MIONTUAIRISC NA FIANAISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Máirt, 16 Nollaig, 1980
Tuesday, 16 December, 1980
RADIO TELEFÍS ÉIREANN
Mr. Patrick J. Moriarty, Chairman; Mr. George T. Waters, Director-General; Mr. T. Vincent Finn, Deputy Director-General; Mr. Robert K. Gahan, Assistant Director-General; Mr. Dick Hill, Director of Television Programmes; Mr. Michael Carroll, Director of Radio Programmes; Mr. Wesley Boyd, Director of News and Mr. Brian MacAongusa, Assistant to Director-General, of Radio Telefís Éireann, called and further examined.
Chairman.—We will deal with the structure and functions of the Authority at this session.
178. Deputy B. Desmond.—Perhaps we could revert to the 1970-74 Broadcasting Review Committee and ask for the views of the representatives present. The Committee set up a Commission to supervise broadcasting, including the question of complaints generally. In 1974 they were in favour of a management board of executive directors. It appears that did not commend itself to the Authority and the Government rejected the recommendations when preparing the 1976 Act. May we now have the views of the Authority? After a period of six years, are you still of the same opinion with regard to that situation?
Mr. Moriarty.—Perhaps the Director General will review that aspect. In my relatively short association with RTE, I can only say that I think the structure works well. There is an Authority which is the equivalent of a board of directors of any company. It is concerned with policy, long and short-term planning and financial control. The management is left to run the business within the framework provided by the legislation. Because of the sensitivity of broadcasting as a medium of communication, there is the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, a statutory body, to investigate complaints lodged by the public about the manner in which RTE discharge their statutory responsibilities. In the last annual report, the Authority adverted to the existence of this Commission and sought to encourage the public to use it if they considered it necessary because it appeared to the Authority its existence was not known to very many people. They wanted people to know there was a means whereby they could express a view on the activities of RTE in any matter they considered related to them. I suppose one could think of all kinds of alternative structures but the great danger is that you can finish up over-managing the organisation. The people who produce and make programmes will not be able to get on with the job because of restrictions. This is a general statement but perhaps the Director-General would like to go into the matter in detail.
Mr. Waters.—Perhaps I could talk about the internal arrangements we have in relation to what the Broadcasting Review Committee described as a management board of executive directors. We have a management committee of executive directors which meets once a fortnight. The committee consists of the Director-General — myself —, the Deputy Director-General, the Assistant Director General and the heads of all the Divisions. It is a broader grouping than was suggested by the Broadcasting Review Committee originally, which was restrictive in as much as it did not include some of the directors of some of the non-output Divisions such as Engineering, Facilities and so on. It works very well in my opinion. We deal with all the corporate matters and we have a series of committees that deal with specific matters within the organisation also. We have a Television Development Committee, a Radio Development Committee, a Manpower Committee and a Finance Committee. They deal with specific problems that arise. We also have the Broadcasting Complaints Commission to which complaints of members of the public who are not satisfied with any of the programmes are referred. By and large, what the Chairman of the Authority has said would hold for me and for most of the Directors within the organisation. The structures work well and I would not see a need for a commission of the type suggested by the Broadcasting Review Committee. The Broadcasting Review Committee was probably drawing a parallel with the situation in the US, or perhaps in Canada where there are a number of broadcasting organisations. The commissions in those countries are regulatory bodies and they set down regulations with regard to the use of frequencies, transmitting powers, transmission patterns and so on. I would not see the need for that sort of commission here.
179. Senator Hillery.—In practice how do you reconcile the conflicting pressures of the public trusteeship role you have with programming?
Mr. Waters.—We see the Authority as those in charge of the trusteeship. The policy is made by the Authority and the executive carry out that policy in regard to programme making or whatever else we have to do. I do not think there is a great conflict there.
