite ludicrous, that officials of the House — reporters and ushers — should not be seen during broadcasts. The officials and the staff are essential to the operation of the Oireachtas and should not be treated as second-class citizens. Indeed the principle in this area is laid down very succinctly in page 24 of the report which says that a balanced, fair and accurate account of proceedings to make them intelligible to viewers should be transmitted or achieved.
The same issue arises in regard to the proposals which would prohibit the showing of any element of disorder in the House. No doubt, when television comes in, some people will create a rumpus to try to get publicity. Why not let the people watching decide for themselves? I do not believe that the people are thick or easily taken in. They will be well able to distinguish between a dispute on an important matter of policy or procedure and cheap publicity stunts. That point was very well dealt with by the recounting of the experiences in the Canadian context where, initially, efforts were made to seek publicity but, in time, Members very quickly realised that the viewers, supporters and voters were far more intelligent than they had given them credit for. If I am correct in my understanding of some of the debates in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and documents I have read, that has been the experience in other parliaments where televising the proceedings was introduced. There may be an initial settling-in process  but after that, little or no problems arise. Instead of seeking to hide from the public the difficulties created by the archaic procedures which we inherited from Westminister — and which have remained largely unaltered over 70 years — we should modernise our methods of work and remove elements of procedure which can lead to disorder.
I am quite sure that when we go on the air the public will be amazed to see the Ceann Comhairle telling Members — as happens every day — that the Dáil cannot discuss urgent matters which have emerged at short notice and which are probably being discussed in every house in the country except this, the primary House.
The issue of marketing arises in the debate surrounding the awarding of the contract. It is dealt with in page 17, Appendix III, in the major report of the technical working group. Paragraph 45 states:
The group considers the option of providing clean feed or otherwise is preferable to marketing edited packages of the material to the broadcasters. The marketing of the signal would not be in keeping with the dignity and decorum of the Oireachtas and the Dáil would not wish to see a situation whereby the cost became so prohibitive on the broadcasters as to reduce their incentive to use the material in programmes.
If we try to sell what we do in here we should realise that it is not the selling and marketing of news but the making of it which is important. If the workings, dealings and deliberations of this Dáil are current, effective, relevant and topical we will not have any difficulty in regard to the various agencies and media outside looking for footage and taking transmissions of what is produced here. You cannot market something which is not watchable.
As other commentators said, we must embark as a matter of urgency — and in advance of the 1991 deadline — on reorganising the rules and procedures of this House so that urgent matters which arise at short notice can be raised and  dealt with on the day. There should be no difficulty or fear on the part of the Government or any other Member in the House in dealing with matters of urgency on a daily basis. It is agreed that the difficulty is that the Government are faced with what might be seen on occasions as a disorderly onslaught from the Opposition benches in trying to raise matters of importance. Members might also worry in regard to short notice and the lack of opportunity to collect their thoughts to prepare a reasoned response. All those fears and worries are products of rules and regulations for the order of the House which have not been addressed comprehensively since the establishment of the Houses. As I said, we borrowed our rules and regulations from the imperial parliament of Westminster and have not changed or addressed them since.
The report and the motion we are discussing are proof positive that this House is capable of taking on the most complex procedural amendments and changes, provided it is done in the realisation that it will benefit us all. Changes can and should be made in the best interest of all Members.
My experience of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges — and any other forum in which Dáil reform has been debated — has been that there is a reluctance on the part of the Government of the day to open up procedures in the House for more relevant and immediate debate simply because it is comfortable for them to have the protection of rules that require an order to be made one week in advance and to deflect a push by the Opposition to try to get one over. Unfortunately, that has been my experience during the short time I have been on the committee. The report and the motion show that if we realise that there is a common interest on all sides of the House we can achieve a great deal.
Deputy De Rossa made a point this morning about the scheduling of business so that we would not have the unseemly cramming of work which we have had over the last week requiring unnecessary guillotines, rows and debates on the  Order of business. We should in the new session when we are putting in the technical equipment try to adopt new rules and a new order in this House so that we obviate the need for unnecessary confrontation on the Order of Business and at other stages. That is something I would urge.
In that regard it is important to know that the motion today carries a second factor, that is, that the work of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in regard to Dáil reform should continue. It recognises that there is work to be done in that area and that the committee should continue with those deliberations. The Workers' Party have tabled an amendment to include a representative of our group on that committee. At the last meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges there was an indication from all sides that the time is now right for the accession of a representative of The Workers' Party, the only group so far omitted from the Dáil reform committee, to the committee.
Mr. McCartan: We have put that matter to the House in the form of amendment No. 7 and I hope the Minister of State, on behalf of the Government, will accept it. Certainly there were indications, as I have said, that there was no difficulty in dealing with the matter.
I regret that in standing to address this motion I have not been able to express the feelings of honour and achievement expressed by all the other contributors so far. I would like to have been able to do so but was unsuccessful in convincing the committee that I, on behalf of The Workers' Party, should have worked with the group dealing with televising. I am not very upset, beyond the fact of principle, because the product of the group at the end of the day is an excellent one that is based on the fact that all sides realised the inevitability of the reform and the absolute benefit to us all inside and outside the House. On that basis The Workers' Party readily seek to involve  themselves in the on-going deliberations of the working group on reform. I hope amendment No. 7, dealing with our inclusion in that working group, will be accepted today.
The issue the committee have to look at is the need to have, in the workings of the Parliament, effective committee systems. The report provides for the televising of those committees but suggests that that cannot happen until the issue of witnesses is clarified. However, a vast amount of other work not involving the attendance of witnesses can be and is being undertaken by these committees. We should place greater emphasis on the suggestion that we begin to televise the workings of those committees as soon as possible. I had contemplated an amendment to suggest that the televising of committee proceedings should begin by the end of March 1991, but I fear that we will concentrate too much on what is going on in this House and relegate, as we have done for too long, the position of committees to second best. Proper reform of this House must involve bringing to the fore the concept of committee work as an integral and important part of Dáil deliberations.
Secondly, we have to look, yearly, weekly and daily, at the scheduling of the work of this House. The idea of adjourning for over three months at any one time is not acceptable. We should bring the hours of working to something approaching a normal working week. We also have to deal with the needs of a modern Parliament, and obviously the idea of electronic voting must be considered.
Despite the problems, the vast majority of Members see the televising of the Dáil as a progressive and welcome development. However, there is real division on the question of who should get the contract. There are strong economic and broadcasting grounds on which the contract should be given to RTE. We, as a party, hold no particular brief for RTE. We have had our disputes with them, as have all other groups in this House, over the years. We have often found ourselves squeezed out of crucial programmes at  election time. This year, having gained the 5 per cent of the electoral support necessary to qualify for the live broadcasting of our Ard Fheis, we found that RTE were planning to reduce by half the time we would receive for live coverage. We fought that successfully this year, and I have no doubt we will have to fight the issue again next year.
RTE have not made the best possible use of the sound broadcasting of Dáil proceedings. They invested considerable money in setting up the system and allocated capable and dedicated staff to the Oireachtas broadcasting unit, but apart from occasional inputs into news programmes, they seem to totally underuse the facilities available to them. The “Today in the Dáil” programme is scheduled in the broadcasting graveyard of 10.40 p.m. when radio audiences are at their lowest and ——
Mr. McCartan: ——the “This Week in the Dáil” programme goes out so early on Saturday morning that I am sure the audience is similarly limited. I hope that, irrespective of the outcome of his debate, RTE will look again at the scheduling of these progammes. However, these matters should be put aside and a decision as to who will get the broadcasting contract should be made only on the basis of their submissions and on their record in the television area.
The criteria as to who should get the contract are laid down in the report of the technical adviser employed by the group in considering the matter. In Appendix III, page 12, the adviser lays down seven separate criteria. He questions whether the company have financial and corporate stability: do the company have proper regard for the dignity of the Oireachtas; are the company familiar with the procedures of the Oireachtas; do the company have experience in news or current affairs progammes; will the company have regard to impartiality — that is essential; will the company be able to provide the proper staffing and back-up on a continuous basis; and will the  company be able to provide a suitable security system?
The report then goes on to review the position of each one of the competing contractors and says of RTE: “They have been around the Oireachtas for years, they know the procedures and most of the people, they have an established record of reasonable impartiality, they have (by consent of the Oireachtas!) financial and corporate stability, they clearly have experience in news and current affairs, will be able to staff at least adequately and are totally aware of the security implications.”
In assessing RTE's submissions, the adviser entirely lost sight of those original criteria. In the debate on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, the arguments against RTE borrowed on those remarks one of which was that in their final submission, RTE propose to put microphones on the front seats. Perhaps there will be a time when microphones may be needed there, who knows but that was pointed out as a failure of fundamental importance. Another was the hitches that arose on the opening day of the Seanad Chamber. I do not think anyone could measure the overall capacity of RTE to do the job based on those two items.
