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Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Radio Telefís Éireann.

Tuesday, 18 October 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 10

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39.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on what basis the present members of the Broadcasting Authority are appointed; and if he has any proposals to alter the method of appointment.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan The present members of the Broadcasting Authority were appointed by the Government in accordance with section 4 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, and I have no proposals in mind for altering the method of appointment.

40.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs the names of present members of the Broadcasting Authority; the date of their appointment; the duration of their appointment; and the fee paid to each member.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan The reply is in the form of a tabular statement which, with your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to have circulated with the Official Report.

Following is the statement:

Name Date of first appointment Date/s of re-appointment Expiration of present appointment Rate of remuneration
Dr. Christopher S. Andrews,Chairman 3rd June,1966 31st May,1971 £1,000 p.a.
Ruaidhri Brugha, Member 1st June, 1965 1st June, 1966 do. £500 p.a.
James I. Fanning, do. 1st June, 1960 1st June, 1965 do. £500 p.a.
    1st June, 1966    
Fintan Kennedy, do. 1st June, 1960 1st June, 1965 do. £500 p.a.
    1st June, 1966    
Dr. Theodore W. Moody, do. 1st June, 1960 1st June, 1965 do. £500 p.a.
    1st June, 1966    
Michael Noonan, do. 1st June, 1965 1st June, 1966 do. £500 p.a.
[1395]Michael O'Callaghan, Member 27th Sept, 1966   31st May, 1971 £500 p.a.
Dónall Ó MÓrain do. 1st June, 1965 1st June, 1966 do. £500 p.a.
Phillis, Bean Uí Cheallaigh do. 1st June, 1965 1st June, 1966 do. £500 p.a.

41.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is satisfied that the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 contains sufficient safeguards for the independence of RTE.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan I am satisfied that the Broadcasting Authority Acts enable Radio Telefís Éireann to carry out effectively its functions of establishing and maintaining a national television and sound broadcasting service. It was, of course, never intended that it should be completely independent but the power of intervention by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs or the Government is confined by the legislation to a small number of matters in which State interests must be safeguarded.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Is the Minister aware of the disquiet in the country about the amount of ministerial interference with programmes and news on Radio Telefís Éireann, and also of the fact that the Taoiseach last week said he was prepared to stand over every act of every Minister in this regard or any other? Can the Minister guarantee to the Dáil and the country that Radio Telefís Éireann will be allowed to do its work without political interference?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan I do not accept any of the implications the Deputy raises in his supplementary question. My experience is that the amount of interference the Deputy refers to has been so exceptional as to make this question completely unnecessary.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Am I to take it that the Minister [1396] and the Government claim the right to interfere with Radio Telefís Éireann in the way that news shall be presented and whether a particular item of news shall, in fact, be televised at all?

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry Is the Minister aware that a protest was sent by Deputy Fitzpatrick to Telefís Éireann to prevent them showing a photograph of him drinking whiskey in Verolme Dockyard?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): The Deputy's intervention, Sir, is in keeping with the irresponsibility of the Fianna Fáil Party.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Could the Minister give an answer to this simple question? Is the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs or any other Minister in the Government empowered to insist that a particular news item be deleted from a newscast?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Yes; section 31 empowers the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to have any particular presentation withdrawn.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I did not say a presentation; I said a news item.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Surely anybody has a right to protest and many have done so, on both sides of this House? I hope we will never reach a time when a Minister cannot make a protest to a State-sponsored body like Radio Telefís Éireann.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Has the Minister the power to have a particular news item deleted?

