Radio and Television Bill, 1987: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 23 June 1988

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 120 No. 8

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Question again proposed: “That section 13 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I want to ask a question. This section deals with an investigation into the affairs of a sound broadcasting contractor. Does that include an investigation into the question of advertisements, for example, whether the advertisements he has taken are well researched, or what does it imply? Does it exclude investigating the advertising procedures in it?

Minister for Communications (Mr. R. Burke): Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  No, the advertising procedure is very well covered by another section dealing with advertising. There has to be a code of practice for the advertising and the type of advertising they accept. That is set by the Commission and all contractors have to operate under that code of practice. If they do not operate under it they are in trouble with the Commission.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I move amendment No. 6:

In page 13, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following subsection:

“(2) The Commission shall develop guidelines to safeguard [1106] against a degree of interlocking ownership between stations, or with other sections of the media, that would be against the public interest.”.

The purpose of this new addition to the Bill arises out of one of the more disturbing developments in recent times in the whole area of media control, that is, the extent to which in a number of other countries large monopolies have grown up where two or three people have huge control over, not just as in the past, the newspaper outlets in a particular country, but also over radio and television. We recognise that a certain amount of concentration of ownership is a fact of life and probably after 1992 will become an even more marked tendency. There are great dangers in this; there are dangers to democracy itself.

I made the point last evening about the different tendencies within the media. Specifically, there is the scandalous situation which pertains in Great Britain where large sections of the media are under the control of a small number of people and are totally biased in favour of one political party and ensure that other groups do not get a fair look in. We are a long way from that and by and large — not completely — our newspapers are reasonably fair, our television and radio are also fair in their coverage of politics. Even here already we have a situation where one particular newspaper group already control 11 per cent of all provincial newspapers and probably has about 50 per cent of national readership. I would hate to see a situation in which there was almost a stranglehold over sections of the media if there was an overconcentration. I do not think we need bother about it in legislation.

The amendment we are proposing is simply to establish guidelines to safeguard against a degree of interlocking ownership. It is a warning shot, an indication that it is not in the best interest of the community as a whole, and that the Oireachtas certainly would never approve of such a situation. I expect the Minister will agree with me. I do not [1107] intend to push the amendment. The views of the Oireachtas at this stage in the legislation about the dangers of too great a concentration of ownership in too few hands is something which is inimical to the overall interests of the community.

I hope that nothing in the work of the commission will completely exclude local provincial papers from a share in the ownership of the various stations. There is a danger of the livelihood of the provincial papers from this legislation. They have, by and large, served the country well. Some of them are not as financially strong as they would like to be. I hope in the share out, that the provincial papers will be given opportunity to participate and to make available the very large resources of news gathering, expertise and so forth they have built up over the years.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I wish to raise one point on the terms and conditions of sound broadcasting contracts. What length of time will the contracts be given for? Will it be five years, seven years or ten years? As I said in my Second Stage speech, I favour the idea of a ten year contract with the amount of investment——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  We are on amendment No. 6. We have not come to the section yet.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  That is all the contribution I wish to make.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair does not wish to curtail the Senator's contribution. We can discuss the section in full later.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I raised the matter, on a point of information. Now that I have made my statement, that is all I have to say on section 14.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I want to re-echo the views expressed by Senator Manning. It would be important that we get the Minister's views on the record in this area. We are trying to prevent what is now becoming [1108] common in a lot of areas, that is the concept of monopoly, particularly in regard to the media coverage, ownership of stations and newspapers. It is in the public interest that there would be a balanced view. The only way we can ensure that is by not having a monopoly in the hands of any particular grouping.

We are coming up to 1992 when it will be more difficult for us to ensure that our common interest, our public interest, is served by preventing monopolies. The Minister will probably respond by saying that there is already a procedure under the Monopolies Bill to prevent this. We know that the powers under that Bill are limited. The Minister may refer to them but we cannot influence their decision and they have to make it.

At least it is a mechanism which is being suggested by the Minister at the moment in the area of Irish Distillers. We are concerned in this area of media communication that the Houses of the Oireachtas should at least express a view that would prevent a monopoly ownership of the airwaves, the media print and otherwise. It would not be in the national interest that that would be so.

I also share Senator Manning's view that provincial newspapers should have an opportunity in this area of community broadcasting to be involved. They were invited by the local Muintir na Tíre grouping, associated with the national community broadcasting, to participate in presentations to the Minister and his predecessors in this area. They did not respond, as they saw it as infringing on their rights to the supremacy of media communications that they already have. They found that it would be a new dimension to a problem in the area of advertising in particular. It is appropriate that they should be able to be in partnership with other community interests involved in the area of communications. There is nothing in the Bill to preclude them from doing that and I welcome that. The Minister's view is important in the area of monopolisation.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I do not wish to hold up this section. I am aware that the Minister [1109] is as concerned as any of us about the possibility of takeovers in the media and in the context of this new Bill. I feel I should also add my voice of concern to that of other Members of the House in the context of the amendment put down by Senator Manning and to bring to the attention of the House the concerns that are being expressed internationally in relation to non-nationals.

This is the area that I would be mainly concerned about. In the context of what Senator Ferris said about provincial newspapers being involved in local radio and national radio, while I welcome that as a very significant development, if one looks behind the ownership of certain provincial newspapers, one finds that there is an increasing monopoly and an ownership moving towards a situation where there will be very little to distinguish the ownership of national or local newspapers.

I accept that local newspapers should be involved in community radio. However, it is important that the public should be ever vigilant in relation to this significant development where we will now have number of local radio stations, a national television station and a national radio station which will be open to ownership by non-nationals because of our membership of the European Community.

I have stated before and I wish to reiterate, that I am very seriously concerned at what I see as an attempt being made specifically by the Rupert Murdoch organisation to infiltrate into the media in this country. They have set up an office to sell advertising through cable television. In Britain concern has already been expressed by very serious commentators. Aidan White, the International Federation of Journalist's representative writing from Brussels in a recent edition of The Guardian stated:

The media should reflect the good health of a democracy by the transmission of a variety of opinions and views. Increasingly, such ideas are made meaningless by the dangerous growth of concentration of ownership [1110] in the hands of single-minded entrepreneurs of whom Mr. Murdoch is the prime example. The problem has been exacerbated in recent years by the failure of national and international political institutions to intervene in this process. Indeed the recent EC directive on transnational broadcasting does much to assist the ambitions of Mr. Murdoch. It defines broadcast information as a “service”, something to be bought and sold like any other commodity.

Mr. Murdoch's Sky Channel, is an example of what we can expect in this country in a very short time. Mr. White goes on to state:

Mr. Murdoch's Sky Channel has for a time been beaming into homes throughout Europe. Parents and teachers in Sweden have been protesting strongly at one of its by-products — a sudden increase in the popularity of war-like toys among small children. The advertising of these toys is banned in Swedish broadcasting, but advertisers have used the Sky Channel medium to bypass such inconvenient obstacles as parential preference and national laws.

Mr. White also says in this letter:

News and information is the natural literature of democracy, and not just another commodity to be bought and sold on the open market.

I am aware that the Minister is fully conscious of the difficulties in this area but I hope that the commission, and in subsequent years, the Government, will continue to monitor the ownership of the media in this country.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Would the Senator identify the document he was quoting from?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I have already identified it as the Guardian newspaper.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The date?

[1111]Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I can supply that to the Editor of Debates.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I am not talking about going into the lobbies for a vote but it concerns me. There is a great deal of unease among the print media, not because it introduces competition but because the type of competition it introduces might cause many problems for them regarding employment, etc. In this respect it is right that we should be concerned about it. That is why we are pressing it on the Minister, to see if he has thought it through fully or if he can throw some light on events that would protect that situation. I do not know if one can in a competition situation because there when it really comes down to it one is into war. If a person can take it on he will do so. This is a danger we are worried about.

It is worrying that there seems to be an absence of enthusiasm among potential broadcasting contractors. One wonders if they do not want to openly declare themselves. If that is the case it makes it a little more suspicious that the competition could be as dangerous as we fear it is. On the other hand, it might just be that they have not got enough details as yet and they do not know the final mix.

The reason we are supporting the amendment is that we are really concerned about how far competition can go. I am not the greatest advocate in the world of the private enterprise system. I am more into the mixed economy. At the same time I can understand the rights of people in private enterprise, particularly when you see Super, Sky and other channels like that coming in off satellite. We could have 15 or 20 channels available to us before long. Perhaps the same people who use the media for advertising on the Irish channels would also be interested in Super and Sky. A monopoly can take place in a couple of ways. We are entitled to be concerned about that. I hope the Minister can throw some light on the situation.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I hope I can be of help [1112] to the Seanad on this. I was very conscious of the exact concerns expressed by the Senators here this morning at the time I was drafting this legislation. Section 6 reads:

The determination of the applications for awards of sound broadcasting contracts.

It lays down the criteria which have to be taken into account by the commission in awarding contracts. Subsection (2) (a) states:

In the consideration of applications received by it and in determining the most suitable applicant to be awarded a sound broadcasting contract, the Commission shall have regard to the character of the applicant or, if the applicant is a body corporate, the character of the body and its directors, manager, secretary or other similar officer and its members

and, very important here in relation to the monopoly question

and the persons entitled to the beneficial ownership of its shares.

We are not only looking at the shareholders, managers and everbody else, we are looking at the beneficial ownership of the shares. Paragraph (g) states that they must look at:

...the desirability of allowing any person or group of persons, to have control of, or substantial interests in, an undue number of sound broadcasting services in respect of which a sound broadcasting contract has been awarded under this Act.