In regard to the arguments on technical standards and on all the criteria laid down by the adviser which I have read out, RTE must be miles ahead. The people who argue against RTE on the grounds of cost suggest that their figures must in some way be weighted because of the State subsidy. I cannot understand that argument. The State subsidy is guaranteed and is part of their financial makeup. Why are they not entitled to borrow from it? I believe we should be looking at the gross figures, and the RTE figure of £333,000 is over £200,000 less than what Windmill Lane are proposing to charge the Oireachtas for the service. Where does the difference arise between the two. Windmill Lane work on a projected figure that they could earn £280,000 from marketing the service and consequently theirs is the better financial  package. However, that is entirely speculative and it speculates on a market that is as yet untried and there is no indication in any of the documents as to where the revenue might come from except from a curious letter delivered by TV3 to Windmill Lane saying that they would be prepared to pay £150,000. That is like Windmill Lane writing to itself — that letter is an insult to the intelligence of members of the committee and to Members of this House — because in fact Windmill Lane are the major part of the TV3 consortium. As Deputy Howlin has pointed out, TV3 is not yet in existence and there are substantial question marks hanging over whether it will ever come into existence.
I have noted the remarks made by the Minister for Communications last night that he could smooth the introduction of TV3 to the airwaves by shifting the goal posts. If they are coming, let them come, but I read into the remarks made by the Minister last night another attack on the status and existence of RTE. It was regrettable that it was made on the eve of a major debate in this House on the awarding of the contract.
As I have said, RTE are not charging for any staff costs or for any maintenance costs or any other additional charges. These are all extreme variables in any future planning of development. While there is a five year contract built into the award of contract there are grave worries whether the contractor can hold the contract in the circumstances.
We cannot walk away from the issue of prestige. The point must be made that RTE are the national broadcasting agency and have served the State and this House well in the past. RTE place importance nationally and internationally on the prestige of getting the contract and we have insulted them greatly today.
While it has to be acknowledged that RTE's original proposal was extraordinarily poor and reflected no credit on the organisation, it seems to me that from the very beginning the majority of Fianna Fáil and the Fine Gael Deputies saw this as a matter not to be decided on an issue  but as an opportunity to settle the score with RTE over what they saw as unfair coverage over the years.
Mr. McCartan: Former Government Ministers, in particular, who felt that either their individual contributions had not been recognised or that their Government had been treated shabbily by RTE led the charge to ensure that the contract went to anyone other than RTE.
Mr. McCartan: That was particularly evident in the days after the RTE interview with the Minister for Tourism and Transport, Deputy Brennan. I had experience of Deputies on the Government side saying that under no circumstances would the contract go to RTE.
Mr. McCartan: I join in paying tribute to the members of the working group, the members of the committee and the staff who worked so hard and delivered such a good document in virtually all respects. I will comment briefly on the amendments. We, The Workers' Party and the Labour Party, support the proposition that the contract should go to RTE. We would like to see a representative of all groups in the House, as defined under Standing Order 89, being included on the monitoring sub-committee. There I am obviously looking to the interests of The Workers' Party. Amendment No. 7 in my name provides for the inclusion of The Workers' Party in the working group on Dáil reform.
Today is an important day in the development of this House and for democracy generally. I hope that the timescale we have set ourselves will be met fully. I wish the technical work that has to be got under way every success. I hope that in the interim period we will seize the opportunity not only to put  technical but procedural innovations in place.
Mr. Lawlor: I, with my colleagues who served on this small working committee, were charged by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges will be looking at various aspects of this rather complex matter and reporting back to the House today. I wish to pay a glowing compliment to my colleague, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Brady, who steered the debate on very complex technical and financial matters and the broader issues of televising the proceedings of the Dáil. I would like to put on record my appreciation, and no doubt the appreciation of all interested in this subject, of the work that Deputy John Bruton did in pioneering and producing a policy paper on televising the Dáil some years back. This was an innovative document which was well researched and, I am sure, took a tremendous amound of time and effort. It set the scene for the debate.
The other members of the committee, Deputy Jim Higgins, Deputy Howlin and the former Deputy Colley, who was a member of the committee at an early stage, should be mentioned. We were very fortunate that we had very competent back-up and expertise was brought on board from EOLAS. We then set about achieving a quality end to the workings of the committee.
It is understandable that we will move away from the cornerstone of the work we were mandated to do, that was to see how we could provide a clean feed — in the buzz language of the industry — or high quality pictures for the Dáil, the basic technical requirements of the sub-committee. The broader implications of the method of broadcast, the control by the Ceann Comhairle and other ongoing issues after the installation of television, are obviously matters of major importance, but form the basis of the ongoing requirement. Our primary aim was to prepare a report setting our how we should go about televising the proceedings of the Dáil. It was our duty to  give all the technical details of the process involved.
The other speakers have given their views on how the televising of our proceedings would benefit the House. There is no doubt that people can learn from viewing the proceedings of the House, particularly those studying politics and the role and responsibility of elected Members. The public will be in a position to assess our work in the Chamber and I have no doubt that that will be of benefit to the Dáil and to our political system. We met members and the Leaders of the Houses of Parliament in Toronto and Ottawa, Members and the Speaker of the House of Commons and discussed the televising of the proceedings of their respective Parliaments. It is obvious from those discussions that the Ceann Comhairle will have a major role to play to ensure that the workings of the Dáil will be presented in a balanced way on television. There is no doubt that he will have to exercise strict control over debates. I hope that will not prove to be too onerous a task and that Members will behave in a responsible way.
It is my hope that the televising of the proceedings will not result in dramatic scenes like those we witnessed in Canada such as the fish incident or the displaying by a member of the telephone number of the Minister for Social Welfare at a time when the workers in his Department were on strike. That member encouraged the staff, and those entitled to social welfare benefits, to telephone the Minister and demand the payments that were not being made during the strike. We were made aware of the abuses by some members of the system but the control of the cameras by responsible technicians has dealt with those abuses. The committee went as far as they could in their investigations and produced an outstanding report. The members were determined to broaden the scope of the coverage to the maximum extent possible.
We learned of the reaction of the general public to the televising of the proceedings of the regional parliament in Toronto and the federal parliament in  Ottawa. Members of those parliaments were mildly surprised at the interest expressed in their proceedings by the public. They did not expect that the public would be interested in watching politicians on television or in watching the Prime Minister, or Ministers answering questions during question time. Research showed that interest was as high as 30 per cent. They have branched out into the educational dimension and that is something we should pursue. Obviously, the televising of our proceedings will be of interest to many interest groups. For example, during this week members of the Defence Forces, and their families, would have been interested in watching the debate on the Defence (Amendment) Bill. I accept, as Deputy Bruton said, that we must wait until the MMDS system is in operation before we can hope to have a special channel allotted to Dáil proceedings.
Overall the experience in Canada was good. While in that country we met representatives of the print media and of the Canadian Communications Organisation, their equivalent of our RTE. One would imagine that the print media would not look favourably on the televising of the proceedings of parliament but that was not the view of the Canadians. The print media were given access to photographic material of the proceedings and that acted as a counterbalance. Those involved in the print media did not feel that the televising of the proceedings took from the interest in their reporting of parliament. Our people have had an opportunity to get an idea of what the televising of the proceedings of parliament would be like since the cameras were placed in the House of Commons. I understand that there is a good interest in those proceedings, particularly in question time and when particular issues are raised. We have learned from other countries that the general public have an interest in watching the proceedings of their parliament on television. They have welcomed that development.
Deputy Howlin referred to developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The countries we thought were  under State control have commenced televising the proceedings of their parliaments. It is quite a spectacle to see the 2,500 members of the Soviet parliament voting on any issue. We continue to struggle with our procedures and there is a need for a breath of fresh air as far as they are concerned. We must improve our procedures.
I should like to refer to the submissions from Gandon, RTE, Windmill Lane and Strongbow. We studied those submissions in detail and decided that the submissions from Gandon and Windmill Lane were worthy of serious consideration. The first submission from RTE lacked technical information and did not tell us much about the use of technical equipment, models of cameras and so on. When I was appointed to the committee I assumed that RTE were the only group in the country who were capable of televising the proceedings of the Dáil. I was not familiar with the work of the other organisations but their presentations showed us that we had a choice.
On a number of occasions we went back to RTE in an effort to bring them to a level playing pitch. We were concerned at a later stage that in our efforts to be able to compare like with like we were favouring them. We met the director general of RTE and his senior executives. I do not think any person can be critical of the conclusions we have reached.