[1397]Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan I have, Section 31 empowers me to have any broadcast withdrawn.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully You can, but——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Here is the fundamental question. Does the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs acknowledge to the House now that for any order or direction given by him or by the Taoiseach under section 31 to Radio Telefís Éireann, he or the Taoiseach must answer if questioned in this House? That is the question. Does the Minister acknowledge his obligation to answer in this House for any direction he gives under that section?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Yes; any direction I give under section 31.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon The Minister is answerable to this House?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Yes, will be in writing.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon And the Minister will answer to this House for it?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Yes.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan): Before we leave this question, lest anybody take Deputy Corry seriously, I want to put it on the records of this House that the allegation made by the Deputy concerning me is completely and utterly without foundation.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry Zoom on Martin John Corry I accuse him of it and I stand over it. He did drink whiskey down there.

Mr. J. Lynch: Information on John Lynch Zoom on John Lynch If he did not, he would go down in my estimation.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish On any occasion when the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs feels that he should send an order in writing to Radio Telefís Éireann for the deletion of a news item, will he place a copy of it in the Library?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan It is not necessary.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish How are we to know whether you did it or not?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan It will be on record. Section 31 gives absolute power to the Minister to withdraw any item [1398] for presentation and subsection (2) gives a Minister power to direct the Authority to allocate broadcasting time for any announcements by or on behalf of any Minister of State in connection with the function of the Minister and the Authority shall comply with the direction. Neither of these has been used.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Last week the Taoiseach said it was used and that he had a right to use it.

A Deputy: He did not.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan Deputy Cosgrave used it.

Mr. M.E. Dockrell: Information on Maurice E. Dockrell Zoom on Maurice E. Dockrell Does that right apply to any other Minister?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Section 31 gives the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs very definite powers, but surely that section implies a certain code of behaviour?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Which is not being observed.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan I think any Minister has the right to protest and I hope always will. That certainly does not mean that a position should continue until such time as drastic action has been taken. If I felt that something was being presented on Telefís Éireann that was not in accordance with what I believed to be the standard I demanded, I would make it known, without invoking the actual section. I would make it known to the Authority that I did not approve of it. I think any other Minister has the right to do the same.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish We have no such power.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Of course you have.

Mr. O'Leary: Where a mistake is made in the deletion of an item and a Minister apologises, will the Minister make known to the House that, in fact, he has apologised?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish What is the Minister doing with the Director General and the members of the Commission if he has this power?

[1399]Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan I should like to say here that Radio Telefís Éireann have been carrying out a difficult job very well.

Deputies: And they should be allowed to do it.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan Complaints have been made to me that they have been leaning over backwards to give the Opposition more than their due share of coverage.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange There were six Ministers mentioned on the news on Friday evening, one after another. Tom O'Higgins was never mentioned during the Presidential election.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan What a Minister does is always news.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan The Deputy will never be news anyway.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan If Deputy L'Estrange cannot restrain himself, I shall have to ask him to leave the House. I have warned him.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange The Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Is the Deputy charging the Chair with partiality?

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange No, but the Minister got personal to me. You may not have heard him, a Ceann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I am warning Deputy L'Estrange finally if he will not conduct himself, I shall ask him to leave the House. There must be some order some time in this House.

42.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if Radio Telefís Éireann are obliged by law to act on representations made by individual members of the Government in regard to its current affairs and news programmes.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan The answer is “no.” However, under section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs may direct Radio Telefís Éireann in writing (1) to refrain from broadcasting any particular matter or matter of any particular class or (2) to allocate [1400] broadcasting time for any announcements by or on behalf of any Minister in connection with the functions of that Minister and the Authority must comply with any such direction.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange If the answer is “no”, does the Minister agree that it is in the public interest to have a Minister of State ringing up Radio Telefís Éireann requesting them to put on or take off certain news items?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan I hope a Minister of State will always have at least the same right as every other citizen to ring up and complain.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange “Compel”: anybody can complain.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan There is no compulsion.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton Undue influence in the wrong place.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey Would the Minister use the power vested in him to have the news item the Minister for Agriculture objected to removed or altered in any way if he had been aware of it before the Minister for Agriculture objected?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan Zoom on Joseph Brennan That is a hypothetical question but, looking at it in retrospect, if I thought it would be presented in that way, I certainly would prevent it.


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