There cannot be a monopoly on the radio side. Paragraph (h) states:

...the desirability of allowing any person or group of persons, to have control of, or substantial interests in, an undue amount of communications media in the area....

It is not just the television or radio, but also the print media so they are covered in the monopoly aspect of section 6 (2) (g), and 6 (h). In getting a licence they [1113] must take into account the possibility of monopolies. For example, if a group of individuals get a licence and then some major financier decides he wants to move into the radio scene and attempts to buy up the radio licences, buy the shares of the contractor, that is not allowed because any change in the shareholdings and the beneficial ownership of the shares has to be notified to the commission. The commission can then take that into account if it creates a monopoly situation in an area.

I was also very conscious of the role of the local newspapers, which has been rightly emphasised by Members here this morning. This is the fourth piece of legislation on this subject that has come before the Oireachtas. We had the original Government Bill of Fianna Fáil in 1981, a Private Members' Bill put forward by Fianna Fáil and then the Coalition Bill of 1985. In all of the three previous Bills local newspapers and national newspapers were debarred from applying for licences.

I recognise, as do the Senators, the very important role of local newspapers in Ireland. They have a very important function in their immediate areas; they supply information to counties or regions. They have traditionally been the news gatherers and have been in existence for 100 years or 150 years and even longer. It is wrong that they should be excluded from participating in some way in the local radio services. I do not envisage that we would have stations where they would have 100 per cent ownership. That would not be right. That is covered by section 6 (2) (h). You cannot have a situation where the local newspaper also own the local radio because the local newspaper could be opposed to particular political parties or opposed to particular individuals. We know that happens around the country. It was referred to by Senator Manning last night.

I believe they should have a role to play. At least they should be entitled to apply, rather than be excluded. Let us be quite frank about it. The existence of radio will have an effect on the potential advertising revenue of some of the local [1114] newspapers. It is important that they should have the opportunity to involve themselves, with their particular expertise, in news gathering, in view of the regulation regarding the 20 per cent requirement. They should have the opportunity, being part of a consortium to apply for a licence.

The question of the length of licence was mentioned. Although it is not relevant to this amendment I will answer it now. The length of licence is a matter for the commission but I would envisage a seven year term. That is what I had in mind when I was considering it. I assume the commission would be thinking along the same lines but that is a matter for themselves.

So far as non-national ownership is concerned I share the concerns expressed but we are a member of the European Community and I have to draft the legislation in the way I did. However, it is my desire to see that the ownership of these stations remains in nationals hands. I believe that the criteria laid down in section 6 will facilitate that.

There is no pot of gold for running these stations. A couple of stations have a potential for a fair return on investment in the Dublin region and also possibly in Cork, Limerick and Galway. In all other areas the stations will be operating on a fairly tight margin and there will have to be great local and community involvement for them to be viable at all in many cases. I do not see the Rupert Murdochs coming for Senator Bradford's desired station in north Cork and I think the Tipperary one will be fairly safe as well.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  The Leitrim one will definitely be safe.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I take the Senator's word on that. In relation to national radio and television it will be a question of whether non-nationals will apply, but it is my wish that our own nationals will be running these stations because to survive the stations will have to depend on advertising. If they have not got an Irish ethos and are not targeting the specific Irish [1115] markets they will not get sufficient advertising. RTE have proven this. RTE's success at the moment is on the basis that they have achieved nearly a 50 per cent rate of home-produced programmes on television. The home-produced programmes are the most successful as far as advertising rates are concerned. To compete, independent television must go after the same quality Irish programmes. That, by its very nature, suggests that the ownership, management and direction of it will be in Irish hands, because Irish expertise will know what the Irish market wants.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I am very happy with the Minister's reply, especially on the question of the provincial papers, where he has gone all the way towards meeting the needs of that case. I am struck though by the all-party cross-party concern about the dangers of a monopoly. At this stage I have no intention of trying to hold up this Bill or asking the Minister to bring in further amendments to it, but he could meet our case by taking our amendment to section 14 and if this could be expressed to the Commission as being the view of both Houses of the Oireachtas and in drawing up guidelines, they would bear this in mind. If that were done it would certainly meet the concern of all of us here.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I will definitely bring it to the attention of the Commission.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I move amendment No. 7:

In page 13, line 7, after “force” to insert the following:

“and the procedure for annual review under which a warning could be issued that the contractor is not complying with his obligations, and if the situation had not improved by the subsequent year, the re-advertising of the contract could be announced.”.

[1116] This amendment is really in the interest of a certain amount of fair play. A contractor may be falling below the desired standards and there may be special reasons for this which are capable of being rectified or, indeed, a contractor may not be aware that he or she is falling below the guidelines. I do not feel too strongly about this but in the interest of fair play perhaps some sort of yellow card system might be brought into play so that at an early stage a contractor can be told that he is falling below the required standards and that he has three months, six months or a year in which to show that he is worthy of the licence he was given or otherwise we will have to move against him. In that way there would not be a sudden arrival at the office one day telling the contractor that he is out of business. The spirit of this will probably be taken on board by the Commission in any event.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I could not see that there would be an annual review or a yellow card system. I would see the relationship between the Commission and the contractor as being an ongoing day-to-day arrangement where there will have to be a certain amount of hands-on operation by the Commission at an early stage. Many of these people will not have been involved in radio before. By the very nature of it they cannot have been involved in legal radio before because we have never had a legal framework for local radio before now. Therefore, there will have to be a certain paternal approach by the Commission to the operator. I do not see it as being a yellow card or a warning system but as all coming along together. If a contractor is found to be violating the rules flagrantly he will be warned by the Commission. There are procedures laid down as to how this will be done and they can take his licence and the contract from him. If that is done in an unfair manner, which is the the point Senator Manning is covering, I suggest that there is recourse to the law at all times available. A contractor should have recourse to the law and be able to go to the courts and say that he has been [1117] fulfilling the contract he entered into with the Commission and the Commission rescinded that contract unfairly and he should be entitled to get his contract back or entitled to compensation. It is covered in many ways here rather than necessarily in this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed: “That section 14 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  Section 14 (4) at the bottom of page 13 states:

Every sound broadcasting contract shall — (a) provide that the Commission may, at its discretion, suspend or terminate the contract——

(i) if any false or misleading information was given to the Commission by or on behalf of the sound broadcasting contractor prior to the making of the contract...

I am basing my question on the experience that seems to have appertained in certain parts of the United Kingdom where, in the initial stages of application, an example of a programme schedule is attached to an application to the Commission and subsequently it is found that that programme schedule bears very little relationship to the actual schedule. Could the Minister clarify if, in such an event, this section would then come into play and that would be construed as having given false or misleading information?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  It could of course come in but, as I said in answer to Senator Manning earlier, this will be a continuous relationship between the Commission and the contractor. The Commission could say to the contractor that he made a commitment to provide a service and is not keeping it and that if he does not provide a proper service they will take action against him. It would only be as a last resort that they would resort to this draconian section and terminate the contract. This section is there as a protection for the Irish people so that they will not be misled.

[1118]Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  A contractor could come back to the Commission and say that his experience has shown that his original application and programme schedule are not working in the marketplace and for commercial reasons he is changing it.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  There will be flexibility. There will have to be flexibility and common sense. RTE change programmes from one season to another if they find that there is greater attraction to one type of programme than another. There has to be some flexibility and common sense but, the main structure and thrust of the programmes should not be changed — in other words they should not suddenly change from a middle of the road station, as on their application form, to a hard rock station. That type of fundamental change would not be allowed but they can change the overall theme of their type of programmes.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 15 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I would like to ask the Minister about the thinking behind this section and what he has in mind when he says in line four of that section: “to meet specific special interests”. Is he thinking about a situation of emergency? I am thinking in terms of Dublin. If a licence was granted to a station which was specifically engaged, say, in educational programming or, say, a station dedicated to covering youth concerns, or a station which was specifically about agriculture that, because it had one service in view it would not be required to fulfil the demands made by the Commission on the other stations?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  This arose out of debates in the Dáil on Second Stage. A number of Members expressed the view that there could be a very specialist type station in a town or local region, for example, in the southside of the city you [1119] could have a serious music station for a number of hours in the evening, or a jazz station for a number of hours a couple of evenings a week. We will have a situation where they would not have to provide the news and current affairs coverage that is already being covered anyway by the national and other independents in the area. For example, it would not be appropriate to split up an opera with news headlines and current affairs programmes. It is for specialist-type music stations or the educational station or others like that. They are matters for the commission to look at. The specialist music station was the idea behind it.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  May I assume that there would have to be a very strong case made to the commission, that this would not be something that would be given out to any special interest group, that the case and the proven capacity to put forward a programme of serious music or education or whatever would have to be made and that these would be given fairly sparingly? May I ask the Minister if any discussions are taking place between his Department and the Department of Education about the greater use of radio and television for educational purposes and if he sees a new role after this legislation for educational radio and television? With a greater number of people taking early retirement and with more leisure the demand for access to continue in education is huge. I can see it already in my own constituency. I can see it right across Dublin and I am sure it is the same in the country. We would all like to see the new radio and televison services playing their full part in meeting this need.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I will deal with the last point. As far as the educational aspects are concerned, I know my colleague the Minister for Education, who is primarily responsible in this area, is very conscious of it. She is giving detailed examination to the potential not just of the new commercial stations but also of the role of RTE in the whole educational area and she is re-examining that whole area.