Our recommendation to the House is virtually the original proposal submitted by the successful organisation, Windmill Studios. They, and Gandon, when the first brief was issued, visited Canada before they presented submissions to the committee. They sought expert advice from the Canadians on how to televise the proceedings of a parliament. The financial considerations are dealt with in our recommendations. On the more general point which has arisen and has been referred to in the discussion, the merits  and demerits of RTE and the coverage of current affairs, political events and so on it is not particularly relevant to the decision we have to make. There is a perception in the political arena generally that there is a certain tiredness in the area of current affairs coverage in recent years after a very dynamic standard had been set by a very progressive group of personnel. Perhaps it is because people are in that particular area for too long. That is no criticism. I hope that the actual presentation of the workings of the Chamber will give the current affairs production people in the various media who want to pick up the signal a new impetus to their programmes so that they do not have to try to create a mini-Chamber in the “Today Tonight” studio and set up the confrontational discussion.
The experience gleaned from discussions with other parliamentarians and particularly the broadcasting personnel responsible for coverage is that this has enormous educational potential. One can understand the workings of the Dáil when it is explained although one gets the impression that it would not be of tremendous interest. There is great interest in the budget and this will be the first public showing of the workings of the House. We may not perceive it in the detail that others do, but accountants, the business community and people concerned with social welfare issues would all be concerned with the broad content of the financial statement, and it is of tremendous interest to every member of the community. For that reason that aspect of the workings of the Dáil has a very wide appeal. Specific groups where legislation affects their industry are bound to be interested, as well third level students of economics, current affairs and all the various faculties where legislation comes into the particular subjects. There is great potential and a need to improve our own performance. Because we will be viewed by the people the speeches will be more relevant, will deal with the specific issues, and will probably be shorter and better researched, thus improving the content of the debate.
 We will not be able to judge the importance of this day until four or five years from now when people can give a considered reaction to the decision on the floor today. When they look back they will realise that, after a painstaking period, this small sub-committee to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in bringing before the House today this report for adoption on the televising of the workings of Dáil Éireann took a major step in the right direction. It is incumbent on all of us to make it work. Some of my colleagues referred to the fact that there was a tremendous cohesion of purpose and intent to do what was right for the operation of the Dáil. No Party preferences took precedence over any of our considerations and that augurs well for the ongoing reform of Dáil procedures. As you regularly point out, a Cheann Comhairle, if we do not like the restrictions or limitations that may prevail we have it in our own hands in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to make changes. When we make this decision I hope it will lead to many other worthwhile reforms.
There is an ambitious technical programme ahead. The staff of the House will have to carry the initial burden while the technical linking up and the various other aspects of preparing the Chamber for televising are put in hand during the summer recess. There is a need for a trial period in the autumn. I am sure the local gents' and ladies' outfitters will see an improvement in the sale of red ties and blue shirts——
Mr. Lawlor: The practical attitude of Deputies will not allow them to be carried away by too much of the trivia associated with appearing on television. Very soon the practical side of televising the Dáil will become secondary to the work and that is as it should be. It is meant to improve our method of communicating with the people who sent us here to represent them. I hope that the regions, particularly Deputy Kenny's region and the far away places from Dublin, that do not have the same access to the Dáil will benefit from it being shown on television. It will bring the people closer together and bring the decision-making aspect under greater scrutiny. I have no doubt, because of the interest in current affairs and politics in Ireland, the televising of the Dáil will be a step in the right direction.
I am very pleased that we have ended on this co-operative note. I respect the suggestions by the Labour Party and The Workers' Party that for ideological reasons they would have preferred that the national broadcasting organisation would be successful. Their objections were muted by the fact that they believe the job will be done in a professional manner. The five year proposal will be subject to review. I look forward to the technical installation and the trials in October.
It will be up to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to set up some form of dialogue, with the Members of the House, on the workings of television and the way in which we can be of assistance as a sub-committee during the autumn. We want to ensure that the presentation of the Dáil meets the highest  standards which the Irish people would expect their House of Parliament to convey to ourselves, to Europe and the rest of the world.
In regard to the final report, I hope there will be international interest in various aspects of our discussions here and also in the United States, where there is such a large Irish American population, and that when matters of international importance are televised we can reach out and have televised contact with many Irish people throughout the world. Events such as the address of the President of the United States and the address of the Prime Minister of Australia were international events in the House.
Mr. J. Higgins: Is mór an onóir domsa bheith páirteach sa díospóireacht seo. Tá chuile thaobh anseo aontaithe gur lá anstairiúil ar fad é. Bhíomar ar aon ghuth ar beagnach gach gné den obráid. Is annamh ariamh a chas mé ar dhaoine taobh istigh de chomhchoiste a rinne an méid sin comhoibrithe agus a chonaiceamar sa chomhchoiste seo. Nuair a bheimid ar theilifís agus cúrsaí an Tí seo os comhair an náisiúin ar na scannáin, tá súil agam go mbeidh i bhfad níos mó de chúrsaí náisiúnta agus ábhair eile á bplé trí Ghaeilge.
As has been said, this is a historic day for this House. We here have been elected individually and have been entrusted with the supreme power and authority to put in place the legal framework for the conduct of the affairs of the nation. As that is the ultimate power it is only right that we should do everything possible within the constitutional demand  to bring Parliament to the people and to remove the veneer of aloofness, mystique and sense of distance which unfortunately seems to exist between the proceedings of the Oireachtas and the citizenry outside.
I concur with the speakers who said that that sense of distance seems to have been unfortunately accentuated despite the fact that we have a very substantial core of political correspondents in this House. Unfortunately over the years there has been a very perceptible diminution in the amount of publicity the affairs of this House receive in the national media. It can happen on days when both the Dáil and Seanad are sitting that not one single iota of the full day's deliberations in either House is reported. On other occasions when quite serious matters have been discussed in this House items of a rather sensational and trivial nature gain the headlines.
I am not in any way impugning the political correspondents because the Press Gallery is very seldom unoccupied. We know they do their work well, avidly report the proceedings of the House and convey those proceedings to the relevant newspapers. Unfortunately there seems to be an editorial decision somewhere, it seems to be a collective decision, that as little as possible of the proceedings of this House be presented to the nation by way of proper coverage the next day.
One of the reasons I welcome the advent of television is that it will create an element of competition between the newspapers and radio and television on the proper reporting of the proceedings of this House. I want to re-emphasise that I do not in any way apportion blame for the lack of media coverage of the proceedings to the political correspondents. They sit here throughout debates, which sometimes are laborious and tedious, and do their work. I hope that as a result of this debate and the advent of competition the editors of the newspapers will take their jobs and role more seriously.
I agree that we will have to do something to reform the House. As has been said, this House is crying out for reform and many of the procedures are  extremely archaic. The suggestion put forward by the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Dick Spring, about electronic voting should be looked at. Indeed, I do not see any reason why we need go that far. There are occasions when it would be possible to conduct a vote in this House by way of a show of hands, a great time saving exercise, which would be a clear indication of how somebody wishes to cast his vote or her vote on a particular issue.
We will have to seriously consider how we conduct the Order of Business in this House. It is not that I want to deprive Members of their right to raise crunch issues but the suggestion made by Deputy Bruton about a specially assigned grievance hour would do much to defuse what we regard as disorderly behaviour on the Order of Business.
While we in this House are privy to the Order Paper I agree that something will have to be done to make sure that the content, thrust and spirit of the question is conveyed to the Minister either by allowing the Members to present their questions orally or by introducing some kind of subtitle, abbreviating the title or using some other mechanism. We will be actively considering this issue during our deliberations on the reform of Dáil procedures. We will also have to get away from the set, pre-prepared scripted monologue and introduce a committee-type debate so that we will have a better quality debate.
I want to pay tribute to everybody who tendered for the contract. We were very fortunate in that we received top class submissions. There was very little in terms of presentation and content between the submissions of the Gandon Group, Strongbow or Windmill Lane. I want to rebut any suggestions that there might have been any predetermined prejudice against the submission of RTE. I believe it was the reverse and that many of us, to use a lay man's term, have a very soft spot for RTE, the national television company. RTE do an extremely good job and many of us would have liked the quality of their submission to have been of a higher standard which  would have enabled us to give them the contract.
Unfortunately, from the word go, there seemed to be, for some indiscernible reason, a smugness, a disinterest and almost an attitude of taking it for granted by them that they would have the guaranteed right to be given the contract. When the RTE submission did not come up to scratch initially they were given a second bite at the cherry to address the job specification and the various points we wanted answered so that everybody would be on a level playing pitch and we could evaluate like with like. Unfortunately at the end of the day the RTE submission was not adequate.
