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

Tuesday, 8 October 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 469 No. 5

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 40. Mr. B. O'Keeffe Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  whether it is the Government's intention to provide funding on an ongoing basis for the operation of Teilifís na Gaeilge. [13906/96]

 42. Mr. Connolly Information on Gerard C. Connolly Zoom on Gerard C. Connolly  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  the extent of the difficulties which will be encountered by the public in receiving Teilifís na Gaeilge; if he will list the areas which will be worst affected; the plans, if any, he has to make grants available for the purchase of special aerials; and the programmes which will be broadcast on Teilifís na Gaeilge when Irish language programming is not being broadcast. [17788/96]

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 40 agus Uimh. 42 le chéile.

Shocraigh an Rialtas ar an 20 Eanáir, 1995, go gcuirfí £10m in aghaidh na bliana ar fáil ón Státchiste ar bhonn leanúnach i leith costais reatha Theilifís na Gaeilge.

Tá dualgas leagtha ar RTÉ an bunstruchtúr teicniúil a thógáil chun a chumasú do Theilifís na Gaeilge feidhmiú mar sheirbhís náisiúnta ar [1466] leith. Ba é an bunsprioc ná go mbeadh an tseirbhís ar fáil anois do 90 faoin gcéad den daonra ón tús. Tuigtear ón eolas is déanaí atá ar fáil ó RTÉ go meastar go mbeidh Teilifís na Gaeilge ar fáil do idir 93 faoin gcéad agus 95 faoin gcéad den daonra ón túsdáta. Tar éis don tseirbhís a bheith tosaithe, leanfaidh RTÉ ar aghaidh leis an gclár gléasaistrithe atá pleanáilte, a mheastar a chríochnófar go luath i 1997. Ina dhiaidh sin, is ceist do RTÉ na ceantair a shonrú nach mbeidh glacadh sásúil le fáil iontu agus clár a chur idir lámha chun gléasaistritheoirí de chumhacht íseal a sholáthar, i gcomhréir leis na hacmhainní foirne agus eile a bheidh ar fáil, d'fhonn na fadhbanna sin a réiteach.

Beidh an líonra tarchuradóireachta atá á thógáil don stáisiún nua ag feidhmiú ar mhinicíochtaí ar an mbanda craolachán UHF, a chuirtear ar fáil ag an Roinn Iompair, Fuinnimh agus Cumarsáide ón speictream craolacháin atá ceaptha d'Éire faoi chomhaontaithe idirnáisiúnta.

I gcásanna nach mbíonn RTÉ 1 agus Network 2 á bhfáil ag lucht féachana ar UHF, tuigim ó RTÉ go mbeidh sé riachtanach do dhaoine ar mian leo Teilifís na Gaeilge a fháil aeróga UHF a insealbhú. Ní mór dom a threisiú nach bhfuil aon rud speisialta nó neamhchoitianta faoi aeróga UHF: tá siad in úsáid ar fud na tíre. Níl aon phleananna ann chun deontais a sholáthar d'fhonn aeróga UHF a cheannach.

Faoi alt 19 den Acht um Údarás Craolacháin, 1960, arna cur isteach ag Alt 16 den Acht um Údarás Craolacháin (Leasú), 1976, ní cheadaítear don mhéid iomlán uaireanta in aghaidh na bliana a chraolann an tÚdarás ar raidió agus ar theilifís, bheith ós cionn uasmhéid nó faoi bhun íosmhéid a leagtar síos ag an Údarás le toiliú an Aire.

Maidir le cláir seachas an phríomhsheirbhís trí Ghaeilge, tá moltaí curtha faoi bhráid le déanaí faoin bhforáil thuas ag Údarás RTÉ, ar mholadh ó Chomhairle Theilfís na Gaeilge, maidir le huaireanta craolta na céad bliana d'feidhmiú Theilifís na Gaeilge, áirítear [1467] moltaí i ndáil le hábhar a chraoladh seachas ábhar a bhaineann leis an mbunsheirbhís Ghaeilge. Tá na moltaí sin á meas agam faoi láthair.