[1120] On the derogation from the requirements relating to news and current affairs programming, I can assure the Senator that there is no question of this being a sort of “everybody is out”, it is going to be applied very sparingly.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  In view of what the Minister has said, could I ask him to clarify the position. Is the thinking behind this section that the news and current affairs requirement would apply almost in tolo to the county style station, the first tier stations, but we will see a flexibility in the town stations and in the limited area stations rather than just the specialised stations?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I see the town stations also having to carry the 20 per cent news content but it could apply to a specialised type of station in a town rather than a normal station in a town. It is in a very exceptional case that the derogation is going to be allowed. It would be a very special type of station that would be allowed this derogation. The normal criteria will apply across the board with the exception — I would say there would only be one or two, if there are one or two.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 16 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  This is a requirement in the legislation that RTE co-operate with the private sector contractors in the use of some of their facilities. We discussed this on Second Stage. Senator O'Toole, in particular, raised the problem about RTE's ability to be able to charge for the use of their facilities because of the Minister's intervention. I am not aware of the Minister's response to Senator O'Toole's point. Why is the Minister interfering with RTE's right to charge? I take it that the Minister does not interfere [1121] in the day-to-day running of affairs, or the charges for advertising in the medium. The national radio station could make money from the use of their facilities but we have ministerial intervention in the process. Perhaps there is a legitimate reason, the Minister may wish to ensure that RTE do not out-price their facilities in such a way that they would not be available to the private sector? Whatever the reason, I would like to have it put on the record.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The last point made by the Senator is precisely the reason.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  It is all right to talk of the provision that RTE will have to co-operate with the new radio and television station by offering the use of their masts, site and other facilities but inevitably one wonders whether in the long term it would force them to carry the signal for those other stations? Is that what this means?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  No. It does not.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  Is there a danger of developing in that direction? This is of major concern.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  A totally separate frequency will be available for the independent radio and television services. The key to having it in is that RTE by the very nature of the development over 60 years have had the particular choice sites around the country that are the centre of the co-ordinates for particular frequencies, and it will be essential to use some of these sites. The reason for the arbitration system being there is exactly to cover the point made by Senator Ferris. Obviously RTE are going to be in competition with the independent services. If there was no arbitration mechanism available RTE can say to the commercial operator, you can come in and use our site but you are going to pay £100,000 a year for it while the going rate might be £20,000 a year. There has to be some mechanism for the independent operator to come to the Minister and say: [1122]“Look, this is ridiculous. The £100,000 charge is not an economic proposition. Would you look at it and give us a reasonable price between what RTE are demanding and what we think is a reasonable price.” It is open to the Minister of the day to bring in outside consultants and arbiters to advise on a fair figure between RTE and the commercial radio. It is only commonsense.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  Is that a clear indication of the third TV channel? There is no difficulty with the signal? I am pleased with the Minister's reply. It is a very serious consideration. Without being facetious, to allow them to get to the stage of using the RTE signal would be tantamount to somebody allowing Guinness to distil whiskey.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Let us not get into that.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  We just want it on the record. I know that constitutionally the Minister would have to have regard to the overall good. The Minister should ensure that our national media is not ripped off for the benefit of the private sector or vice versa. There has to be an element of regard for everybody's interest in this. The Minister will have to have regard to the fact that these facilities were provided by the public through the tax system, licence fees and all the other areas of public funding. I am absolutely certain that the generous reciprocal arrangement that RTE must provide would not be so forthcoming if the situation were reversed. I am positively sure of it because it has been our experience in the past that the private sector are not as co-operative in assisting the public sector especially when there is competition between them. I am satisfied with the Minister's response. I hope he will avail of outside arbiters if there is a large area of disagreement between the two sides. The principle is appropriate. There are some of these major mast heads around the country and from a planning point of view it would be inappropriate to duplicate them in other areas when they could avail of them. I think [1123] the balance is about right but I want to query it.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I hope I am within the bounds of the section because there are two areas I would be anxious to hear the Minister's views on? Community access is becoming increasingly important. Is it envisaged in this section that if an approach is made by a community grouping. RTE would be legally obliged in commercial terms to give their facilities such as cameras, studios and technical expertise for the making of programmes for the independent sector? Secondly, does the Minister foresee in the context of this section that RTE, if approached by the independent radio sector, be they the town stations or the next tier, for the provision of news and sports services could sell such services at the going rate?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I think there is going to be great potential for RTE to sell their services on sports etc. in local areas to the local stations and there is nothing barring RTE from doing it. It would make great commercial sense for RTE to get involved in selling some other news and shorts services, but there is no question of this section allowing community access to the extent of the use of their cameras and other equipment. This section specifically relates to the use “of any mast, tower, site, or other installation or facility needed in connection with the provision of transmission facilities for sound broadcasting.” It is only the transmission facilities we are talking about and not the actual programme content.

In Part IV of the Bill however, the Senators will see that I have written into the Bill encouragement for the whole area of independent producers of programmes. I would hope that the job potential and financial reward from a national point of view of a thriving independent production sector will be taken up and will be encouraged.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  The unlicensed stations must be closed down by 31 December. [1124] Because the time is so short will RTE masts be used to carry the third radio channel? Is that correct?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Not necessarily.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Therefore, how does the Minister envisage planning permissions being in place even by June of next year? The other stations are closing down on 31 December, what will happen if it is the case that the masts cannot be used?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I am not saying they cannot be used. I am not saying they have to be used. They can use the RTE masts and facilities but they will pay for them. They can do it. Also we have entered into arrangements with Bord Telecom, who have a series of towers all over the country and there is no difficulty in putting up an extra facility on the Telecom towers. It is not a question of going through the whole procedure of planning delays that we went through with Radio Tara. These existing towers around the country can be used.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  Are the existing facilities owned by RTE, such as masts and lines? My reason for asking is that the provision of lines into RTE for news and sport are through the good offices of Telecom Éireann and it is their facilities that are used. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that RTE have to pay Telecom Éireann for that service? From my experience in working in the outside broadcast field whenever I go to a location there is always in situ an employee of Telecom Éireann. I wonder if the Minister sees any conflict between Telecom Éireann and RTE in the provision of facilities as envisaged in this section?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I think it will mean extra business for Telecom Éireann. They are very happy to provide any facility and as Minister responsible for Telecom may I say I am delighted with the extra business that is going to come Telecom's way. In relation to the television, the optic fibre system will be used to connect the MMDS towers around the country with the cable [1125] system and that will mean retransmission rather than using the transmission towers of RTE for the television. The towers are owned by RTE. The connection between them belongs to Telecom but the structures and the sites are RTE's and it is more the sites we are concerned about.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 17 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  This is a new part in the Bill. Is the thinking behind it that the Minister believes there is a realistic chance that there are people interested in providing a third television service and that we may well see this within the next year or two or is it a deed of foresight, preparing for the days when this may happen or has the Minister some hard and fast news that he could tell us this morning?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I would be delighted to assure Senator Manning that my foresight in this area as in so many other areas of public administration and public life is just spot on. I can say that a number of groups in our society have indicated an interest in running a television service in this country and when this legislation is passed, as I hope it will be completed today in the Seanad, and when the service is advertised, I have no doubt that there will be further groups coming forward willing to provide the service.

It is very important that from an Irish point of view we have a further channel with an Irish ethos assisting RTE 1 and RTE 2 to tackle the flood of channels that will be coming into Ireland over the next couple of years. Already it is happening in relation to the number of satellite stations we have and as you know Astra is going up and we are going to have more channels. We have the BSB also going up with more channels coming in. There is this whole flood of influence from abroad much of it very good, very [1126] enlightening, very rewarding and enriching but we need something else as well as RTE 1 and RTE 2 to try to change the balance from two against 15 or 20, to at least improve it to the extent of three, and to give the Irish viewers a choice of another Irish station is very important. To answer the Senator's question, I have no doubt it is not just a pious hope but a realistic expectation that we will have Channel 3 on air in October 1989.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  I am very interested in what the Minister has said and I welcome the prospect of a third television channel with all the employment, the outlets and opportunities that will provide. I expect that it will only go on air if it can meet all the rigorous conditions laid down. Is the Minister aware and what weight would he give to the view — which is expressed in The Irish Times last Monday — which is held by many of the more cautious people in RTE that such a third channel could do a great deal of harm to RTE 2 and we may end up with two fighting channels, RTE 1 and the independent Channel 1 and with a lame duck in between and maybe an extra drain on the Exchequer. I assume the Minister has taken into account the fears that RTE 2 may well become a casualty of the arrival of a third channel?

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I have a query on the application for a television programme service contract. Section 17 states:

The Commission shall, on being directed to do so by the Minister, invite applications for a television programme service...

People will not be obliged to make the application for contracts public before the Minister authorises the Commission to give the contract or before the Commission gives the contract——

Acting Chairman (Mr. Mullooly): Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  The Senator is dealing with a question that arises on section 18.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  Section 17 deals with the question of contracts for the provision of [1127] a television programme. I raise this not in a cynical way because we all know, as the Minister said earlier, that certain sectors of the media come down in favour of certain political parties or political options and so on. There is nothing wrong with that. In a democracy there is nothing wrong with that. Because of the fact that such discrimination exists, when people are applying for contracts, it might be better if their intentions were publicly-stated beforehand. It would place more obligation on the people seeking contracts from the Commission. That is not to say I would want anybody to apply for the purpose of objecting; there are other opportunities in the Bill to do so. The question of freedom of information if you like is akin. It is in that context I raise the issue.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I will just answer the Senator's point on the question of freedom of information. There is a unique level of transparency in this Bill — we discussed it last evening — in relation to the question of a successful application, whether for a radio or a television licence. Full details of the contract in existence between the successful applicant and the Commission will be fully available to the general public. Copies of it can be obtained by any member of the general public from the Commission's office.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  Before or after the decision is taken?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I dealt with this question before. That is after the decision is taken. Before a decision is taken — and we discussed this last night on an amendment in the name of Senator Manning — the position is that the advertisement is inserted inviting tenders. Let us say four or five people apply and one is successful. The four, who are unsuccessful, could represent major groups with quotations on the Stock Exchange. The fact that they are publicly associated with the failure of application can damage their share values. All applications would be dealt with in the strictest confidence. On any [1128] one application there could be a number of personalities in the existing electronics media area in RTE; there could be a number of them associating themselves with an application, without making it known to RTE, in strictest confidence with the Commission. Let us suppose their application is refused. Therefore, they will not be leaving RTE. They will remain working in RTE. If all of the details of their application were released to the general public, it could compromise them in their existing employment.