A number of points were raised by The Workers' Party and the Labour Party which will have to be dealt with in this House today. There was no price differential between the companies. I would submit that the reverse is the case. For example, Windmill Lane submitted a payroll cost of £122,750. There will be a staffing complement for the House of six plus a broadcast manager. RTE quoted a figure of £14,000 for a staffing complement of six and a broadcast manager. That would not pay the salary of one Member for a year. Therefore, one can only draw the conclusion that RTE were using their priviledged position as the national broadcaster in order to compensate and pick up the tab on behalf of the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The actual situation is that RTE would not have been picking up the tab; John Citizen, the licence holder, would have been picking up the tab. In regard to maintenance — this has to be a factor — Windmill Lane quoted a figure of £18,600 but there was no quotation from RTE which would mean Seán Citizen would again have to pick up the tab. All of the companies except RTE submitted a management fee. Windmill Lane gave a management fee of £64,088 but again there was nothing from RTE. We have no doubt but that RTE will carry out their own management but again it will be the citizen in Kildare Street who will have to pay for it. We accept that there has to be an element of miscellaneous  expenses as a type of financial shock absorber. Windmill Lane gave a sum of £18,400 for miscellaneous expenses while RTE gave nothing.
In addition to the financial aspect, the key factor for me in making up my mind related to marketing. A certain amount of scorn has been thrown on the figures given by Windmill Lane and the Gandon Group on the possible marketing income. I believe this was the single greatest determinant in who the contract should go to because it got to the core of RTE's attitude from the very start, that is, they did not seem to have an appetite for the job. We expect whoever gets this job to market the House, present it and deal with their remit, which is to enhance the workings, image and perspective of this House outside and defuse a lot of the antagonism and public antipathy and apathy, to which Deputy Howlin referred.
I wish to pay tribute the chairman of our working group, Minister of State, Deputy Vincent Brady, who was extremely patient and receptive to the views of all sides. In addition, I wish to pay a very special tribute to my colleague, Deputy John Bruton, the man with the vision and the determination to set it all in train. I wish also to pay a very special tribute to the group without whom we could not have performed our duty, that is the technical support group, because none of us would claim to have anything like the indepth technical knowledge to make a concrete evaluation of the various submissions at the end of the day. Last, but by no means least, I want to join with my colleague the chairman, Minister of State, Deputy Brady, in paying a special tribute to the clerk of the committee, Mrs. Pat O'Grady, for the tremendous service she gave the committee with the magnificent grasp she had of every detail and for the thorough and very intensive presentation she gave of all the minutiae of a very difficulty remit. At the end of the day what we got were the raw unvarnished facts that enabled us to make what we hope is the right decision.
Deputy Howlin said that Windmill  Lane Studios had no track record in journalism, just production. This is not a journalistic job but a production job. Deputy Howlin also stated that Windmill Lane Studio might have a conflict of interests if they were trying to collect money from TV3 in which they have a shareholding. The same, however, would apply to RTE who would be doing both jobs at once. Deputy McCartan gave the impression that RTE were not given a fair crack of the whip. I want to emphasise they were given every chance; indeed they got a second bite of the cherry but unfortunately their second submission, while being a significant improvement on the first, did not meet the standards of the others.
I suggest that as a group we should, over the five years, commission a scientific research on the impact of television on the image of the House among the public because that is vitally important. I share the view put forward by Deputy Bruton and supported by Deputy Howlin that we should persuade RTE to give access to the live feed which we now have by way of sound from this House because there is out there an extremely receptive ready market for local radio.
I would point out that we have shown a sense of adventure that other Parliaments do not have. For instance, in the House of Commons they do not have monitors in individual MP's rooms because it was thought it would prove a deterrent in getting people into the House. We do not have any fear in that regard. I share the view put forward by Deputy Bruton that our ultimate intention must be specially designated channel to give a live feed to the nation, warts and all.
There is a challenge here for RTE. This is a five year contract. If they really want the job and if they are good enough, it is out there for them when the five year contract is up and we are again looking for tenders. They are a financially strong monolithic organisation and if they are good enough we would be more than receptive. That challenge is out there for other tenders as well.
It is fair to say that in Irish life politics is very close to the surface and the further one moves from the capital city the more politically aware are the people. It is fitting that we have arrived in the first year of this decade in the closing years of the century at a situation where we propose to bring this House into the homes of the country. It is past time this was done.
This Chamber is a fit place in which to conduct national politics. It is far more conducive to good political debate than many of the other parliaments in the world and it is looked on with great respect by very many people. In the summer of 1976 I brought a life-long supporter of a particular political party into the Dáil to show him around. He had the opportunity to sit on one of the benches opposite because the House was not in session. The man in question broke out in a sweat at having the opportunity to sit in a seat in Dáil Éireann. People who support parties of all sides will now have the opportunity to see their representatives on television debating issues that are important to them. It is a new adventure in Irish politics. On one of my first visits to the US I was astounded at the continuous debate and consultation that went on in the American political channels either in committees or the main Houses.
The value of Deputy Bruton's document will be seen in the years ahead, because we do not have a major civics programme in our school system. The Minister for Education is here and I know people will be glad to have the opportunity to see her on television speaking in the House or answering questions. There are many young intelligent people out there who have no interest in politics at present but on whose lives politics has an impact. They will now  have a greater understanding of the workings of democracy, of the way the House operates and who stands for what.
Local radio has been referred to. There is an enormously receptive market for good local radio and there is no reason this new adventure in politics cannot be taken up in the same way because we are now in a growth area of sub-contracting news items; people who have worked with national television channels are now setting up on their own in the business of news collection for sub-contracting to various stations. What emanates from this House will be of critical importance in the formation of the political opinions of a rising generation as we edge towards the end of this century and that is very important indeed.
Politics and politicians have taken a deal of bashing, and rightly so in some cases, in the recent past. Indeed, were some of the debates conducted in either House to be conducted live on national television it would change the TAM ratings of some programmes very abruptly indeed. Whether we like it or not, people out there talk about what happens either in their personal activities or in relation to decisions taken in the House. From that point of view I agree with many of the speakers who said that the rules and regulations of the House should be changed to some extent to make them more flexible.
I remember trying to operate a system of change within the Committee on Procedure and Privileges some years ago in regard to the stand-up vote procedure where when there are not enough Members to call a full vote the House is delayed for the full voting period while the bells ring. People come from their rooms etc. to the Chamber, the Ceann Comhairle calls upon the people backing the motion to rise, and if there are not sufficient Members, that is, ten, there is no full vote but the names are recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the House. It still delays the House. Deputies Spring, McCartan and Higgins have already called for the system of voting to be updated.
I note that in many assemblies in the United States it is possible for members  to raise for one minute at the commencement of business an item of topical or national interest. It is also possible to have included in the official record an expanded statement which need not necessarily be read to the House.
A degree of experimentation by the controller and editor of programmes would be necessary in regard to what is actually seen on television. As former Deputy John Kelly once remarked, we do not want to see potbellied TDs like overweight cow punchers discussing matters relevant to various parts of the country.
Mr. Kenny: The fringe elements will be given a boost by the televising of the Dáil. In discussions recently with the British/Irish parliamentary association a member told me that all members of the House of Commons were given instructions generally on the kind of clothes they should wear and it was not too bad until they had their first nationally televised nose picker. Obviously things must be controlled very carefully, otherwise we would reduce the decorum of the House considerably. I hope Members themselves will understand the importance of what is being televised.
Representatives from around the country are very different in character. Some are shy, others are not. Some are nothing but neck and some are all words. Obviously the editor will have to take this into account since some people are born television performers and others fear appearing on television. One bad television performance in the political context can ruin a person for life. When various official functions take place certain people always tend to move into the picture and be there for the all-important shot. The Minister for Education has been known to call in certain Members, depending on the political pressure being exerted at various times.
As a person who did not serve on this committee I do not really understand why  RTE as the national broadcasting station did not make a better impact in their effort to portray what they preceive this channel ultimately to be worth. In the appendix to the committee's report there are four blank spaces in regard to costings from RTE which were not submitted. One can only conclude that, while RTE have given a first class service to education, politics and so on throughout the years, they were not serious in their effort to win this contract.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this historic day. I hope that when the system is fully implemented it will give citizens a true understanding of what it means to live in a democratic society and to have the right to a secret ballot to elect people to this House to discuss and decide upon issues of importance for our country.