Ar son na foirfeachta, ba chóir dom a rá go soileír nach bhfuil rún agam, agus mo fhreagrachtaí reachtúla faoi na forálacha réamhráite á gcomhlíonadh agam, baint a bheith agam le cúrsaí clár ó lá go lá. Fanann an fhreagracht eagarthóireachta faoin easchur ar líonra Theilifís na Gaeilge mar chúram reachtúil de chuid Údarás RTÉ go dtí go ndéanfar socruithe chun Teilifís na Gaeilge a bhunú mar eagraíocht reachtúil ar leith.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe I understand the Minister is making £10 million of State funding available to RTÉ for the operation of Téilifís na Gaeilge. Will the Minister confirm that he received a communication from the RTÉ board of management, and the RTÉ Authority, indicating that the provision of 360 hours programming will cost £5.5 million, a cost RTÉ states it cannot bear, and that it has indicated to the Department that it would pull the plug on Téilifís na Gaeilge at the end of the first year if further funding for such programming is not made available?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I have been informed by those who conduct negotiations with my Department that there is no basis for the newspaper report to which the Deputy refers. There was not a suggestion that RTÉ would pull the plug on Téilifís na Gaeilge before the end of the first year. I am anxious to be as open as I can about the figures. The figure of £5.5 million was used in discussions on costs, about which there is some difference because costs depend on arrangements for the hour's programme and other costs attributed to it. The engineering preparations are very well advanced and great credit is due to Radio Téilifís Éireann's engineering staff. There is general enthusiasm and a great sense of expectation for the new station, which I expect will be a success.

[1468]Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe It appears that RTÉ does not share the Minister's enthusiasm for the operation of Téilifís na Gaeilge, however laudable the service. In terms of competition facing RTÉ, in light of the fact that advertising this year is down £2 million on the figure this time last year, the independent radio station and the second national television channel are to come on stream, the independent commissioning budget will be £12.5 million and sports rights costs are spiralling, it is estimated that in two years there could be a loss of £9 million to RTÉ. In those circumstances will the Minister ensure the success of Téilifís na Gaeilge and that RTÉ will not be at a disadvantage in terms of producing 360 hours of broadcasting for Téilifís na Gaeilge? Will he give a long-term commitment to funding the additional programming he has requested from RTE?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins What has been requested from RTE is one hour and the figure that arises relates to the price of one hour. I do not want to get into a long discussion about this because all these matters were discussed previously in some detail. The national broadcaster, had it refused to provide one hour for an Irish language station, would have raised a question about its full extent as a national broadcaster, and people may advance that view if they wish. On long-term funding, the commitments to Téilifís na Gaeilge will bring this service on air and the network will provide a considerable addition to the family of public service broadcasters in this State.

It would be very wrong to think that the cash position of Radio Téilifís Éireann derives entirely from difficulties created by Téilifís na Gaeilge. I recall when making a submission to Government in favour of a television licence fee increase matters raised included the age of equipment, future staffing structures, changes in regard to technology and other matters that had nothing to do with Téilifís na Gaeilge. We must ensure Radio Téilifís Éireann [1469] is financially secure whether or not we are serious about Téilifís na Gaeilge.

An important aspect of this matter relates to the consistency of our position nationally and internationally in terms of the balanced version of broadcasting that is desired. Some people define freedom as the ability simply to be free to turn on and off buttons in relation to commercial options while others see it as including a full range of minority interests, with a wider remit including the old aim in broadcasting which is to educate as well as to entertain. I have appreciated the general support from all sides of the House for Téilifís na Gaeilge.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy At the end of this month Téilifís na Gaeilge will come on air. The Minister, Deputy Higgins, has been charged with the duty, on behalf of this House, to make the arrangements to bring into being Téilifís na Gaeilge, which has the support of all parties. Is it true that householders in western counties, where the majority of Gaeltacht areas are situated, will experience difficulty receiving Téilifís na Gaeilge because of the technical broadcasting arrangements? Is it true that Téilifís na Gaeilge will be available on cable and UHF only in the west where RTÉ is available on VHF only, and because it will not be available on MMDS only a small percentage of householders in the west will be able to receive Téilifís na Gaeilge on 31 October without going to the expense and trouble of erecting an aerial, which may cost between £45 and £60? In the eastern half of the country Téilifís na Gaeilge will be available to householders by simply retuning their sets to find the new channel. Will those living in western counties have to purchase a new aerial or make an expensive adjustment to the aerial costing up to £60 before they can receive Téilifís na Gaeilge while the station will be available freely to UHF receivers located east of a line from Derry to Cork?

