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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Teilifís na Gaeilge.

Wednesday, 12 June 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 466 No. 7

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 19. Miss de Valera Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  the plans, if any, in place in respect of the use of the Teilifís na Gaeilge channel when it is not in use for Irish language programming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12248/96]

 26. Kathleen Lynch Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  the total costs to date of Teilifís na Gaeilge; the projected cost for its first full year of transmission; and the revenue the station is expected to raise in its first full year of transmission. [12183/96]

 37. D'fhiafraighMr. Clohessy Information on Peadar Clohessy Zoom on Peadar Clohessy  den Aire Ealaíon, Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Cultúir agus Gaeltachta cé mhéad airgead a cuireadh ar fáil sna meastacháin i mbliana le haghaidh Theilifís na Gaeilge; cé mhéad den airgead sin atá caite go dtí seo; cad air a bhfuil sé caite; an gcuirfidh sé in iúl an obair atá déanta leis an airgead sin; cén uair a bheidh an obair ar fad críochnaithe; an bhfoilseofar an reachtaíocht maidir le bunú Theilifís na Gaeilge; an mbeidh sé rite ag an Oireachtas sula gcuirfear an tseirbhís ar fáil don phobal; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [12197/96]

 88. Mr. Callely Information on Ivor Callely Zoom on Ivor Callely  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  if his attention has been drawn to the public concern regarding the moneys spent to date on Teilifís na Gaeilge; his views on whether the required Teilifís na Gaeilge air time could be accommodated on RTE 1 and Network 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12210/96]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Togfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 19, 26, 37 agus 88 le chéile.

Tuigim ó RTE go bhfuil £14.54m caite acu i ndáil le Teilifís na Gaeilge go [1833] deireadh mí Aibreáin. Baineann thart ar £7.95m den tsuim sin le caiteachas caipitil — go príomha ar tharchuradóirí, ar nascanna agus ar an gceanncheathrú i mBaile na hAbhann. Baineann thart ar £6.59m le caiteachas reatha, i.e. cláir a choimisiúnú nó a cheannach, foireann agus costais riaracháin. Meastar go mbeidh an tseirbhís nua ar an aer faoi Oíche Shamhna 1996.

Beidh fhios ag Teachtaí go raibh gealltanais i gCláir an Rialtais seo agus an Rialtais dheiridh maidir le bunú Theilifís na Gaeilge mar chainéal náisiúnta ar leith. Beidh fhios ag Teachtaí freisin gurb é an costas caipitil measta don tseirbhís nua ná £16.1m agus go bhfuil socraithe, i gcomhréir le cinneadh an Rialtais den 20 Nollaig 1995, go gcuirfí soláthar de £10m in aghaidh na bliana ar fáil ón Státchiste ar bhonn leanúnach i leith costas reatha na seirbhíse nua. Mar a cuireadh in iúl go minic cheana féin, cuirfidh RTE uair an chloig amháin de chláir in aghaidh an lae ar fáil saor in aisce do Theilifís na Gaeilge. Is ceist do RTE féin, i gcomhairle le Comhairle Theilifís na Gaeilge, cén costas a bhainfidh leis an ngné sin den scéal.

Is ceist do Theilifís na Gaeilge féin an méid fógraíochta a ghnóthóidh sí.

Faoi mar a cuireadh in iúl cheana féin i i bhfreagraí a tugadh ar Cheisteanna sa Teach seo, tá RTE freagrach as bunú agus feidhmiú tosaigh an stáisiúin go dtí go mbeidh struchtúr reachtúil ar leith bunaithe do Theilifís na Gaeilge. Tá súil agam na moltaí reachtúla riachtanacha a chur i láthair an Rialtais i rith na bliana mar chuid de mo bheartas i ndáil le reachtaíocht craolacháin nua a eascró- idh ón bPáipéar Glas ar thodhchaí na craoltóireachta. Is ar éigin go mbeidh na moltaí sin curtha i bhfeidhm sula dtiocfaidh an stáisiún nua ar an aer.

Faoi mar a bhí i gceist sa chomhaontú polasaí dar teideal “Rialtas chun Athnuachana”, beifear in ann an bunstruchtúr craolacháin a úsáid ar mhaithe le cuspóirí seirbhíse poiblí eile cosúil le cianoideachas nó craoltóireacht bhreise ón Oireachtas.

[1834] Beidh fhios ag Teachtaí gur tugadh le fios ag an am a cuireadh cinneadh an Rialtais den 20 Nollaig 1995 maidir le costas agus cistíócht do Theilifís na Gaeilge in iúl d'Údarás RTE agus do Chomhairle Théilifís na Gaeilge, go bhféadfadh an Chomhairle, i gcomhairle le hÚdarás RTE, moltaí a dhéanamh maidir le húsáid an líonra craolta nuair nach mbeadh sé ag teastáil ó Theilifís na Gaeilge d'fhonn maoiniú, nach ón Státchiste é, a ghiniúint don tseirbhís nua.