Mr. Browne: (Carlow/Kilkenny): Cuirim fáilte roimh an tairiscint seo. Tabharfaidh sé seans don ghnáthdhuine — cé gur deacair don ghnáthdhuine é a thuiscint i gceart — an obair atá ar siúl sa Teach seo a fheiceáil. Chuir sé ionadh orm i gcónaí — agus rinne an Teachta Kenny tagairt do seo cheana — go bhfuil a lán daoine a bhfuil baint acu leis an bpolaitíocht leis na blianta agus nach raibh riamh sa Teach seo. Rinne sé tagairt freisin do dhuine éigin a tháinig isteach leis. He said he broke out in a sweat when he sat in the seats over there.
I welcome the televising of proceedings in the Dáil Chamber because it will help to give an image of politics as it really is. The image created by people who report on politics is often not balanced. The routine of politics is a boringly hard slog in many cases. If reporters were to report verbatim everything that happens in the Dáil, the number of readers would dry up very quickly. It is very difficult to put across a story that will catch the eye and be worth reading. The televising of the Dáil will allow those who have an interest the opportunity of seeing what goes on.
 We all remember the television programme “Yes, Minister” which was extremely popular, even with politicians. When people hear the rí rá agus ruaille buaille that goes on here in the morning many of them feel that we have a ready-made television programme called “Yes, Ceann Comhairle — no, Deputy”. The Ceann Comhairle has to overrule 40 people on any given morning when they seek to raise problems. It is not his fault. Standing Orders are such that he cannot accept the raising of these matters.
Television will force this House into the next century ten years early. One of my early criticisms when I came to this House was the archaic system which has survived here. I would welcome the modernising of procedures. Having been a Member of the Seanad in the days when one was proud to be so, I am aware of the sensible system there whereby motions for the Adjournment are submitted in writing at a certain time and the Cathaoirleach announces that he has selected two out of, say, 25. Members of the Dáil jump up and down like yo-yos each morning seeking to raise various topics and the Ceann Comhairle has to go through the routine of telling each Deputy he will get in touch with him. It is very time-consuming and anything that will improve procedures will be welcome.
I would also welcome the televising of a Committee Stage so that people could see what it is all about. A Minister may spend two days discussing with Opposition Deputies whether to use the word “shall” or the word “may”. People may say it is boring but they will know that the slog of politics can be routine and boring. A TD's life is not all glamour.
Very early in my time here I criticised the sound system in this Dáil. I welcome the advent of television here because it means that automatically the sound system has to change. Deputy Spring today mentioned the voting system. All these things will have to be changed. In the long run if we are going to show things on TV which suggest chaos rather than order we will be doing ourselves harm. We cannot but gain from having the proceedings televised. It will raise standards.  I suppose we will all have mirrors here and have to ensure that our hair is combed properly.
Mr. Browne: (Carlow-Kilkenny): However, they are asides. Deputy Kenny mentioned the incident of the nose picker in the Houses of Parliament in Westminister. I assure him that while we may have nitpickers here, we have no nose pickers.
Mr. Deasy: This resolution is very welcome. The Dáil and its Members have fallen into disrepute in recent years where the general public are concerned. Much cynicism has been generated outside among the public where politicians and politics are concerned, probably justly deserved in many instances. Therefore, we need a new image and we need it quickly. I am glad the resolution before us today does not provide merely for the televising of the Dáil but also for the extension of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges' deliberations on Dáil reform. I consider that much more important than televising Dáil proceedings. The Minister is asking for an extension until the Christmas recess of the committee's deliberations on this matter. This Dáil had better reform itself from within because my gut instinct is that it will be reformed from without if we do not do something about it fairly urgently. There is cynicism and dissatisfaction about the way politicians are operating in the political syndrome and about the lack of results from this Chamber.
In my opinion this House should meet for something like 45 weeks of the year, not 30 or 27 weeks and maybe three, possibly four days a week, but with more humane times. We have had a series of Dáil sessions this week from 10.30 a.m. until 12 midnight. This is an unhealthy state of affairs. Let us have sittings which start at 10.30 a.m. and conclude at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. at the latest. Let us see to it that what is discussed in this House is relevant.
 The Leader of the Labour Party had referred to the system of voting. It is ridiculous that we take up 25 minutes every time we have to vote in this House trudging through the lobbies for something that could be done by the press of a button in a split second. Those procedures will have to be streamlined and modernised.
We need more time for questions. With the advent of television the spoof which has been commonplace in this Chamber over the years will gradually disappear, or maybe quickly disappear, because the public will not tolerate it when they see it on TV. They will not tolerate it even when they come in here on visits. The overriding comment we get from people who visit the Dáil for the first time is, “We could not believe there were only five people in the Chamber” or “There were only two people in the Chamber”. We hear about a half empty Chamber. We have virtually an empty Chamber except for maybe two people.
Another factor is the drabness, dreariness and dullness of the contributions because Members are allowed to waffle on for maybe an hour or two hours on certain debates such as on the budget or the Finance Bill or on many major Bills. We need to streamline our activities not just through TV but through practical reform which will make this Chamber relevant and meaningful to the public — we are here as representatives of the public — and see their points are got across. Day after day there is bedlam in this Chamber on the Order of Business because people want to raise important matters which might concern not just their own constituencies but which might be matters of national or international importance, and they cannot be raised because of outdated procedures. We have had as many as 25 or 30 people offering to raise items here and, of course, on the one day only two at maximum can be debated on the Adjournment. We must see to it that matters which are relvant can be raised.
We can learn from other parliaments.  I understand that in the House of Commons in England matters can be raised which are of particular urgency. We are supposed to be able to raise such matters here by way of private notice question, but nine times out of ten it does not work. For instance, this week I attempted to do so on the sitution in Lithuania when we were threatened with a Russian massacre of the Lithuanian people such as happened in Hungary in the fifties and in Czechoslovakia in the sixties. I was told I could not raise it by private notice question because it lacked urgency. Does the whole Lithuanian race have to be massacred before the matter acquires urgent proportions? That is a typical example of where matters of national or international importance should be raised and discussed here but are not allowed to be discussed here. It will be another four weeks before we can be allowed any discussion on such matters.
In the reform we should also be allowed to ask parliamentary questions during the Dáil recess. If the Dáil goes into recess in the last week of June and comes back in the third week in October, TDs have no more relevance than county councillors, urban councillors or town commissioners. They cannot raise a matter because the Dáil is not sitting and they cannot ask a parliamentary question. You can be writing to a certain Department or ministry until the cows come home and you will not get a relevant reply.
Procedures must be updated. This House must be made relevant and if it is not reformed from within the public will see it is reformed from without and every oddball in the country will be elected to this House. The tendency is in that direction already. There is a dramatic swing in certain directions in Irish politics. People will not stand for the status quo because the status quo is not doing what they think is suitable for the country. Therefore, let us get our heads together, be responsible and not be looking for political kudos or one-up-manship. Let all wellmeaning people get together and see that this House really does the work the people outside wish  it to do, in other words shake off the cobwebs.
I do not agree with my colleague Deputy John Browne that it is a good idea to televise all debates and Committee Stages of Bills. I think Committee Stage debates should never come into this Chamber. There should be a secondary Chamber where Committee Stages would be debated. Second Stage Bills should be debated in this Chamber and a considerably lengthened Question Time should be allowed in this Chamber also. Let Committee Stage be carried out elsewhere and let the votes be taken at an appointed time. As we have seen in the last couple of weeks, Committee Stage can drag on for days or weeks on end with only a spokesperson and the Minister in attendance. Committee Stage is highly technical and God help us if we show Committee Stage of a technical Bill on television because it will be the most boring viewing of all time.
We were told this morning on the Order of Business that 11 important Bills are waiting to be discussed in this House. Why have they not been introduced? Because there have been tedious and lengthy Committee Stage debates on other Bills. Legislation should be passed quickly and enacted so that it can serve its purpose.
Deputy Kenny covered the apparent fears of Deputies when he spoke about the pot-bellies and the way in which the keep fit gymnasiums in the vicinity of Leinster House will thrive. The menu in the restaurant will be full of low calorie meals and all the fat will go. I should like the restaurant committee to bear that in mind. Deputy Bell need not worry, I was not deliberately looking at him. The beauty parlours and the gymnasiums in Kildare Street, Dawson Street and Merrion Row will be working overtime.
Mr. Deasy: Yes, but it would not have added to the stature of the House. Televising of the Dáil is fine but, if it is not accompanied by drastic reform of Dáil procedures, it will backfire on the system as we know it. The procedures should be reformed before the Dáil is televised. It was like “Dallas” in the Seanad last week and I need not say who JR was. Members can guess. We do not want disrepute as far as the Houses of the Oireachtas are concerned. Let us reform from within before the masses outside reform us.