[1470]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Radio Téilifís Éireann is advertising a campaign of change from VHF areas to UHF areas. It is also making significant changes to bolster transmission in different parts of the west. For example, this week there is to be an improvement in the facility at Clifden, which will strengthen transmission. It is somewhat unfortunate that RTÉ's campaign about improving reception for RTÉ 1 and Network 2 is taking place at the same time as we are launching Téilifís na Gaeilge. At present one would need to get a UHF aerial to receive RTÉ 1 and Network 2 with quality. Although frequency and transmission are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, I have been looking at the VHF and UHF maps in terms of where changes are being made and I expect the entire country will have, at a minimum, 93 per cent coverage on the first night. The remaining 7 per cent where there are difficulties is located in the west, but perhaps on the night of transmission the difficulties will be confined to parts of Mayo.

This is not something I would wish for but it is something which can be addressed in the short-term. The alternative to using UHF aerials would have been to put Teilifís na Gaeilge out on VHF. There are many technical reasons against that because even for general television reception, one would have had to change one's aerial within two years. There is and will be contact between my Department in Furbo, which has received some inquiries about this, and the Údarás, Comharchumainn, providers and others who are interested, to see if aerials can be provided at the cheapest possible price. The problem is that while the aerial itself costs about £10, installation costs vary from £25 to £60.

Miss de Valera: Information on Síle de Valera Zoom on Síle de Valera I share Deputy Molloy's anxiety that a number of people will not be able to avail of Teilifís na Gaeilge because of technical difficulties. The answer given here does not allay my fears. As regards the question of grants, the Minister referred to getting [1471] the cheapest price and I hope that would be so in any event. Question No. 42 contains a direct reference to making grants available. Can the Minister at least alleviate some of the costs that will be incurred by some viewers through no fault of their own? They should have the same opportunity to avail of Teilifís na Gaeilge as others within our jurisdiction.

In dealing with the technicalities of transmission, can the Minister assure us he will have discussions with his counterparts in the North to ensure that those in the northern part of our country will also be able to avail of Teilifís na Gaeilge?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I am pleased to be able to tell the Deputy that discussions on broadcasting matters have advanced considerably between Northern Ireland and ourselves. There has been a breakthrough on the technical side and I hope we will be able to make further progress.

I am as anxious as anybody, and more anxious than some, that the maximum number of people will be in Teilifís na Gaeilge's viewing audience. We are addressing these difficulties but I must emphasise that some of them have nothing whatsoever to do with Teilifís na Gaeilge but with the transmission system. Whether we stay with VHF or have a UHF system is a matter for RTÉ. I do not think, for example, it would be sustainable to suggest that the people of the Gaeltacht should be served by a 35 year old transmitter in the future while everybody else around the country changes to UHF aerials. It is important to make sure that the aerials are available and can be installed at a reasonable price and, equally, that any boosting of transmission capacity and I straightforwardly identify a difficulty that I know will arise in Mayo should be dealt with in the short-term. These difficulties will arise. The only alternative would have been to defer the launch of the new station until we had all these technological adjustments ready but it is too [1472] important for that. Most of the difficulties can be solved within a short period, even in the area I mentioned.

Lest anybody gets it wrong, I emphasise that a person changing over to a UHF aerial is, in the first instance, doing so to get good RTÉ 1 and RTÉ 2 reception, and after that to get Teilifís na Gaeilge. The issue in relation to reception would have arisen irrespective of whether we had taken a decision to launch Teilifís na Gaeilge.

Mr. Sargent: Information on Trevor Sargent Zoom on Trevor Sargent Táim ag tnúth go mór le Teilifís na Gaeilge agus guím gach rath uirthi. Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur ar an Aire a bhaineann le ceist a chuir iriseoir Raidió na Gaeltachta air maidir leis na deacrachtaí faoi lucht féachana agus lucht na Gaeilge sa Tuaisceart, sna Sé Chontae ach go háirithe, áit a dúirt sé gur ceist pholaitiúil a bhí ann seachas rud ar bith eile. An bhféadfadh an tAire a rá linn gur ceist pholaitiúil í seo seachas ceist theicneolaíochta nó an bhfuil siad ar chomhchéim le chéile. An mbaibeann sé le Tuaisceart Éirean amháin an cheist pholaitiúil seo agus céard go díreach atá i gceist lei? An bhfuilimid ag caint faoi pholaiteoirí Thuaisceart Eireann nó polaiteoirí na Breataine nó cad é atá i gceist?