There is nothing in this Bill which debars any unsuccessful applicant or applicants from making the details of his, her or their application available to the general public after a decision is made in relation to the successful applicant. For example, if somebody feels aggrieved that the range of programmes being offered by them, their type of financial structure, the type of personalities involved merited greater support, that they should have been the successful applicant and not the one chosen by the Commission, there is nothing to stop them from making known to the general public and media the details of their application to the Commission. The same applies to every other contract. For example, if one tenders for a job to build a road, it will be the successful applicant only that will be published; the unsuccessful ones will not be. That does not debar anybody who has made an unsuccessful application from making known its details.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  What about RTE 2?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  In preparing the legislation and in deciding on an alternative television channel, I looked at the position of RTE 2. If I went down the road of making RTE 2 the independent channel, I would not have achieved my objective, which is to provide a further Irish-based choice for Irish viewers. That would have meant there would have been two channels only rather than the three I am trying to provide. RTE 2 have already [1129] responded to the challenge of the independent station. What they are doing is this: they have re-examined the role of RTE 2. I know that, from the autumn schedule on, there will be a totally revamped RTE 2 which will aim to cater for a major slice of the market even in competition with RTE 1; rather than being the baby brother it will become the full twin. I have no doubts about the health of RTE 2 in this respect.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I am very grateful to the Minister for his lengthy and detailed reply. There have been a number of articles in the media in recent weeks, more specifically Colum Kenny writing in The Irish Times of 24 May, in which he made rather scurrilous allegations about the secrecy that might surround applications, about the Minister's role. I am delighted that the Minister has clarified exactly what is his role and that of the Commission. Following on what the Minister said in relation to RTE 2 television, a little publicised fact is that earlier this year RTE announced that they were making a provision of £2 million to the independent film sector. Obviously this, too, is to be welcomed in the context of what the Minister has said about the future of RTE 2 television.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  The Senator mentioned scurrilous innuendos or whatever about people's applications and the secrecy that might surround them. There was no such intent or innuendo implied in my remarks.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I accept that absolutely.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  Nor was I referring to any of my Senatorial colleagues. I was making a specific reference as quoted.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 18 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  My point is in relation to [1130] what the Minister has said, that a reasonable amount of programming on the third TV channel should be of Irish and EC origin and that a reasonable proportion of that programming should be provided by independent producers. Whoever is fortunate enough to get the franchise to run this new channel will be in a position to make a decent profit. Unlike radio, television is the big growth field worldwide at present. I want to make the following suggestion. I support that a percentage of Irish programmes should be produced by independent producers, as is the case with Channel 4 in Britain. This would in a way help in developing a new industry to provide many job prospects for our young people.

The independent production sector in Britain has been given an enormous boost by the imposition of a 25 per cent quota on both ITV and the BBC. This has led to a considerable increase in the number of people employed in the manufacturing of TV programmes there. The Minister should give serious consideration to the notion of imposing a quota system on this new channel for Irish independent production. Indeed he might also think about imposing a similar quota on RTE. The way in which this clause is worded is somewhat vague and could mean that a “reasonable proportion” of Irish and EC programming involved only the Angelus, the weather forecast and the news. It would be a mistake if the Minister were to lose this once-off opportunity to help to develop this new technology-based industry. It should be our responsibility to ensure that the jobs potential provided in this Bill is maximised and spread as widely as possible. I ask the Minister earnestly to consider an amendment which would ensure that a minimum quota of Irish independent production will be written into the Bill.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The position in relation to this is that I have been very anxious and I share the Senator's concern in relation to independent production. I was very anxious to see the independent production sector being encouraged here. That is why, in drafting the Bill, I asked [1131] for the purpose of ensuring compliance with its provisions it should read that the Commission shall ensure that a reasonable proportion of the programme service (a) is produced in the State or in another member state of the European Communities and (b) is devoted to original programme material produced therein by persons other than the contractor, his subsidiary, his parent or existing broadcasting organisations. That is specifically designed to encourage independent producers and our home producers.

The reason I chose the phrase “reasonable proportion” was to keep in line with the draft agreements at Council of Europe level and EC level on this whole question of television services. These two regulations are being drafted at present, one a convention in the Council of Europe and another, a directive, in the EC. It is for that purpose that I chose the words “reasonable proportion” rather than a specific quota. I am anxious to avoid quotas and use wording which will be consistent with European directives.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Will the Minister make the view known that, in our discussions here this morning, a “reasonable proportion” would be 25 per cent? I estimate that something in the region of 500 jobs could be created in the high technology field straight away. If one particular contractor gets the contract I do not want to see circumstances arise in which, in one enormous room——

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I am sorry to interrupt the Senator but may I move that there be a short adjournment to allow the Minister to vote.

Mr. Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Just to finish and I will be brief. There could be an enormous studio in whose four corners there could be breakfast, lunch, teatime and late night shows, with nobody else being afforded an opportunity to make programmes.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  My view is that Channel 3 should be geared on the Channel 4-type [1132] operation in the United Kingdom. That is what I have in mind. I have been in contact with and had discussions with Channel 4 people about it.

Acting Chairman:  Is it agreed that the House adjourn for ten minutes? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 12.15 p.m. and resumed at 12.25 p.m.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  The Minister will be aware of my interests in the question raised by Senator Cassidy in relation to section 18 (4) (a) and (b). While I fully accept the Minister's response in relation to having to keep within the guidelines of our colleagues in the European Community — as the Minister is aware — I have expressed certain disappointment that, from an Irish viewpoint, perhaps we did not press harder, or perhaps we should not agree fully with the directive which is currently being formulated in Europe in relation to European programme quotas. For the benefit of the House, the history of this is that the European Community in recent years, foreseeing the onslaught and anticipated invasion of the Rubert Murdoch-type extra-terrestrial channels, felt that there was a need for Europe to come together, to agree on a consensus in relation to programming so that the European identity could be protected primarily against pulp television from America. There was a proposal originally that there be a quota imposed in relation to programmes originating within the European Community. This figure varied between 40 and 60 per cent and was something I welcomed. I know that the Minister, from his discussions on this and earlier reply — holds that aspiration dear in relation to Ireland.

However, it seems to me that — in the context of the two conventions which are the subject of review and will be completed before the end of the year, one emanating from the European Community and another from the Council of Europe — the concept of a programme quota of European programmes has been dropped. I know that this phrase incorporated in this section — a “reasonable [1133] proportion”— is now the European norm. I would hope that the Minister, in replying, might give some indication as to whether the Government's thinking in this area might change. My reasons are that Ireland, as the Minister said earlier, through the national television station, is already operating a quota of home-produced programmes in the region of 40 to 50 per cent.

Therefore, it would seem to me that there would not be a danger — if one perceives it to be such — of alien cultures coming into the Irish television network because we would be operating an acceptable quota of home-produced programmes; after all Ireland is part of Europe. There seemed to have been a suggestion earlier that, were we to agree to a quota of European-based programming, we would be liable, or obliged, to import programmes from other cultures, in other languages whose costs would be prohibitive and also might not meet general approval on the part of our television audience here. However, RTE are operating already a national quota of 40 to 50 per cent which comes well within the suggestions being made originally about a quota. I saw the Irish Government's stance as being that if we were to argue for a quota in Europe it would mean that the independent television sector, the national television service and this new proposed national television service would be in a position to sell programmes of an Irish nature to our European colleagues who would have to adhere to a programme quota.

It is precisely because European television stations have not been adhering to a European quota that they have now, in a sense, passed the buck and have introduced this rather nebulous term “a reasonable proportion”. Meanwhile, the Sky channels, the Lifestyle channels and the various other channels that have been talked about will now go their merry way, will be broadcasting throughout Europe, cross borders, transnational. The type of programming they will be transmitting, if one is to go on experience to date, of the cable television channels coming into this country — will be cheap American [1134] imported programmes. I have nothing against the Dallas-Dynasty concept of television programming, which is an important aspect of any television schedule, but I would be concerned that standards would fall if there was not to be an imposed quota, that our identity as a nation, our culture, our ethos, all of the things that the Minister has quite correctly talked about throughout this Bill, may be diminished as time goes on and we in Ireland with our 4,000 year history could find ourselves in a very short time becoming part of this mishmash of internationalism and our Irish identity would be lost. In that spirit I expressed my concern to the Minister originally that from an Irish view — point, it was in Irish interests to ensure that there would be some form of a quota or at least that there would be an aspiration — that is all this is — not only to protect the European identity but to give a very valuable platform to Irish independent film makers and Irish television producers to sell their wares in Europe. Television creates a vorocious appetite and with 16 to 20 channels coming onstream in the next couple of years thece is no possibility that television contractors will be able to obtain the amount of new programmes they will need to satisfy their multinational audience and they are going to resort to repeats and to cheap repeats.

