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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Broadcasting Legislation.

Tuesday, 8 October 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 469 No. 5

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 36. 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  if he intends to bring forward broadcasting legislation in the near future; and if so, if the legislation will recognise the contribution made by local radio. [17785/96]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I hope to be in a position to bring my proposals for fresh broadcasting legislation to [1451] Government within the next few weeks. My proposals will deal with the legislative structures for all aspects of broadcasting in Ireland including local radio which I consider to be a very important element of broadcasting services here.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I am glad the Minister believes local radio is an important element of the broadcasting structure. Does he appreciate the cultural input of local radio? What is his response to the AIRS press conference a few weeks ago which put forward a comprehensive document with proposals for local radio? There has been no response to that document from the Government. Is it aware of the broadcasting policy of that document?

Following the Green Paper I am glad broadcasting legislation will be put before the House. However, we are still working in a vacuum. Perhaps the Minister would indicate his response to the AIRS document, with particular reference to local radio.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I am aware of the AIRS document and have read the reports on the different points made by the group, including its proposals on advertising, radio broadcasting, aid in relation to costs, etc. They are not markedly different from the submission of the AIRS on the Green Paper; indeed, they are an expansion of the AIRS agenda indicated to me before the publication of the Green Paper. At this point it would be inappropriate to go into detail on its submission in advance of my bringing the heads of legislation to Government. The Deputy will appreciate that the responsibility for local broadcasting lies with the Independent Radio and Television Commission under the 1988 Act. In the proximate relationship, the relationship with the members of AIRS is with the Independent Radio and Television Commission.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I am aware of the responsibility of the Independent Radio and Television Commission in this [1452] regard. However, putting the heads of a Bill to Government is one thing but seeing the Bill in the House and having it enacted is another. Those young people working in local radio would be interested to hear the Minister's proposals and what he intends to do. Perhaps he could give us a general indication of those views, particularly in relation to training, the proposed “super authority”, the 3 per cent levy and the Independent Radio and Television Commission structure. There are many issues involved and, although the Minister may not wish to go into detail, we should not have to wait for years to find out the Government's views on broadcasting legislation.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I am aware of the concerns of all those who work in local radio, not just the young people the Deputy mentioned. There are some people of mature years who work in the sector. I expect the legislation to be passed by the Oireachtas early in 1997. I expect to be in a position to go to Government with the heads of the Bill within a matter of weeks. If the heads of the Bill are agreed by the Government, I have indicated that I am amenable to discussing the broad thrust of the legislation at that time. It would be inappropriate to go into detail in advance of my going to Government with the heads of legislation. I assure the Deputy there will be no undue delay.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera It is difficult to understand why it is inappropriate for the Government to put forward views on this issue when the Opposition has done so on a number of occasions. Is the Minister willing to meet representatives of the local radio stations? Clare FM has tried to meet the Minister without success. Between now and the publication of the heads of the Bill perhaps the Minister will guarantee that he will meet Clare FM and the other local radio stations which wish to meet him.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy Zoom on Seán Treacy The Deputy is raising a separate matter.

[1453]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I will try to exercise appropriate restraint. I am not aware of a request from Clare FM for a meeting but I will check with my officials. Deputy de Valera has made statements before and I accept what she says, although she does not accept many of my statements. I am willing to meet people. The best approach is not to waste time but to get on with the heads of the Bill. The new broadcasting legislation will be fundamental. The present legislation is more than 30 years old. There will be a debate on the new legislation. It will not be a matter of waiting for years. I hope it will become law early in 1997.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera Will the Minister meet the local radio stations' representatives?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I am open to meeting them. I have never refused to meet groups. An unfortunate spin can be put on these matters.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera It has been pointed out to me that there have been difficulties.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins The Deputy gathers perceptions inaccurately.


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