Ó thaobh cúrsaí airgeadais, de bharr cúrsaí fógraíochta sna stáisiúin teilifíse a bhíonn ag craoladh as Béarla, an aithníonn an tAire go bhfuil ról fé leith ag cúrsaí fógraíochta i leith cultúir chomh maith le hairgead? An mbeidh sé ag cur aon pholasaí ar fáil do Theilifís na Gaeilge nó ag iarraidh orthu polasaí fógraíochta a ullmhú sa treo is gur féidir lei tarraingt ar an airgead atá ar fáil agus ar an méid deathola don chultúir a bheidh ag teacht ó chúrsaí fógraíochta? An bhfuil sé sin beartaithe nó an bhfuil sé déanta cheana féin?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Maidir leis an gceist faoi Thuaisceart Éireann, is cuimhin liom go raibh deacrachtaí ann maidir le cumhacht an tarchuradóra i gContae Lughaidh a threisiú le RTÉ 1 agus 2 a chur ar fáil ar bhealach níos fearr i dTuaisceart Éireann.

[1473] Tháinig an tábhar sin suas i gcainteanna idir Michael Ancram agus mé féin píosa fada ó shin. Ina dhiaidh sin, phlé oifigigh mo Roinne agus a oifigigh cúrsaí cumarsáide agus Teilifís na Gaeilge san áireamh. Ag pointe áirithe sna cainteanna shocraigh muid go ndéanfadh saineolaithe ón á thaobh iniúchadh ar an gceist seo. Cuireadh an tuarascáil sin le chéile agus ag an bpointe sin ní rabhthas ar aon aigne ach lean an obair ar aghaidh agus anois glactar leis go mbeidh siad ar aon fhocal fé chúrsaí teicneolaíochta de. Ansin tháinig an tábhar suas arís agus toisc go bhfuil cúrsaí teicneolaíochta as an mbealach ag an bpointe seo tá mé ag súil le dul chun cinn a dhéanamh sa cheist sula i bhfad.

Ceapaim go mbaineann cúrsaí fógraíochta leis an gComhairle féin, Comhairle Theilifís na Gaeilge.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy Ba mhaith liomsa ceist a chur. Beidh an tam thart.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Cuireadh ceist orm agus ba mhaith liom freagra a thabhairt air. Ní féidir liom freagra a thabhairt ar gach duine ag an am gcéanna. Ní bheadh an Teachta Ó Maoildhia in ann é sin a dhéanamh, fiú.

Beidh cúrsaí fógraíochta á phlé ag an gComhairle agus glacaim leis go bhfuil gné cultúrtha ag baint leis.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Nuair a luann an tAire go mbeidh fáil ag 93 faoin gcéad den phobal ar Theilifís na Gaeilge ón gcéad lá, an é atá i gceist aige ná go mbeidh fáil acu uirthi má tá aeróg UHF acu ach má tá siad fós ag brath ar aeróg VHF in iarthar na tíre nach mbeidh fáil acu air?

Cén fáth nár tugadh suntas don tuarascáil mionlaigh a cuireadh ar fáil maidir le craoladh teilifíse a mhol go bhféadfaí Teilifís na Gaeilge a chur amach pro tem ar VHF freisin, ar bhanda B agus banda J ó Acla agus ó Mhullach a' Nis agus cén fáth nach bhfuiltear sásta dul ar aghaidh leis sin le go mbeadh fáil air in iarthar na tíre?

An nglacfadh an tAire leis nach ceist [1474] airgid níos mó é ach ceist ama agus dá dtosófaí ag cur suas aeróga maidin amárach i gConamara, nach mbeidh dóthain ama ann anois leis na haeróga seo a fháil ar fud na tíre? Ar deireadh nach nadmhódh an tAire gurb é nádúr an duine rudaí a fhágáil ar an mhéar fhada agus go bhfuil seans ann go mbeidh mórchuid de phobal iarthar na tíre ó Dhóire go Corcaigh nach mbeidh fáil acu ar Theilifís na Gaeilge an chéad oíche mar nuair a chuireann siad fios ar fhear na naeróga, déarfaidh sé go bhfuil sé róghnóthach le teacht amach leis an jab a dhéanamh agus nach tragóid é tar éis an méid sin airgid a chaitheamh nach mbeidh fáil go mór mór ag pobal na Gaeltachta ar an stáisiún sin an chéad lá?