When I say “cheap repeats” I will give one little statistic. I understand that the cost of buying in and transmitting a show like “The Lucy Show” which has been running for some 30 years now around the world would be no more than £10 per programme. When one compares that with the costs that are being bandied around for the production of one hour of drama or of home-produced programmes which run into thousands of pounds, it give some idea of the temptations that will be there for transnational television operators to buy in the cheaper programmes whereas if a quota was imposed they would have to buy in the more quality type programmes. I do not want to dwell on this but I think the Minister has got my point.

[1135]Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Let me clarify this for Senator Mooney and the House. I accept fully what he wants and the principle of having as much of our own native programmes on our own channels as possible. I refer him to section 6 (2) (e) which reads:

(2) In the consideration of applications received by it and in determining the most suitable applicant to be awarded a sound broadcasting contract, the Commission shall have regard to....

(e) the extent to which the applicant will create within the proposed sound broadcasting service

in that case it means television as well——

new opportunities for Irish talent in music, drama and entertainment:

Section 18 (3) (a) provides:

(3) The Commission shall ensure that the television programme service provided under this Act shall in its programming——

(a) be responsive to the interests and concerns of the whole community, be mindful of the need for understanding and peace within the whole island of Ireland, ensure that the programmes reflect the varied elements which make up the culture of the people of the whole island of Ireland, and have special regard for the elements which distinguish that culture and in particular for the Irish language.

In putting it into operation section 18 (4) provides:

(4) For the purpose of ensuring compliance with subsection (3) the Commission shall ensure that a reasonable proportion of the programme service—

(a) is produced in the State or in another Member State of the European Communities, and

(b) is devoted to original programme [1136] material produced therein by persons other than the contractor,...

With respect, the Senator seems, to misunderstand the situation in relation to the quota. Firstly, RTE does not have a quota provision. They have received a target of between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of home-produced programmes. The quota as defined by the EC and by the Council of Europe in deciding upon the 40 per cent or 50 per cent would exclude all news, all sport and all game shows; the 40 per cent would have to be on top of that. If you take RTE's position and leave out news, sport and games shows, RTE's home-produced productions are down to about 20 per cent. It would be unfair to our own stations to put in a quota as such and to be as rigid as a quota.

To return to the point I made on Second Stage, I mentioned again last night and today, for the channel to succeed it must be attractive to the viewers. It can survive only on advertising because it gets no State finances other than advertising revenue as its only means of support. RTE have shown that the only way to be attractive to the viewer in the main is by having Irish programmes, and Channel 3 must, in its own interest, concentrate on home quality programmes, otherwise it will not get the viewership. It will only be one more of the channels referred to by the Senator in his contribution; it will be one more other channel without any particular Irish ethos. Its attraction to the Irish people will be its concentration on home-produced programmes meeting the criteria laid down here in relation to an encouragement of Irish drama, Irish entertainment, Irish culture and the varied elements which make up the culture of the people of Ireland, and the fact that, a reasonable proportion of its original material must be produced here. I believe the road I have taken rather than the quota road — we both want to get to the same destination — is the right one and I ask the House to accept my judgment in that.

[1137]Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  Is there a great deal of untapped advertising resources in Ireland? If not, then much of what Senator Mooney has proposed cannot be achieved, and therein lies the difficulty. I have not got the answer, but it is going to be quite difficult for the national station, with the criteria they have to function under, to generate enough revenue from this so-called untapped source of advertising. This element worries me in regard to this section. We have to deal with the EC, and there is no problem with that. I understand the necessity for the news and current affairs programmes etc. but the whole thing still boils down to whether in the final analysis the RTE national radio lobby will get a better whack out of this because there is no great resource of untapped advertising.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I welcome what the Minister said and it is important that it be put on the record of the House. I do not wish to detract from what has been an excellent job in relation to our national television channel. I was acting a little like the dog with the bone, not wanting to let go totally, and using this section to amplify and extend the argument into the European context and the very difficult ongoing discussions that the Minister was having with his European colleagues. I am concerned that the ethos of our national stations across Europe could be danger and to that and I quote from the Independent newspaper in Britain in which Mr. Hurd, Home Secretary, with responsibility for broadcasting like our Minister here, has expressed some opposition to the suggestions being made both in the Council of Europe and in the European Community directive. I quote:

Britain also objected to elements within the EC directive which most crucially would attempt to force British television channels to broadcast Continental programmes and that the concern centred on programmes quotas which would seek to set an eventual 60 per cent of programme time on each [1138] television channel for European Community originated programming. Further, the quotas would seek 10 per cent of programme budgets to go to independent European producers. He believes that inflexible quotas will be impossible——

not for the national television channel

——for many of the new satellite channels to meet. Most of these which are British based are going to rely heavily on repeats of American programming.

That is the reason we in Ireland must protect our own interests. The Minister and I are at one on this and I want to make that perfectly clear. Perhaps when these discussions come up again the Irish stand point will be stated clearly and there will be encouragement to the independent sector in Ireland and people like Neil Jordan will get an ongoing opportunity to develop their talents and sell their programmes into Europe.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I assure the Senator that this point of view has already been put forward strenuously on behalf of Irish producers and the Irish case.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 19 stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  On the redefinition of broadcasting and the MMDS which is to be introduced under the amendment to the Wireless Telegraphy Act, I would like the Minister to clarify a few points. I understand that a Canadian study into the effects of microwaves had been sent on to his Department. It was implied in this that fairly light exposure to microwaves caused problems with small animals. The MMDS is a multi-directional signal. It sends microwaves into the atmosphere. Apparently microwaves are absorbed by the body as energy and then converted into heat. Is the Minister [1139] absolutely certain that there is no health hazard involved in MMDS?

My second point is in regard to the use of MMDS for the relaying of television signals. I understand that MMDS is a line of sight method of relay and that hills, buildings or vegetation can prevent the signal from travelling. Many people in rural Ireland at the moment who are getting a multi-channel service will not get the multi-channel service under this system if they are in glens or behind hills where the line of sight signal cannot proceed. In terms of the type of investment involved, is it justified, when we consider that satellite technology is now developing, that because the technology is developing the cost of receiver dishes and so on would be reducing?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  As far as the general question of MMDS is concerned, I can assure the Senator on many of the points he has raised, that similar points are coming out from the groups running the illegal deflectors. It is my intention, very shortly, to publish a full explanatory document for the information of the general public about all the issues that have been raised in relation to the operation of MMDS which will explain the full scene of how MMDS operates, including the health hazard and everything else.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  That will come out in the very near future, I take it.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 20 and 21 agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Mr. M. O'Toole): Information on Martin J. O'Toole  Zoom on Martin J. O'Toole  Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are related and may be discussed together.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  I move amendment No. 9:

In page 18, to delete lines 34 and 35.

[1140] We in the Labour Party are rather puzzled at the presence of subsection (4) in section 8 of the Schedule. It seems to fly in the face of accepted practice in the matter of rights of workers. I would ask the Minister to clarify for us why he thinks it is necessary to include that in the Schedule. Our reason for putting down amendment No. 10 is that we contend that the people who are involved in the contract end of the Commission's business, whether at local radio or television level, should be paid the same rates of pay and have the same conditions of service as people employed by RTE. In general, our amendment relates to trade union representation and protection of workers' rights. If this type of protection is not there, we could end up with sweatshops because many young people are very anxious to get into the media and broadcasting business. We are very concerned that there is protected salary structure and that conditions of work are protected. To refer back to section 4, does this imply that the contract of service would debar someone working for the Commission from his or her right to bring an unfair dismissals case before the Employment Appeals Tribunal?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Amendment No. 9 proposes to remove the right of the Commission to remove a member of the staff from office. That could not be accepted. The Commission must have such a right. It would be extraordinary, for instance, that the Commission would not be able to sack a member of their staff who is guilty of serious misconduct or fraudulent activity, and that is what is proposed in amendment No. 9. The Commission will, of course, be subject to all natural justice requirements in relation to the dismissal of staff, including the Unfair Dismissal Act. Amendment No. 10 is equally unacceptable. The normal industrial relations arrangements for terms and conditions of employment will apply to the staff of the Commission. The terms and conditions of employment of the staff of contractors will be a matter of settlement between the parties concerned in the normal way. I have no intention of accepting an [1141] amendment which would impose the same terms and conditions as RTE are operating under.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I am disappointed with the Minister's immediate response to what we are attempting in this amendment. To say that the Commission may at any time remove any member of the staff of the Commission from being a member of its staff is provocative and draconian, and a totally unnecessary provision in the year 1988. Nobody on the Labour side of the House or any trade union would suggest that any employer would not have the right to dismiss somebody who was guilty of an offence. The employee would also have the right to go to an unfair dismissals tribunal and fight his case and possibly would lose it if there was an element of dishonesty or otherwise, but the days are gone for writing into legislation the right to hire and fire. This House should recognise that we would feel that the normal employer-employee relationship should be there and nobody will remove anybody's right to sack somebody who is guilty of doing something wrong. However, this goes beyond that and provides “at any time”— they could decide in the middle of the week. It is provocative as it is worded.

The second amendment is trying to ensure that with the privilege that the private sector are getting from the Houses of the Oireachtas in setting up stations which will be in direct competition with the national stations, the entitlements of employees in that area would be the same as prevails in a similar kind of business in a similar area. When the IDA encourage industrialists to come in here, multinationals in particular, they always require them to recognise the right of a trade union to negotiate on behalf of the members who would be employed in the company. That is an acceptable principle in Government when dealing with multinationals or anybody setting up a business here and it is in the company's own interest. With very few exceptions, the norm is that people going into business recognise the accepted standards in an area and the [1142] desirability of a trade union dealing with problems. Some companies have another structure which they claim is even better than trade unions and that is acceptable.