Go dtí go mbunófar struchtúr reachtúil ar leith do Theilifís na Gaeilge, ní mór go mbeadh moltaí dá leithéid d'úsáid an líonra craolta i gcomhréir le forálacha na nAchtanna um Údarás Craolacháin, 1960 go 1993, agus faoi ollsmacht eagarthóireachta Údarás RTE. Níl moltaí dá leithéid faighte go dáta.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera My priority question was in English, but the reply is in Irish. In case the Minister thought that we on this side of the House could not follow the reply, I am disappointed that he did not answer my question. We had the information outlined by the Minister. I tabled this question to ascertain how the remaining 21 hours on the Teilefís na Gaeilge channel will be utilised, the criteria for issuing licences, how applications will be made, which groups will decide on this matter, if advertisements have been placed and, if so, who has come forward. When will legislation on Teilefís na Gaeilge be introduced or does the Minister intend to directly franchise private stations? This is very like State control of licensing. What is the point of the Government's mantra of openness, transparency and accountability when the Minister is not prepared to give us vital information on how the remaining 21 hours on Teilefís na Gaeilge will be utilised? We have always been tremendously supportive of Teilefís na Gaeilge and a Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance gave the go-ahead to that project. Given our interest in and commitment to it, we want to know how the remaining hours will be used, the criteria for issuing licences, the groups [1835] that will decide on this matter and whether this will be decided behind closed doors or in a proper open and transparent way.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I regret that Deputy de Valera is taking this opportunity to continue her recent practice of making allegations and insinuations. This matter would have been self-evident to a reasonable person from an elementary study of the Broadcasting Act. I do not apologise for answering the question in the Irish language. In accordance with my principles of continuity I have answered questions on Teilefís na Gaeilge, an Irish broadcasting service, in Irish, but I do not have any difficulty using English.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera That is not a problem for us either.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister did not answer the specific question.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I will answer Deputy de Valera's question. It appears the Deputies opposite wish to exhibit a great sensitivity about the language. I never imputed that Deputy de Valera did not understand what I said in Irish. It is not and never has been my practice before or since I became a Minister to use the Irish language as a means of being bad mannered or of abusing people. That is for others.

I will answer the Deputy's question directly. It has been said from the beginning that the spare capacity for transmission on Teilefís na Gaeilge could best be used in a public service broadcasting way for matters that have not been covered before. Various suggestions were made when the matter was debated in his House, including its use for coverage of the Dáil proceedings and for training and long distance education. Such proposals for use of that channel's spare capacity are matters in the first instance for Comhairle Teilefís na Gaeilge which would discuss it with the RTE Authority. At that stage the [1836] Authority, if it proposed the use of broadcasting hours, would consult the Minister. There is no proposal for State control, the State handling out private licences or for any unaccountable mechanism. From the beginning it was stated that from the establishment of Comhairle Teilefís na Gaeilge it would operate with the RTE Authority as the interim body responsible for getting it up and running. When legislation is introduced matters will be specific. I have said I will include legislation on Teilefís na Gaeilge and its autonomous existence in the broadcasting legislation I will introduce later this year. The matter is as clear as that.

Another aspect of the matter is also very clear. The only power the Minister has in terms of broadcasting in regard to this matter is provided under section 19 of the Broadcasting Act, 1960, as amended by section 14 of the Broadcasting Act, 1976, namely, to approve the hours of broadcasting suggested by the Authority. On a different occasion I approved the extension of radio broadcasting hours on the Authority's recommendation.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I regret that the Minister is not prepared to answer my question directly as to how he considers the remaining 21 hours on the channel will be used, having regard to possible applications for broadcasting hours from interested parties.

The Minister referred to legislation. Will he indicate if a White Paper will be introduced on broadcasting? I was told by the Taoiseach in response to a question I raised on broadcasting legislation a week ago that it would be introduced at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Will it be introduced before the next election?

Is there a breakdown of consensus among the Government parties on Teilefís na Gaeilge? Are some Ministers withholding their support for it and, if so, does the Minister anticipate any difficulties concerning the Estimate?

[1837] A letter from the RTE chairperson is published in today's national newspapers, the day the Minister is answering questions. I find it difficult to believe concidences occur in politics. Did the Minister or any of his advisers request that declaration of unswerving loyalty to the Minister from the RTE chairman?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins It is a disgraceful allegation by Deputy de Valera——

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey Zoom on Donal Carey It is not the first time.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins ——against the chairman of the RTE authority, Professor Farrel Corcoran. There was no suggestion from me, or anybody on my behalf, that Professor Corcoran should write such a letter.

On the Deputy's first point, she may be perfectly assured that I have ideas as to how public service broadcasting might use spare capacity on Teilifís na Gaeilge. What she and her advisers would like me to do is to make a list of suggestions which would be immediately construed by her supporting hacks as interference.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera The White Paper is for discussion. There has been no sign of it.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I hope to introduce the legislation in the second half of this year. The Green Paper on the future of broadcasting generated a large number of submissions; the ground has been well covered, and there were a number of seminars. It will be possible, because such a thorough discussion took place, to introduce legislation. I intend to prepare legislation and introduce it later this year. It will cover, among other matters, Teilifís na Gaeilge, with which this question deals. The legislation will also deal with most of the other issues that have been dealt with in the Green Paper.

The suggestion of a division in relation to Teilifís na Gaeilge does not serve Teilifís na Gaeilge well. I have expressed my gratitude not just to [1838] members of this Government and the previous Government but to the parties in Opposition for the unanimous support they have given to Teilifís na Gaeilge from the beginning. It is simply mischievous to make this suggestion which is without basis.


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