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Written Answers. - Broadcasting Service.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 150. Mr. Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  if he will make it a condition of a successful application for funding from the newly established fund for independent production of public service broadcasting that all programmes are fully subtitled. [26954/02]

[1550]

 151. Mr. Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  if he will consider setting aside a portion of the fund administered by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to go towards a substantial increase in subtitling for all domestic channels. [26955/02]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

I will shortly be bringing forward proposals for the administration of the special fund for new and innovative additional public service programming and the manner in which that fund will be operated.

[1551]

 152. Mr. Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  his views on whether an essential part of fulfilling the public service broadcasting remit is catering to the needs of members of the community who may be hard of hearing; and his further views on whether this part of the public broadcasting remit is being fulfilled by RTE. [26956/02]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern Section 28 of the Broadcasting Act, 2001, requires that the national television and sound broadcasting service, maintained by RTE, shall have the character of a public service, be a free-to-air service and be available as far as is reasonably practicable, to the whole community. It is quite clear that RTE's mandate extends to catering for the whole community, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing. It is difficult to make a value judgment in relation to how RTE is meeting its mandate for groups that make up Irish society as its mandate is quite general in nature.

The 2001 Act provides a mechanism through which RTE's obligations to those who are deaf or hard of hearing may be better measured in the future. Section 19(11) of the Broadcasting Act, 2001, provides that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland shall make rules requiring each broadcaster, including RTE, to take specified steps to promote the understanding and enjoyment of television by persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The 2001 Act leaves it open to the commission to determine the specific steps to be employed by broadcasters and gives it power to specify the actual percentage of programming to which such steps must be applied. The preparation of rules by the commission will bring clarity to the obligation of broadcasters. As part of its recent application for an increase in the level of the television licence fee RTE gave a specific commitment to increase the incidence of programmes that would be subtitled.


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