Mr. Nealon: I have been attending the Dáil on a regular basis, in one capacity or another, since 1954 when I joined as a junior reporter with a reasonably good shorthand note. Only one person — Deputy Blaney — has longer service but, unfortunately, my service does not carry pension rights, except for a limited period.
This development is the most important, dramatic and fundamental change in Dáil procedures during my long time here. It is undoubtedly progress but it is also — as has been pointed out — fraught with danger. Dáil Deputies in future will act for the camera. All Deputies are actors at heart, they yearn for the acclaim of an audience. They fancy that their performance here is in an Oscar-winning mould. Undoubtedly, with the addition of the cameras, the acting element will be accentuated. Some speeches made here are far too long and are repetitious but that is when Deputies are talking to empty seats. What will they be like, as far as the length of their speech is concerned, when there is a potential audience of one million or so? However, if the speech goes on for too long I can guarantee that there will not be a big  audience. These matters must be guarded against and while televising the Dáil is great progress we must prepare for it.
On the positive side it will enhance the role of Deputies as legislators. There may in future be other ways of retaining your seat other than by diligent clinic work. I am not disparaging this work which I like to do on behalf of my constituents but it would be a good idea if a diligent performance in the Dáil, doing the job as a legislator, which should be his or her initial role, could be highlighted by television.
Before the Dáil is televised on the next budget day we must concentrate on reforming the procedures of the House, otherwise it will be a disaster. There must be a limit on speeches and if people are curtailed they will get their points over much more quickly than if they are allowed to ramble on. I also understand that it is a tradition of the House that Members on the Opposition side of the House are not entitled to read speeches. That is a silly tradition which should be got rid of immediately. If you prepare and write a speech it is far easier to make it concise, logical and less boring. Certainly a Deputy should be allowed to read it.
Mr. Nealon: I said that a Member who has a prepared speech should not be prohibited from reading it. As she is the master exponent of the ad lib speech in the House I would not deny it to the Minister for Education or, as she will be shortly after televising the Dáil, the spokesman for Education on the opposite side of the House.
Mr. Nealon: There should be major changes in the rules of the House and it is essential to change them immediately. I am very interested in the amendment tabled by the Labour Party regarding the archives which should be at the disposal or readily available to Members of the House. It is essential that that be included. Furthermore, if the present contractor ceases to be a contractor, the RTE archives should be handed over to the successor and that should be built into the scheme. The archives will turn out to be of incredible and untold value in the future. They may be as good a money-spinner as far as sales are concerned as is the current broadcasting of proceedings of the House. I welcome this development but essential to it is that every aspect of the proceedings of the House should be considered. Otherwise there will be the same interest for the public as the National History Museum; a bit of a curiosity.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. V. Brady): I thank all the Deputies for their contributions to what has been an interesting and informative debate. While there is some disagreement in relation to the arrangements for the introduction of the televising of proceedings, most notably in relation to the awarding of the contract, nevertheless I am glad that Deputies on all sides of the House welcome televising and are very enthusiastic about its early introduction.
Having been involved in the preparation of proposals for televising over the past year and a half, I am very pleased we are now in a position to approve a set of technical, administrative and financial arrangements for the establishment of a parliamentary television system. Many comments were made during the course of the debate with regard to the various arrangements,  particularly in relation to RTE, Windmill Lane and so on. Windmill Lane have very many years' experience as a producer and programme maker. The production of live proceedings of top broadcasting quality is vital as far as we are concerned and that is all that is required of the contractor. Journalistic input is a matter for the broadcaster, not for the contractor. This case was put very strongly, and to the satisfaction of the working group, by the various members of the groups who have worked diligently and thoroughly on our behalf.
Deputy Bruton in his contribution referred to procedural changes, voting arrangements and so on and I fully endorse many of his comments. We all appreciate there are many changes required and they should take place as quickly as possible. I have no doubt there will be many proposals for Dáil reform for consideration by the working group and I am satisfied that, with the excellent co-operation from everybody over the past year and a half in preparing this report, suitable arrangements can be made for Dáil reform before the end of this year.
One of the surprising features with regard to RTE's submission was a lack of enthusiasm for marketing. They showed no commitment whatever to marketing. As Deputy Bruton pointed out, this is an area which has tremendous potential. The private companies were very enthusiastic with regard to the possibilities of marketing. While RTE did not show any great enthusiasm in this regard, nevertheless they were prepared to pay £130,000 to Windmill Lane, Gandon or whoever obtained the franchise. This is surprising and we could only come to the conclusion that they did not realise the serious potential of Dáil broadcasting. There is tremendous potential for marketing and obviously Windmill Lane realised that.
With regard to the total figure of £280,000 for marketing, that only covers RTE and TV3. There is other potential;  for example, the BBC would be interested in purchasing material in relation to many of the topics discussed here, particularly on Anglo-Irish relations. European networks would be prepared to purchase material on debates relating to European affairs and the United States would purchase material on affairs affecting world policy and American policy. There is a market for this material and this is an area where RTE failed very badly. I cannot understand why they did not see the possibility for marketing.
With regard to the various amendments that have been put forward, a number were tabled by the Labour Party and The Workers' Party. I will deal first with amendments relating to paragraph 1. The Labour Party proposed that the word “broadcasters” be substituted by the words “broadcasting company”. The working group recommended that RTE, TV3 and indeed any other company that may be set up at national level in the future should join the Dáil on a broadcasting control committee. Therefore, if we were to accept the wording “broadcasting company” it would confine the membership of that committee to just one broadcaster. I cannot accept that amendment but I am in a position to accept an amendment to replace the word “broadcasters” with the words “broadcasting companies”. That should meet the criteria put forward by the Labour Party and would also cover any arrangements we might wish to make in the future.
Mr. Howlin: I would happily accept the Minister's amendment to the amendment if that is in order. The reason we used the words “broadcasting company” is that there is only one broadcasting company. Hopefully, there will be many others but currently there is only one. I would happily accept the Minister's amendment to substitute “broadcasters” with “broadcasting companies”.
Mr. V. Brady: You cannot win them all. I oppose the Labour Party amendment that copies of any contracts may be made available for inspection by Members of Dáil Éireann. The televising of proceedings will be a charge on the Vote of the Houses of the Oireachtas and indeed, as with all other expenditure from this Vote, it will be subject to sanction by the Minister for Finance and scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General. There is no precedent for what the Labour Party have proposed in the amendment in relation to this contract. In those circumstances I am unable to accept the amendment, but I am quite sure that Deputy Howlin will agree that any such contract can be examined not only by the Minister for Finance but will come before the Committee of Public Accounts, which is representative of all the parties in this House.
Mr. Howlin: A Cheann Comhairle, I wish to respond on amendment No. 2. I am sorry the Minister is not able to accept the amendment. If the contract is to be subject to scrutiny by some Members of the House, those involved in the committee, it should be available to all Members. The Minister of State has said this is unprecedented, but I think what we are doing is unprecedented. It is innovative, it is new and the thrust of virtually every contribution made today is that we should be trying to reform the archaic procedures of the House. Openness and scrutiny are the main thrust of many of the contributions. While I accept there is no intention on the part of anybody to try to hide anything, and I do not think it is the Minister's intention, there should be a clear signal that it is open to the scrutiny of the elected Members of this  House. I will be pressing my amendment, a Cheann Comhairle.
Mr. V. Brady: As we all appreciate, this precedent would pave the way for similar situations. The fact is, such agreement will be dealt with by the Minister for Finance and will come before the Committee of Public Accounts in the normal way. There is no question of anybody in the House wishing to hide behind a potential contract, and I know the Deputy appreciates that fully. Nevertheless, I feel my suggestion should meet the criteria. I was hopeful that Deputy Howlin would be in a position to accept that, but if we have to divide on it, so be it.
Mr. J. Bruton: In view of what the Minister has said that there would be significant and unforeseeable difficulties in departing from normally established procedures in regard to public contracts, I think if Deputy Howlin has a point, and he may have, it should apply to all Government contracts rather than to just this particular one. For that reason I would not be in favour of introducing it solely for this contract, but I would favour us examining, in whatever is the appropriate forum, the possibility of a more general openness in regard to Government contracts.
Mr. V. Brady: I certainly concur with what Deputy Bruton has said. We come to the most important amendment, which deals with the award of the contract. Both the Labour Party and The Workers' Party propose that it be given to RTE. I am fully satisfied that the recommendation to award the contract to Windmill Lane, in view of all the circumstances, is the correct one. That is not to say that RTE, as the national broadcasting station, will not have a very important role to play in the televising of Dáil proceedings. I have already gone into this in some detail in my opening remarks. I would also point out that the working group and the technical support group reached their conculsions independently of the consultants and the politicians.