We will all be depending on the trade union movement to support this industry. I said the other day that many of the NUJ representatives were already working in pirate stations, so it is obvious that the trade union, even recognising that they are pirate stations, represent workers in them to ensure that they are not exploited just because they are employed by pirates. It is an essential concept. We want to get on the record of the House our reservations about the use of such strong words “that they may at any time remove”. We are not taking away the right to remove under normal working conditions but the phrase as it is here could be misrepresented.

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  If the Minister has given an assurance that all of the normal procedures which are now established norms in terms of termination of employment, appeals and so forth, all of which are part and parcel of the public service, will be the procedure, I think this is unnecessary. I agree with the Minister that it would be totally unrealistic to expect small stations down in the country to have the same conditions of employment, salary scales and terms as apply in RTE at present.

One of the great challenges facing many of these stations will be to use their ingenuity and the enthusiasm of their workforce to get over some of the restrictive practices, which are only gradually being weeded out in RTE. We have had cases in RTE of producers who have not produced programmes for years on end and yet are on full salary. One could go right down through it. In fairness, RTE have faced up to this in recent years. Normal procedures and the normal element of competition will ensure that the type of amendment which is being proposed will not be needed.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  For clarification, to help in this debate before it goes too far off the rails, what is written in here is exactly what operates in RTE. The Broadcasting [1143] Authority Act under which RTE operate provides that: “13 (3). The Authority may, at any time, remove any officer or servant of the Authority from being its officer or servant.” Nobody suggests that that is improper in relation to RTE. On the contrary, the further amendments ask me to do the same as RTE are doing. It is being drafted to allow the Commission to do the same as the RTE Authority. There can be no argument with it.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I have a certain sympathy for this amendment. I do not understand why the provision is in at all. The Minister might give us some help on this. If it is in because it is copying the RTE legislation that is not a good enough reason for it to be in. It is completely unnecessary to put this sort of stipulation into legislation. I would have thought it went without saying. I am not convinced (a) that it is necessary and (b) that it is normal. I would be suspicious that this sort of thing is written into legislation and may used at some future date for purposes for which it is not meant. In principle, I am opposed to writing powers into legislation which are there almost by implication already.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I concede that any employer has the right to select his employees. At any time if their conduct is prejudicial to the good interests of the company, he has the right to dismiss them. Then it is up to their trade union to deal with the problem. I accept the Minister's point that the word “shall” is not there. The word “may” is used, but the word “may” nowadays, even accepting that it is in the legislation which governs the broadcasting authority, is not appropriate. We have been debating the question of industrial democracy for many years. We have developed as far as the two tier with the sub-board, and I hope we will develop further in this regard. The time has come for change and now is a good time, with a Bill such as this, to say that it is not really necessary, although we need not delete it. Every employer has that power. The word used is not “shall”, if it was, we would probably [1144] be going in and out of the division lobbies. The word used is “may” which is not positive. The Minister has room to reflect that it may well have stood the test of time in RTE, but times have changed and we are dealing with a much more complex position now and the Commission are dealing with varied areas, smaller companies, groups etc. It would be appropriate at this time to accept that that provision is the only real black feature of the Bill as a whole. It is a good Bill and we are going a long way with it. I doubt very much whether, if the Minister was an employer sitting across the table from people he was negotiating with, he would want that put into an agreement.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  Is the Minister telling me that if this subsection was not in here the Commission would not have the right to dismiss a member of their staff? If that is the case we would not want to remove it. Really it is unnecessary, and Senator Ross has summed up our views on the matter. It is superfluous in that it is accepted that people, including employers, have certain rights. We want to try to repair some of the damage that have been done in other areas because of the way people dig in their heels in this regard. This is unnecessary legislation in 1988. When the provision was introduced it might have been considered necessary. People even questioned the right of a previous Minister to abolish the RTE Authority, when he considered he had that right. There are always people who will question what you do. I want the Minister's confirmed assurance that without this section the Commission could never sack anybody. Is that what the Minister is saying?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Not at all. I am assured that is the reality. It is merely an enabling power. The parliamentary draftsman in deciding on the form of the legislation insisted that it should go in. It is not intended to be used other than in normal circumstances when the Commission must have some rights. It would be extraordinary if it was not contained in the Bill [1145] and the Commission were unable to sack a member of their staff who was guilty of serious misconduct or fraudulent activity. I want to reassure the Senators here today and the House generally that the Commission will be subject to all natural justice requirements in relation to the dismissal of staff, including the Unfair Dismissals Acts. On this whole question of relationships between employers, employees, the Government and trades unions, the relationship between this Government and the trade union movement is very close through the involvement of both in the Programme for National Recovery, the continuing negotiations and the monitoring process under that programme. There is no question of any draconian legislation. This is merely an enabling power. I can assure Senator Ross of that. It is there on the advice of the parliamentary draftsman.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  Could we clarify the point? Why should the Commission be different from any other employer? Why do the Commission need this power written into the Bill?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Why do the Commission need legislation at all? Why can we not just set up the national radio networks and the independent radio networks without legislation? You need a framework and this framework is legislation. The equivalent type organisation in the electronic media area are the RTE Authority who have a similar type provision in their legislation. Natural justice will apply. It is merely enabling legislation. Were it not there, their ability to hire and to remove would be in question. I am assured by the parliamentary draftsman that it is essential that it should be there.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  It is an insult to the intelligence of a lot of Members of both Houses to think that they would suggest that the Authority may not have the right to dismiss somebody who has been in breach of his contract. I do not know what the draftsmen get up to. I left school [1146] when I was 12 years old but a lot of people did not leave school until they were very much older. Not only is it insulting my intelligence, but it also must be doing a lot of damage to their intelligence.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I left school at 23 and I agree completely with what Senator Harte has said. I do not question the Minister's sincerity, but it seems quite extraordinary that he is saying that if this is not put in, anybody who commits fraud or a criminal offence, or gives justification for being dismissed, cannot be dismissed. In other words, unless this clause is left in anybody who is employed by the Commission has permanent tenure for as long as they like. I find that impossible to accept. I would have thought that the normal laws relating to an employer and an employee would apply to this automatically. Surely the Minister is not saying that a person has tenure for life whatever his behaviour unless this clause is inserted? Is that what the Minister is saying?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I am.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  We would like to record our dissent from it. We are certainly not withdrawing the amendment.

Acting Chairman:  Is it withdrawn?

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  If you could record the dissent of the Members who have appended their names — I am talking about Senator Ross. We just want to be recorded as against the use of this type of wording. We think they are provocative, draconian and superfluous, no matter what the draftsman says. I want the record to show that we dissent from the necessity to use these words.

Acting Chairman:  Your comment will be recorded in the Official Report.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  All right. On the Schedule——

Acting Chairman:  Are you withdrawing amendment No. 9?

[1147]Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  We will withdraw it on the basis that our objections are recorded.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 10 not moved.

Question proposed: “That the Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill.”

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I do not understand this. The Schedule reads:

(1) Where a member of the Commission is—

(a) nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann, or

(b) nominated as a candidate for election to either House of the Oireachtas or to the European Parliament, or

(c) regarded pursuant to section 15 (inserted by the Act of 1984) of the Act of 1977, as having been elected to the European Parliament to fill a vacancy,

he shall thereupon cease to be a member of the Commission.

On the schedule could we talk to the draftsman, as he is in the House. All legislation that has come through this House in the past three or four years has been changed at the request of this House and the parliamentary draftsman was advised that this kind of section is unacceptable. First, I have no objection when a Member is nominated as a member of this House, because he is then a Member of the House. I have no objection when a person is elected to either House of the Oireachtas or elected or nominated to fill a vacancy in the European Parliament. Once one holds office he should not be a member of the Commission. Surely this inclusion by the draftsman of a nomination as a candidate is unacceptable to all of us nowadays.

You remove the opportunity for people to go forward for public office by having this written in, especially if a person feels they have something to offer and particularly having regard to the fact that outside nominating bodies for the Seanad do not necessarily require the permission or approval of the nominated [1148] candidate. To compound it further, if somebody is nominated by an outside nominating body as a candidate to contest the Seanad election, their names cannot be withdrawn unless they die between then and polling day. It is extraordinary then that the draftsman is insisting that people in that category would have to resign or no longer be a member of the commission. That also applies to the staff.

I will accept a Report Stage amendment from the Minister which excludes that but does include election, whether by nomination to this House or election directly to it or to the other House, or to the European Parliament. They should be excluded from being members of the Commission. Certainly, by being nominated as a candidate for election should not exclude them. In any legislation that has been passed here over the last number of years, in the previous Government's time and in this Government's time, any clause like this one was changed and amended before it got to us. The draftsman who is so anxious to include all of the references in the past, has made a cardinal error in allowing this to slip through. I will be calling a vote on it, but I would prefer if the Minister amended it on Report Stage.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I do not know whether the Minister is aware of it or not, but we have, in fact, a Member in the other House who had to give up his job on the basis of criteria of this nature. It was a post office job. Actually, there were two cases. I am not suggesting that we would now have a majority in County Clare had that type of clause not been in operation at the time, but we did lose a very good representative in Clare, mainly because he could not go beyond the county council stage of being nominated. A Member of the other House had to surrender his job on the basis, not of getting elected but of being actually nominated. I believe that at this stage with the existence of the State for so long, that is a little out of order. I agree that nobody should certainly sit on the Commission if they are elected, but it is going very far indeed to [1149] say that one should not get nominated. If one is threatened with being a candidate now one cannot be selected to be a member of the Commission. That is going a little overboard.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I do not quite understand why nominated Members of the Oireachtas are excluded from sitting on this Commission. I could understand it if it was the other way round and if the legislation said that the commission shall not have more than so many members of the Seanad or the Dáil or the Oireachtas. I am not sure why it is automatic. There may be a reason which the Minister can give us which will imply a conflict of interest. I meant to mention this, but I am quite prepared to admit that I was not able to be here, which is rare in this House, on Second Stage. It would have been far more appropriate if members of political parties were excluded rather than people who are in these Houses. It would be far more appropriate if the Minister said that no member of the Commission can be a member of a political party.