Tarlóidh sé seo mar nach bhfuil an tAire sásta é a chur ar fáil ar an mbanda VHF freisin, rud a fhéadfaí a dhéanamh gan cur isteach ar an moladh fadtéarmach réasúnta: í a chur amach go fadtéarmach ar UHF ach tá RTÉ 1 ar fáil ar UHF agus ar VHF de bharr na fadhbe seo.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Ní glacaim leis go mbeidh líon mór daoine in iarthar na tíre nach mbeidh in ann Teilifís na Gaeilge a fháil. Tugadh suntas don moladh mionlaigh a bhí sa tuarascáil a luaigh sé agus déanadh anailís air nuair a bhí an coiste teicniúil sin ina shuí. Ní raibh siad sásta glacadh leis, Ina dhiaidh sin, d'iarr mé ar mo oifigigh féin scrúdú a dhéanamh air agus ní raibh siad in ann a rá liom go mbeadh sé indéanta gan cur isteach ar chraoladh RTÉ 2.

An rud atá teastáil ná na haeróga a chur ar fáil chomh luath agus chomh saor agus is féidir. Dá mbeadh an stáisiún ag dul amach ar VHF amháin——

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Níor moladh é sin. Dúradh UHF agus VHF. Ná bíodh an tAire ag casadh na ceiste.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Nílim ag casadh na ceiste. Léigh mé an tuarascáil agus dá mbeadh sé léite ag an Teachta Ó Cuív agus is cuimhin liom nár labhair sé faoi [1475] nuair a bhí sé á phlé ag an coiste teicniúil. Léigh mé an méid a dúirt Donncha Ó hÉalaithe agus labhairt oifigigh mo Roinne leis le déanaí ar an gcaoi is fearr le freastal ar an riachtanas atá ann. Déanfaidh muid ár ndícheall chun an lucht éisteacha a mhéadú chomh hard agus is féidir ón gcéad oíche.

Caithfimid glacadh leis go bhfuil RTÉ ag obair ar fheachtas fé láthair chun buneagraithe nach mbaineann le Teilifís na Gaeilge a chur i gcrích. Tagaimid ar ais go dti an seancheist, an bhfuilimid chun íoc as na haeróga. Tagann an cheist seo ón dá pháirtí atá ag ullmhú chun pósadh chun cur i gcoinne gach caiteachas poiblí agus gach rud a bheidh ar siúl, fiú ó thaobh fostaíocht a chruthú. It is not seafóid.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill The proposal is that Teilifís na Gaeilge will broadcast for three hours per day. What plans are in train to find a broadcast partner or partners to fill the remaining air time? Whose responsibility is it to seek out and find such a partner or partners? Is it the responsibility of RTE or the Independent Radio and Television Commission? Does the Minister have any fears that the arrival of Teilifís na Gaeilge will signal the abandonment of the Irish language by RTE and about the cavalier way in which news times, for example, are set by RTE and about the reduction of sports coverage on RTE?

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins I am grateful to the Deputy for her question which I will answer as fully and as briefly as I can to satisfy other Deputies. At my initial meeting with the previous chairman and the Director General of Radio Telefís Éireann at which I communicated the Government's decision I made it very clear that the commitment to Teilifís na Gaeilge in no way allowed a diminution of responsibilities in relation to the Irish language on RTE 1 and Network 2. They accepted this.

On the question of spare capacity, the position is that Comhairle Teilifís na Gaeilge is an independent body looking [1476] at programming. Because it is a public service broadcaster which will broadcast for three hours per day in the Irish language it is understood that the general ethos of the station will be taken into account. It has prepared proposals based on approaches made to it. I understand approaches have been made in relation to Oireachtas coverage and other matters. I believe some people are interested in approaching Teilifís na Gaeilge in respect of education and teaching services.

It will send these proposals for approval to the RTE Authority which has been given responsibility by me under the existing Broadcasting Act for bringing Teilifís na Gaeilge into existence. The permanent arrangement in relation to the Authority which will control Teilifís na Gaeilge will be addressed in the Broadcasting Bill which will be introduced early next year.


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