 We must have regard to the expert advice given to us by those people, all of whom are experts in their respective fields. Even if one were to ignore their advice, and we politicians were to ignore the advice, the working group, as I have indicated earlier, had no alternative but to come to the conclusions they have come to, with with all due respect to the reservation Deputy Howlin has expressed, to award the contract to Windmill Lane.
There are one or two points I wish to address. It has been suggested, particularly by Deputy McCartan, that there was a certain bias on the part of the working group against RTE and that as a result the group's report was slanted totally against them. I reject that allegation totally and completely. I was involved in the examination of the proposals from the very beginning, as were other members of the working group. Windmill Lane, and indeed the other independent television companies, adopted a highly professional approach from the very start. They all submitted thoroughly researched proposals which in some cases were backed up by an excellent visual presentation. Indeed, it was only at their third attempt that RTE finally met the requirements of the working group, as Deputy McCartan has already indicated in his contribution, and only at that point did their proposals meet the standard of the Windmill Lane's original submission. The technical support group which consisted of civil servants, and as I have already said, had no political bias, agreed unanimously that Windmill Lane were the best equipped to undertake the project.
In those circumstances I believe we have come to the right decision and this question is the hub of the motion. Obviously, having taken all the submissions into consideration, I believe it is also the majority view of the House that the group have come to the correct decision. In those circumstances I cannot  accept the amendments being put forward either by the Labour Party or The Workers' Party.
Mr. Howlin: As the Minister of State has rightly said, it is the core issue to be decided. To the best of my ability I have made the case which I believe is unanswerable, to give this important prestigious contract to a company which has the capacity and the proven ability and the track record to do the job. I have said there is an unanswerable case for RTE in this regard. The two criteria we used at the end were: technical ability and financial ability. Technically, the two proposals, one from Windmill Lane and the other from RTE are on par, there is no dispute about that. As I argued in my contribution the RTE financial submission comes out ahead of the Windmill Lane submission. I think the weight of experience that RTE have, their tremendous pool of expertise will serve this House very well. I regret they are not to be given the contract because I feel at the end of the day what we are doing is of tremendous significance and it is important that we start off on the right foot. I have no disparaging comments on Windmill Lane. I am sure they are an excellent competent professional company but they simply do not have the same level of experience that is available to RTE.
I have argued the case, and have done so for two years at the committee. I deeply regret the majority view of the committee — I ascribe no motive either to the Minister of State and his party colleague or to Fine Gael members of the committee. They have made their value judgment on the basis of what they felt was right but I disagree fundamentally with it. Ultimately we will see that RTE, the national broadcaster, should be the company to take on this prestigious contract.
Mr. McCartan: Lest there be any doubt about the matter I want to place on record the observations made in the  report. While RTE may have set about it in a way that was not entirely satisfactory, and I commented on that earlier, the conclusions of the report are as contained in page 12 and I quote:
RTE were a match for the others on technical grounds. For all the other reasons and the better cost proposals and because there is the issue of prestige and the acknowledgment of the long years of service that RTE have given both to this House and to the nation, I believe it is highly inappropriate of us not to accept that they should be the recipients of the contract.
Mr. V. Brady: I fully appreciate the reasoning behind the arguments of Deputy Howlin and Deputy McCartan. I disagree that the financial spread between both is similar. Deputy Higgins has already dealt with this in very great detail during his contribution. While the final costs shown in the report show Windmill Lane at a slight advantage, there are other pluses. As Deputy Higgins pointed out, there are some small details we should note. In the payroll, for instance, Windmill Lane have shown an expenditure of £122,750 for six staff, whereas RTE have shown an expenditure of £14,000 with a staff of six. For maintenance, Windmill Lane have shown £18,660 and RTE have shown “nil” under that heading. For management fee, Windmill Lane have shown £64,088 and RTE showed “zero”. Those costs have to be met somewhere along the line. That brings me back to the RTE subsidy and the fact that the national broadcasters did not propose to levy any of those charges but they must be met in some other way from outside the House.
Mr. V. Brady: That is beside the point. Those costs will have to be met in some way or other outside the House. It is irrelevant to try to compare figure by figure without taking other aspects into consideration. On the technical side from day one Windmill Lane submitted an excellent report. They stayed with the contents from day one to the very end. That is the submission the group accepted. RTE went at it on three occasions and only on the third occasion did their submission match in any way, technically or otherwise, the submission we received from Windmill Lane. In fairness to the House, and in order to justify the task we were given, we had no alternative but to take the decision we have taken. Naturally, we would like to have given the contract to RTE, being a State body, but, unfortunately, we had to make our decision on the basis of what was presented to us. I have no doubt that we made the right decision.
Mr. V. Brady: In relation to the amendment on the rules of coverage, the Labour Party amendment proposes that the rules be reviewed and modified where necessary by the broadcasting control committee. The recommendation of the working group, which was agreed unanimously at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, was that a sub-committee of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges be responsible for monitoring the rules of coverage. The concept that the Dáil retain complete control over televising is central to the finding of the working group. It is important, therefore, that the Dáil does not lose control of the rules of coverage to the broadcaster which would be the case if the Labour Party  amendment was adopted. In those circumstances I should like to ask Deputy Howlin, who agreed with the original proposals of the working group and at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to withdraw his amendment.
Mr. Howlin: I put it to the Minister of State that some modicum of reflection has to be made in relation to this amendment and that is of great importance. I accept that it was envisaged by the working group and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, that the monitoring would be by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, or a sub-committee of it, which would mean that the entire monitoring would be by Members of the House. I devoted a considerable part of my speech to the views of the journalists and others who are going to use the feed we will be providing. We should not allow the mechanism we are going to install here to be stultified by being solely under the scrutiny of the Members.
The broadcasters who are going to use the feed are the experts in relation to the medium of television and they should have a view on this. For that reason the Labour Party Parliamentary Party placed my amendment on the Order Paper. It is a question of who will modify the rules. Members of the working group will be aware that, for instance, the very rigid rules that pertained in the House of Commons in Britain when broadcasting was introduced were subsequently modified. It is a good idea that we should have a monitoring committee that should include broadcasters. Obviously, the broadcast control committee will consist of Deputies and their input will be crucial. The overview of our parliamentary party was that we should not restrict membership exclusively to Members of the Dáil.
The provision does not specify who should do the monitoring. The matter is left up in the air although it has been included in the report. We should think  about this. While I agreed with the original suggestion, there is merit in the proposal put forward by the Labour Party Parliamentary Party.
Mr. J. Bruton: This is a motion of the Dáil and if the Dáil resolves that there should be a review clearly the review the House has in mind is one that, ultimately, is carried out by the Dáil. In this case the clear implication of a review of a matter of this kind by the Dáil is that it will be done for it by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, or a committee established by them. To hand that responsibility over to the broadcasting control committee which is not a committee of the Dáil but a committee consisting of some Members of the Dáil plus representatives of the broadcaster, and give them the decision-making power, would be to introduce an element of rigidity into the system which would not be desirable. It would create a condition under which Members, because they would be speaking about problems in the presence of broadcasters, might not be able to speak as freely as they would otherwise do about those problems.
I do not think that having this matter the responsibility of the Dáil exclusively creates any of the concerns that Deputy Howlin, and the Labour Party, seem to have. It is clear that representations from the broadcaster will be taken seriously. The problems would be discussed by the broadcasting control committee. Any problems about the rules of coverage will come up there. That will be a forum for them to raise their problems. Representations can be made on a week to week basis and they can be made face to face to Deputies. However, to say that not only will representations be made face to face but the broadcaster should be involved in the decision on those representations would be going too far.
There should be no concern in Deputy Howlin's mind but that the broadcaster will have an adequate input. The House, and the elected Members of the House,  should have the responsibility for determining ultimately the rules of coverage and not any mixed body involving outsiders. For that reason, regrettably, I do not find myself in agreement with amendment No. 4. That is not out of lack of sympathy for its objective but because of a realisation of its impracticality.
Mr. V. Brady: For a number of reasons it will not be possible to take this amendment on board. We will have the broadcasting control committee on which the broadcaster will be represented. With regard to the rules of coverage it is absolutely vital that the House should retain control over them. That is not to say that there will not be liaison between the broadcaster and the House. Any difficulties, procedural or otherwise, can be discussed in detail between both parties. I have no doubt that the monitoring committee, in their anxiety to do what is right for the House, will ensure that televising is completely satisfactory. If they feel that a proposal from the broadcaster should be taken on board I do not see any reason that should not happen but it is important that we should retain control in relation to the rules of coverage because they apply to the House. Therefore, the responsibility for them should lie exclusively on the shoulders of Members.