It is well known that this Commission is in danger of being staffed, as has other bodies, with people who are loyal to political parties and people who are loyal to Governments. What I am frightened of is seeing this Government nominate its own men or women to this Commission and then going on the sort of semi-State merry-go-round that we see so often. Had I been able to, I would have put in an amendment excluding members of political parties whose first loyalty is to a political party. That would have been far more appropriate. The Minister and the House know that there is already fairly intense lobbying and pressure for seats on this Commission. Members of the Seanad or the Dáil, while not ideal people, should not be the first people to be excluded. The first people to be excluded should be people whose loyalties are to political parties rather than to the Oireachtas itself.

Mr. S. Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  We talked about [1150] impartiality and political impartiality earlier in this Bill. That whole area would be in jeopardy if members of the Commission are also going to be affiliated to political parties and are going to be candidates in an election. It seems to me that as soon as a person on the board of a community group or residents' association is put forward as a candidate for a political party he is automatically debarred from holding office on those organisations. It would seem that that principle should almost definitely apply to the Commission and I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say. I agree with this section.

Mrs. Bulbulia: Information on Katherine Bulbulia  Zoom on Katherine Bulbulia  I do not agree with this section and I do not put a tooth in it. We have had this out, as Senator Ferris said, many times on other sections of other Bills in the past which involved setting up a board or a commission. It seems as if there is some sort of taint attached to somebody who becomes involved in the political system by virtue of putting in a measure like this. I do not doubt Senator Ross's bona fides in defending the position of somebody nominated as a Member of Seanad Éireann. I am very concerned about (b) there “nominated as a candidate for election to either House of the Oireachtas”.

I do not know the number of nominating bodies to the Seanad, but in each of the five panels there are a number of nominating bodies. Very many people take up those nominations and run as Seanad candidates. As somebody who is the nominee of an outside body, I watched that section of the election with great interest. Many of those nominated candidates fall like nine pins. Some of them are not often serious candidates for a Seanad election. The bottom line in all of this is that anybody nominated or invited to become a member of a commission must be so invited because of capability and capacity to serve on that Commission and to have a certain insight, knowledge or expertise, or particular insight, to bring to the workings of the commission.

It is a great pity if somebody has an [1151] interest in political matters and is honoured by receiving a nomination as a candidate for election to the Seanad that they would, perforce, have to come off such a commission or become in some way suspect as a consequence of that nomination. In the past we have succeeded in legislation which has had a section such as this in bringing sanity and reason to bear on that measure. I am hopeful the Minister will omit the section whereby somebody would be excluded by virtue of their nomination as a candidate to either House of the Oireachtas.

On the matter of elected status, I can see an argument for not wishing to see elected Members but I am not absolutely convinced of it. It conjures up notions of people who are elected, either as Independents or as members of political parties, as having intentions, attitudes, loyalties or affiliations which bring their whole integrity into question. As an elected parliamentarian and member of a political party, I am not happy that that should be the generalised view. You get good and bad, and people with and without integrity, in every situation. I hate a sort of blanket notion that those who have a party political involvement are in some way people of less integrity than others.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I share the Senator's last point in relation to members and active members of political parties. Living in a democracy with a party system, our democracy is stronger because of the participation of members of the general public giving of their free time to join in the political process by becoming involved in party political activities.

Regarding membership of this House, of the Dáil or of the European Parliament, I believe it would be totally inappropriate that any Member would be also a member of a board or commission of this type. Regarding nomination, somebody mentioned that we live in the real world and let us refer to the real world. Senators know the situation better than I do, and I hope never to learn it. The [1152] situation in relation to outside nominations is such that it normally is a fair chase for an individual to get a nomination from an outside body. To suggest that he or she is going to be nominated against his wishes by an outside nominating body, because that outside nominating body wants to get him off a commission or a board, or is going to purposely nominate him is ludicrous. We have to live in the real world. There is no amendment down. Perhaps the Members want to vote against the particular section of the Schedule. I will not be accepting an amendment.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  May I say——

Acting Chairman:  You cannot speak a second time as you are well aware. On the Schedule——

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  It is Committee Stage of the Bill; I can speak on this section as often as I like, and for as long as I like. Is that correct?

Acting Chairman:  You can.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I am disappointed with the Minister's attitude. He is the first Minister for about five years who has adopted this attitude or has put this section into legislation. There are other boards, for instance, nurses boards, dental boards or any other board, on which I agree it would be inappropriate to have an elected Member of the House of the Oireachtas or an elected Member of the European Parliament to be jointly or at the same time a member of a board or a commission. It would be almost incompatible. Senator Ross has a different view.

This section being written in as it is, will exclude any member who would be a member of the commission, from endeavouring to become a member of this House. I think that would be against the whole democratic process. They could, by that very nature, just lose their place on the commission. It has happened. The Minister would want to live in the real world. If the Minister is [1153] unaware of it, would he please check the resignations that had to take place when the board of ACOT and other bodies were set up, just because people were nominated? They were not successful in being elected, and did not get back onto the board of ACOT again. That is what you are suggesting could happen here. A Member who you will be appointing to become a member of the commission will now be precluded from ever being a candidate even for election here. That is what it means.

I am opposing the section. I am putting an amendment down for Report Stage, which will be taken now. If the parliamentary draftsman does not believe us, perhaps we could have a “Sos” so you could check the other legislation to confirm what I am saying is true? One Minister allowed the parliamentary draftsment to slip in with this sort of thing and the Minister only discovered it when we drew it to his attention. There was a “Sos” and he made a change and the Dáil accepted it without debate. They had not realised that it had slipped through again. We are listening to draftsmen and all the things they would like to do and have, such as continuity in legislation and so on. This is unacceptable to me. I oppose the section because of that and will put in an amendment on Report Stage.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  On a point of information for Members, I have a copy of the Broadcasting Authority Amendment Act, 1976. Section 9 of this Act states, “where a member of the commission”— in this instance I believe they are referring to the existing RTE authority which has been in existence since 1961 —“is nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann or for election to either House of the Oireachtas, he shall upon accepting such nomination cease to be a member of the commission”. This is nothing new as far as my experience is concerned.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  Could I deal with that? I am talking about legislation in the past five years, because of the anomaly, particularly in regard to the nomination process for the Seanad. Senator Mooney [1154] would want to be aware of it and not go back to 10 or 12 years' legislation.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I am talking specifically about broadcasting.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  We are talking about boards that are set up by legislation of this House. We must protect Members or potential Members. I have no problem about people who become Members not being on these boards. I have never defended that they should. I think it is incompatible but it is unjust and against all norms of democracy that somebody should not even be allowed to let his name go forward.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  As regards the democratic situation is concerned, I accept what the Senator is saying in relation to ACOT and other less high profile organisations. We are talking about a Commission here, a very high profile mediawise Commission. Surely membership of that would give benefit to a candidate in a campaign above and beyond any other candidate in a campaign, which I know the Senator would not want to see happening. Somebody with such a high media profile, as a member of the Independent Radio and Television Commission, with all the potential coverage of their particular candidature during a campaign should not be involved in.

Mrs. Bulbulia: Information on Katherine Bulbulia  Zoom on Katherine Bulbulia  Surely decency would come into this. If somebody found himself or herself nominated as a candidate and standing for a Seanad election, decency would indicate that such a person would announce that fact, if he or she were a member of the Commission, to the Commission, and seek a temporary suspension of membership during the duration of the campaign and, if unsuccessful, rejoin the Commission. Everything would be open, above board and decent and free from any taint or suspicion. That would be a reasonable way of going about dealing with this difficulty.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I can understand the reason members of the Oireachtas cannot be on [1155] this Commission. Even though it has not been explained to me, I suspect it is because of some form of conflict of interest. I am very worried — and I also will put down an amendment at Report Stage — that the sort of unseemly behaviour that happened when there was a contest for the director-generalship of RTE last time would be repeated. It is disingenuous for anybody in a political party to maintain that the RTE Authority are not politically appointed and politically divisive in some way. It is unfashionable to say it but there was a very nasty contest for the last director-generalship of RTE which was based on political parties. If I am right — and I am open to correction — one candidate was selected by the committee set up by RTE, and that candidate was very closely identified with the Fianna Fáil Party in Opposition, but the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs refused to appoint him.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  On a point of information, I am sorry to interrupt Senator Ross, but it is unfair to attach political affiliations to somebody who is not here to defend himself against that allegation.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am not naming anybody, Senator Mooney, but thank you very much for your help. That is the sort of situation I want to see avoided on this Commission. We have not got any indication that this will not happen. From what I hear and from what I see around, this is exactly what will happen on this Commission. There will be a dog fight for seats. The people involved will be closely identified with political parties and in this case, naturally enough, with the Government, because they will be appointing them. Perhaps it should simply be that nobody who is a member of a political party should be able to sit on this Commission. The Minister might say that is unfair, and too broad. Maybe he would accept an amendment that those who are on this Commission will allow their political record to be published. They should have to answer specific questions which would show whether they had allegiances [1156] to parties. I have no doubt whatsoever that this Commission will become a highly politicised Commission who will then be asked to make political decisions. Would the Minister accept some amendment which would by-pass this?

