Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Film Industry.

Thursday, 29 April 1993

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 429 No. 8

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  3.  Miss Quill  Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill   asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht  Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins   the steps, if any, which have been taken towards the re-establishment of the Irish Film Board; if the budget for the board has been finalised; if the board has set, or will set, for itself a target production of indigenous Irish film.

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  17.  Ms McManus  Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus   asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht  Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins   when the membership of the new Irish Film Board will be announced; the funds which will be made available for his plans to promote the development of the Irish Film Industry; the way in which the money will be allocated; the steps, if any, he is taking to ensure that a full range of technical facilities are available within this country so that moneys allocated can be spent in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

  20.  Ms O'Donnell  Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell   asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht  Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins   when he expects to be able to publish the White Paper on the film industry in view of the commitment given in the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-1977.

  29.  Miss Quill  Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill   asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht  Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins   if he will give details of the relationship between the re-established Film Board and the Arts Council.

  95.  Miss Quill  Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill   asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht  Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins   when he will publish the White Paper on the film industry in accordance with the commitment given in the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-1977.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I propose to take Questions Nos. 3, 17, 20, 29 and 95 together.

On 30 March, 1993, I announced my intention to reactivate the Irish Film Board — Bord Scannán na hÉireann — and to establish a film production fund to promote the Irish film and audiovisual industry.

I have decided to appoint Ms. Lelia Doolan as chairperson of the board and I hope to announce the membership of the rest of the board before the end of May. The funding which will be provided to the Irish Film Board is currently under consideration, but I can assure the Deputy that adequate funding will be provided for the board this year to enable it to impact upon the Irish film and audiovisual industry in the short term.

The question of the setting of targets for the promotion of indigenous Irish film will be a matter for the board to decide, but I would expect that such targets will indeed be set. Similarly, it will be for the board to decide the way in which the funds made available to it will be allocated subject, of course, to the provisions of section 6 of the Irish Film Board Act, 1980. Section 6 (1) provides that the [1970] board “may invest in, or make a loan or a grant to defray in whole or part the cost of the making of a film wholly or partly made in the State. Section 6 (2) provides that “the making of an investment, loan or grant under this section shall be subject to such terms and conditions as the Board may think proper, including terms and conditions relating to the repayment to the Board of any moneys paid by it and payment of interest on any such money.”

I am of the opinion that there is at present an adequate range of technical facilities available in this country to ensure that the funds which I will put at the disposal of the Irish Film Board can be spent in Ireland. Since my announcement there have been welcome indications of investment in the industry and we can confidently look forward to the provision of further technical resources. The existence of a strong network of independent film producers and of a major studio facility at Ardmore Studios are just two cases in point. The whole reasoning behind my decision to develop the industry by means of a two-pronged approach — namely, the reactivation of the Irish Film Board and my proposals in relation to independent television production contained in the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1993 — is precisely to exploit the technical facilities available in Ireland at present and the imaginative and creative skills which exist in that industry which have been underemployed.

The Irish Film Board and An Chomhairle Ealaíon are separate entities established by statute and there is no formal relationship between the two bodies. However, Deputies should be aware that “the cinema” was added to the definition of the arts by virtue of the Arts Act, 1973. This has enabled the Arts Council over the years to fund film-related organisations and to provide non-repayable grants to an amount of £100,000 per annum to film makers. At this stage, there are no proposals to discontinue the role of the Arts Council in this area but it is my intention to ensure that there will be no duplication of functions between the council and the Irish Film Board. I [1971] see them as being complementary to each other.

Although no formal relationship exists between the Arts Council and the Film Board, I am glad to say that the council is currently providing the board with the necessary administrative support while start-up arrangements are being put in place. I express my gratitude to the Arts Council and its director for this facility.

While the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-97 committed the Government to the preparation of a White Paper on the film industry, I am of the opinion that the report of the special working group on the film production industry, which was submitted to the Taoiseach last December, takes into account adequately the views of the industry and the key state agencies. I was very pleased, therefore, to have obtained Government approval to move faster and bypass the preparation of a White Paper and to proceed with the publication of this report. I expect to be in a position to publish the report of the special work group on the film production industry next month.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  I congratulate the Minister on the action he has taken since I tabled this question. In relation to the membership of the board, will the composition of the board reflect all the interests in the film industry, producers, directors and craftspeople? Will there be a strong emphasis on including people who have a marketing expertise, by which I mean the exhibitors in the business? Will the Minister agree that there is little point in encouraging the making of good films in Ireland if those films are not marketed vigorously both at home and abroad? I ask him to take that principle on board in deciding the composition of the board.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Act specifies that seven people should be appointed to the board and I have nominated Dr. Lelia Doolan as chairperson. I am very grateful to Dr. Doolan for responding so quickly and graciously to this challenge. This leaves six other members to be [1972] appointed. It is very clear from the Act that the appointment of the board is ultimately my responsibility. I will appoint the very best people to ensure that the Irish Film Board is the success I am sure it will be. Therefore, people will be less representative of interest groups. The members will be appointed on the basis of their experience and the contribution they can make. The Deputy made a valid point about the need for marketing films to be borne in mind and I am well aware of the need for this.

With regard to the making of films, before I brought back the board and set about establishing a film industry, a small provision had been made for script writing and tax relief for post-production. The missing part was production, which is in the middle. In appointing the board, I will bear in mind all the skills and expertise necessary, including the marketing function to which the Deputy referred.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  I have two very brief questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am anxious to deal with the remaining priority question, if time permits. As Deputies will observe, the time for Priority Questions is fast running out.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  I appreciate your difficulties, a Cheann Comhairle, and I will ask one very brief supplementary. Will the Minister try to put in place a good working relationship between the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board and ensure from the outset that their budgets and policies complement one another so that they can support one another and thereby ensure that the taxpayer gets the maximum return for every penny spent in this area of the arts?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am very happy to be able to say that such co-operation exists and will continue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will hear a reply to Question No. 4 if it is responded to now.


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