Mr. V. Brady: These amendments deal with the composition of the monitoring committee and the working group. The  Workers' Party are seeking membership of the committee and the group. I have indicated my agreement in principle to this but I do not think we should make that part of the motion before the House. I do not have any objection to the proposal. Indeed, I understand from other members of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, as indicated at a meeting last Wednesday, that now that we have the televising exercise out of the way The Workers' Party as a group will participate with the other parties in relation to any further activities of Dáil reform.
Mr. McCartan: I should like to thank the Minister of State for putting that on the record. I am prompted only to ask when we can expect this to be put into practice. I am happy to let the matter stand and I will not be pressing either of those amendments.
Mr. V. Brady: Amendment No. 6 is a Labour Party amendment which concerns siting and accessibility of the archive. The working group report recommended that the archive be situated alongside the television operation in Kildare House. It also recommends, in addition to the provision of tape viewing facilities for Members, that access to the material be afforded to historians, researchers etc. The exact location of the television operation will be subject to a number of factors including available accommodation, technical requirements and, not least important, security considerations. I am prepared to accept that Members should have full access to the archive facility. There is no doubt whatever about that. However, the siting of the archive and access to it by persons from outside the Houses are administrative matters, subject to normal security considerations, having regard to recommendations of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges. In the circumstances I cannot accept that amendment except to say that the group have considered this whole question very  thoroughly. We are anxious to make the archive available as much as possible to all interested groups, educational, historical etc. I cannot foresee any circumstances in which we will not facilitate interested parties in seeking material. For security reasons I do not believe we can meet the amendment in terms of making the actual location accessible to everybody as is envisaged in this amendment.
Mr. Howlin: It is not envisaged that it would be available to everybody but certainly to interested parties. The Minister of State will recall that we had discussions in the working group in relation to access and it was felt that there is a broad range of individuals, such as historians, teachers and so on who would have a very good and sustainable reason for needing access to this archive. This is an area to which we devoted a lot of attention. We wanted an archive that would be close to this building, one to which Members would have access so that they could go there and watch debates in individual booths. That facility should not be confined to Members of the House. I do not understand why the Minister of State is opposing this amendment. The view of the working group was that there would be broad availability subject to normal security; that goes without saying. Anybody who has access to this House goes through a security procedure but the archive should be open to interested parties as are all debates of this House under our Constitution. People should have access to the archive if it is going to be relayed live. Other speakers have said how important the archive material will be; Deputy Nealon, in particular, referred to this. I appeal again to the Minister of State to ensure that this amendment is accepted because it copperfastens in resolution, by decision of the Dáil, our view that the archive be available not only to Members but to a broad range of the general public. That is  a fundamental right if not a constitutional right.
Mr. J. Bruton: I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment put forward by Deputy Howlin. It did not occur to me when we were looking at this matter in the Committee on Procedures and Privileges to include a provision along the lines of this amendment. We assumed that if there was to be an archive it was so that it would be accessible to people. If it was for any other purpose one would not bother keeping it. We had in mind that it should be accessible to Deputies. We did not think it was necessary to put that in the resolution because it was assumed but I take the point Deputy Howlin is making.
However, I think the wording the Deputy has chosen in amendment No. 6 is likely to cause problems. A Dáil resolution that the archive must be in a place and in a manner that would enable interested parties to have ready access to it, could supersede any previous resolutions about security. It would have to be of a binding character on the Ceann Comhairle and on all those responsible for security and would supersede any previous resolutions that may have been passed here in regard to security matters for access of Members to the House.
I put it to the Minister that Deputy Howlin's point might be met by including the following words, in paragraph 14, after the word “proceedings”: “for which rules for access will be laid down by the Committee Procedures and Privileges”. I am making it clear that there will be rules for access and that there will be access but that the matter of the making of those rules is one for the Committee on Procedures and Privileges rather than an attempt to make them by means of an amendment here. I do not want to cause any difficulty for the Minister because I have only heard the argument now and I do not want to bounce him into accepting something in a resolution which could create problems. As we have been trying  throughout this whole process to reach agreement and accommodate legitimate points and I think Deputy Howlin's amendment is legitimate perhaps the Minister would devise wording with which we would not have the difficulties we have with the present wording but which would clearly indicate an intention to fulfil the aspirations of Deputy Howlin and his colleagues.
Mr. V. Brady: The wording in the amendment is of a very broad nature. It is obvious that it would create many difficulties from the point of view of security. I fully understand and appreciate the point Deputy Howlin is making. Perhaps we could agree to look at this within the group and to come up with something more appropriate to meet the requirement without infringing in any way on the security arrangements which are the responsibility of the Ceann Comhairle. I believe we can find a reasonably good solution if we pursue that line.
Mr. Howlin: I am grateful to the Minister of State. Again he has shown himself to be amenable to positive suggestions as he has been throughout this whole debate over two years. Can I suggest two possible amendments to the amendment that may overcome the difficulty? These are to delete the word “ready” and to add after “archive”, “subject to security and practical considerations”. If it is in order to do that the amendment would then read: “in a place and in a manner that will enable Members of the Dáil and other interested parties to have access to such archive subject to security and practical considerations”. Would that be acceptable?
Mr. V. Brady: I would much prefer if it were left until we have had an opportunity to look at it more closely. Again I appreciate that the Deputy is trying to meet the situation half way but perhaps in his anxiety to help and my anxiety to  co-operate we may not come up with the best possible solution and we are anxious to pursue this matter in the most positive way. If we leave it and refer it to the group we can, by putting all our heads together, come up with something positive that will meet all the requirements.
Mr. J. Bruton: The purpose of the oral amendment, which I put forward, was to put in words precisely what the Minister of State is saying; in other words saying in the resolution that rules for access will be laid down by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. That would be a clear indication of his intention. Deputy Howlin did not respond to my suggested wording and I do not know if he thinks it would meet his point. Would the Minister be happy to include, after the word “proceedings,” the words “for which rules for access will be laid down by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges”.
Mr. Nealon: The archives of recordings are really no more than audio-visual recordings of the proceedings of the House. I do not think anyone would suggest that the Dáil debates should not be readily available to Members of the House or other people. Obviously there is a need for a further amendment in this respect, which the Minister has said he will consider.
The Minister referred to security. As I see it, Members of the House could be held up to ridicule by someone who may steal a particular recording and show it time and time again. However, the fact is that the various television stations will have their own recordings of the proceedings and they can do this. The other point is that the Minister is afraid of the archives being stolen. The fact is there are more valuable items in the National Gallery, for example, the poems of Joyce and Yeats, than any speech which may be made in this Chamber, great and all as we may think we are. If that is the Minister's fear, I suggest some built-in  security could be provided to ensure that nothing like that will happen.
An Ceann Comhairle: I wish to interrupt the Deputy for a moment. The Chair has allowed some wide discretion in dealing with this matter this evening but we must not forget that the Minister of State is replying to this debate. Nevertheless I have allowed quite an interchange of views to be expressed on the amendments, which I thought very desirable in the circumstances, but I must dissuade Members from tending to debate the matter now.
Mr. Nealon: I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle. I have no intention of holding up the Dáil either now or at any time. I want to ask the Minister of State one question. What arrangements is he making — it may be necessary to include such a provision in the relevant Bill — in relation to the archives when the contractor ceases to be the contractor?
Mr. V. Brady: That will be a matter for the broadcasting control committee to consider at the appropriate time. Deputy Bruton's proposal in regard to the archives was very similar to my proposal, and I believe this is the right path to follow. I should like to add a rider that this should be done in consultation with the Ceann Comhairle who has overall responsibility for all security in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Mr. V. Brady: It would be wrong of us to make any hard and fast decisions in the House on accessibility to any part of the House without giving due consideration to possible difficulties and taking into consideration the views of other people in the House who would be interested in the issue and, above all, the Ceann Comhairle.
Mr. Howlin: As the Minister of State has agreed to accept the wording put forward by Deputy Bruton, and in the spirit of unanimity which has broken out at the end of the debate, I will withdraw my amendment on the understanding that the words proposed by Deputy Bruton will be accepted. The principle is that there should be access and we can work out the details later.
Mr. V. Brady: I should like to take the opportunity of expressing my appreciation to all members of the working group who contributed so well to our deliberations. I should like to thank all the speakers for their kind remarks to me.
An Ceann Comhairle: Can we come to deal with the amendments before us? I will call them out numerically as they appear on the Order Paper. May I ask what the position is in regard to amendment No. 1 in the name of the Labour Party?
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Browne, John. (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
Dempsey, Noel. McCreevy, Charlie.
Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
|de Valera, Síle.
Farrelly, John V.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
McCormack, Pádraic. O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Wilson, John P.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
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