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  The Minister intervened again to say that because it is going to be a very high-powered, high profile Commission that it would be inappropriate to have anybody in the House associated with it or involved with it. Surely there are already regulations laid down on the code of conduct of contractors and all people involved in this. RTE have a code of conduct. There are people who are Members of this House who had to forego their employment, freelance or otherwise, in RTE during an election campaign. They were fortunate enough to be re-employed afterwards, which some people might consider unfair on a particular panel on which other candidates did not have similar facilities available to them.

I am concerned about the membership of the Commission and the membership of the staff of the Commission. I am ensuring by my defence of the right to be nominated that that should not preclude you, as Senator Bulbulia said, during the course of the campaign. You would be expected, in the normal course of events, to step aside and try your hand at it, but you should not automatically forfeit your right to be on the Commission by being a candidate. Only if you are successful should the Minister's thinking in this regard come into play. Then all of us will defend him.

I suggest that the Minister should check what I have said about previous legislation for the setting up of boards, high profile or low profile involving the same principle that in some you cannot be a member of a House of the Oireachtas. I accept that. Particularly in regard to nominations for contesting Seanad elections, it is slightly different from the nomination process involved in the Dáil. We want to be totally impartial in this House and we say that any Member of [1157] either Houses who is nominated as a candidate should be disqualified immediately or automatically.

I am suggesting that the Minister should remove section 10 (b) and section 2 (b). Those are the only two that offend me. All the others should stand. I suggest that the Minister should do that on Report Stage. I can assure him it will not be held up for five minutes in the other House as a result.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  On a point of information, would the Senators not accept what I have already said? I fully accept that Senator Ferris has broadened the argument to talk about all boards, but I am talking specifically about this section, about the setting up of this Commission and the wording of this Bill. Would the Senator not accept, as I have already said, that in regard to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, which is a statutory body, and also to the RTE Authority, the wording is similar to that which is in this Bill? That goes back to 1960 and 1961. I do not want to delay the House. I do not want to make a political football out of this. I am asking Senators to accept that there is no radical departure in the provisions of this Bill from those in the other legislation which was passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas to set up the existing broadcasting facilities.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  The anomaly that arose following that was pointed out here and accepted by a previous Government and by this Government in other legislation.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  It is the law.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  If you follow through the argument just made, in the next section it says anybody employed could not be a Member of this House.

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  That is in the existing legislation. I can quote that for the Senator.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  How do RTE employ the [1158] Senator now that he is a member of this House?

Mr. Mooney: Information on Paschal Canice Mooney  Zoom on Paschal Canice Mooney  I am not employed by RTE.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  The Senator is a freelance. Should we have another subsection to ensure that freelance people who are Members of this House or the other House should not be employed? I want to be fair, but I do not want to discriminate against Members who are nominated. I accept that people who are members should have their own balance.

Acting Chairman:  Is the Schedule agreed?

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The Minister has failed to answer one or two questions. He has not replied at all to this question, which is important. I cannot find what the qualifications in the Bill are for the members of the Commission, but from memory they are very broad. As I read it, anybody could qualify for membership of the Commission who had any experience in virtually anything at all, including administration, which is so vague. I want to get guidance from the Minister on this. It is quite simple. We must ensure that those who are appointed — and I am talking about future generations of Ministers not himself, particularly — are not simply cronies of the political party in power.

I do not mind making a political football of it if Senator Mooney does not want to. This Commission and the quality of this Commission will become debased because those who get this job and those who get the licence, which is regarded in the commercial world quite simply as a plum, will be getting it as some sort of political reward. It is no secret. It is not very fashionable to say this. I would like the Minister to answer whether he will consider that those who sit on this Commission, and indeed in future in the RTE Authority, should make an honest declaration of their political involvement in the past and their political affiliations. That would solve this problem and it [1159] would prevent any Minister in the future from nakedly appointing cronies to this Commission. That is what I am worried about and that is why it would be useful to include it in this schedule.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Section 1 (5) of the Schedule states:

A person shall not be appointed to be a member of the Commission unless he has had experience of or shows capacity in, media or commercial affairs, radio communications engineering, trade union affairs, administration or social, cultural educational or community activities.

These are the criteria laid down. It is outrageous to suggest that the total membership of the RTE Authority are in some way politically tainted. The chairman of the RTE authority is Mr. Jim Culliton. I mention him here and although I know it is not normal to mention individuals, I do so because attacks have been made on their capacity. I do not know the man's political persuasion; I do not want to know. He was not appointed by a Fianna Fáil Administration. I would say he was picked by the previous Coalition Administration for the talents he has quite clearly displayed since he became chairman of that Authority. It is outrageous to suggest that a member to be appointed to any board has to sign a certificate of whom he voted for at the last election or whom he has supported in a national collection when somebody called to his door or what political affiliations he has or does not have.

Our democratic process needs people involved in the political process, needs active volunteers. I believe to exclude such people from membership of boards, no matter what party they are members of, would be outrageous. The Government intend that the people to be appointed by them to this commission will be people of the highest calibre, fitting within the specific criteria laid down. The criteria laid down now are not the criteria which appeared in the Bill's first [1160] draft in the Dáil. I accepted an amendment in the Dáil to include trade union affairs as one of the criteria. I assure Senators, that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a board of the highest calibre for the very sound reason that there will be such a high media perception of the board that membership will be scrutinised to see who are appointed.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The Minister is showing undue sensitivity on this point.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I am not.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I was establishing that this will be the law for many years to come. It is very important that nobody is given the opportunity to abuse it. This could be the law for 20, 30 or 40 years. I have found out what the qualifications for the Commission are. It is worth reading that into the record. It is all very well to say that they should be of the highest calibre. It says nothing here about them being of the highest calibre. It says:

A person shall not be appointed to be a member of the Commission unless he had experience of, or shown capacity in media or commercial affairs, radio communications engineering, trade union affairs, administration or social——

This to my mind covers everybody who has ever been born

—cultural, educational or community activities.

This seems to exclude absolutely nobody. That particular section means nothing. It dresses up in particularly flowery language the sort of person who will be in there but for which anybody who is picked by the Minister at the time will qualify. The section could be deleted and the Bill would not in any way lose anything.

I was not saying that all members of the RTE Authority had political affiliations. It is unfair to pick out one — the Minister should be ruled out of order on this — who patently has not. I was saying [1161] that there are many people appointed to that Authority and to other semi-State bodies who have obviously got political affiliations and that their primary qualification for those jobs is that they have political affiliations. It is rubbish and nonsense for people to protest that this is not the case because it is. We only have to remember one of the most recent appointments, which I have already raised in this House, to see that political affiliations were a factor in appointments to semi-State bodies. I am not asking the Minister to exclude people who have been members of political parties or people who have given money to political parties. I am asking that those facts should be publicly known.

Mr. Harte: Information on John Jack Harte  Zoom on John Jack Harte  I have one question about the people who would be appointed. It says:

A person shall not be appointed to be a member of the Commission unless he had experience or shown a capacity in media or commercial affairs....

Does that mean if you have a long extended history of radio piracy, that you are well equipped to be a member of the Commission? I am not saying that he should not be a member of the Commission. I want to know if it will debar him or will all be forgiven? We are dealing with the question of the pirate radio operators. If somebody has shown a capacity in the media as a pirate and has had a very long run, is he an ideal person for the Commission?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  We are only talking about those involved in illegal broadcasting. You are talking about media, being the paper industry et cetera.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I have no objection to the vast majority of the Schedule but I have an objection to section 10 (1) (b) paragraph (b) of subsection (2). I want an explanation on the procedure. I want to be able to put down an amendment or to ask the Minister to put an amendment down on Report Stage. I do not want to vote against the whole Schedule because [1162] I am not against the whole Schedule. I am objecting to the two offending subsections. Can I have the guidance of the Chair? If I allow this Schedule to go through without a division, can I still put an amendment down on Report Stage on the subsections I am worried about?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair would expect that the Senator could.

Mr. Bradford: Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Could I ask the Minister what he sees as the time scale involved in the work of the Commission? There are many people involved in what one would call the non-formal radio stations at present. I am sure those people would like to know if there will be a long delay between the time they apply for their licence and receive a reply. Will there be a cut-off point or will the alternative situation exist? After they have applied for their licence will they be allowed to continue to broadcast until their licence application is decided on? It would be a more favourable position if the application process could be speeded up to ensure that there would not be a long delay.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The existing Broadcasting and Wireless Telegraphy Bill, the other Bill will be coming to you afterwards, sets out that 31 December is the last day they can operate. After that the Broadcasting and Wireless Telegraphy Act comes into force and they must stop because all of the very severe measures come into operation at that stage. The procedure to be followed is that following the passage of this legislation and signing by the President the Government will then appoint a commission who will carry out this initial trawl of interest that we talked about last night. They will suggest the areas where they think licences should be given depending on frequencies and other factors. We will decide where they should be. They will then have to advertise for applications for licences for the particular contractors for those regions. That should go on through the autumn and we should be ready at the beginning of the year for a [1163] lot of the areas. All of them will not be immediately covered. It will be a progressive thing and more and more stations will come on the air during the beginning of next year. It is my intention that most of the major areas will be covered starting from 1 January.

Question put and agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Next Stage?

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  Now.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Could we have a short sos while I put down at least one amendment. I believe Senator Ferris wants to put down an amendment also. Could we have a 10 minute break?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Would the Acting Leader of the House like to propose an adjournment?

Mr. W. Ryan: Information on William Ryan  Zoom on William Ryan  I propose we adjourn until 2 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 1.45 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.


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