180. Senator Cooney.—To what extent does the Authority become involved in programme content?
Mr. Moriarty.—The Authority shortly after it came into being in June 1979 discussed the question of programme schedules and the question of financial budgets for the coming year. The Authority issued specific guidelines in relation to the different aspects of programming. At a previous meeting I said that one of the guidelines that should be issued was that there should be more current affairs programming, because we felt there was a great need for public understanding of how our society works, the pressures and problems on society, the interdependence of different sections of the community, one on the other.
One of the directives was that there should be more programming under that general heading of how society works. We also stated in the directive — I am only talking off the top of my head now but if requested we will submit a memorandum on this — that at a time when there is a lot of pressure on young people to get jobs, there should be a whole series of programmes dealing with careers. Those programmes have appeared under the general heading “With a Future in Mind.” Those programmes dealt with all sorts of careers, particularly those where it is a fact that there are shortages of people going into them. The policy of the programmes was to encourage people to go into them. There are radio programmes with the same objective, creating an understanding and educating the public. Our directives included such matters as the statutory obligations of RTE in relation to cultural and language objectives.
We are not concerned with the content of individual programmes, but our guidelines and directives covered what we considered to be the priority thrust of programming in the upcoming period. We specified that resources should be allocated for such programmes. In the News Division, which is under Wesley Boyd, an Economic Unit has been set up under Pat Sweeney. It is the intention that there should be specialist people capable of interpreting the news and explaining the circumstances under which economic, political, social, EEC developments and so on take place. We felt there should be specialist people in that Unit to interpret the news and developments and explain to people what they are about. The RTE Authority — all authorities — have plenty of opportunity to influence the general thrust of programming, but not in the short-term because programmes do not respond in the short-term. It takes some time for an idea to become a reality, but in the long-term I believe the Authority is sufficiently constituted to be able to influence the general thrust of programmes.
181. Senator Cooney.—Is there any conflict between the commercial demands of the need to have as large an audience as possible for the satisfaction of the Authority’s advertisers and the ambition of the Authority with regard to the general direction of programmes?
Mr. Moriarty.—I could not say what sort of argument goes on at management level about these things. It has not been represented seriously to the Authority that if you go along this line you will lose audiences. We are trying to be realistic about this, and it could become an issue if there was a tremendous weight of Irish-language programming at peak times, but it has not been an issue, as yet. In relation to the type of programming about which we issue directives it has not been represented to us that it would be a bad commercial thing for RTE. In other words, nobody has been making the argument for song and dance against serious documentaries, features and current affairs programmes as they come up to the Authority. I would not know about the trend of the argument between individual programmes.
Mr. Waters.—The commercial considerations really are secondary in relation to programme schedules. First we have to look at the competitive situation. It was tried before in relation to the other three channels, with whom we have to compete for 50 per cent of our audience at any rate. We have also a policy in the two channels of arranging the television services in a complementary fashion, so that there is a real choice of programming between RTE 1 and RTE 2. Generally speaking, the programmes which give us the biggest ratings are home-produced and we tend always to schedule as many home-produced programmes as we can into the peak viewing time between 6 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. or midnight. I do not remember that there was ever a very serious difficulty in relation to programming that might have an effect on commercials on radio.
Chairman.—We are really on the structural functions of the Authority, but we are drifting into programmes now, although I admit that the question arose from the structure of the Authority. I would prefer not to go too deeply into programmes at the moment because we will be coming to that matter shortly.
182. Senator Hillery.—On the legislative front it is four years since the passage of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act, 1976. In the light of changes in that four-year period are there any changes that the Authority would like to see in the law?
Mr. Moriarty.—This is a very broad question. If it is necessary to change the law to enable licences to be collected more efficiently I would accept some change like that in the law. I would not like to see a change in the law to allow commercial broadcasting. In the time that I have been on the Authority I have not found anything to indicate that the law should be changed in respect of the basic structure of the RTE Authority and their statutory obligations. The Authority do not have any objection to the present legislation.
Mr. Waters.—The changes we might like to see would be in relation to the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, rather than the Broadcasting Act, in relation to illegal transmitters and so on and the penalties imposed now on people who are involved in illegal broadcasting.
183. Senator Hillery.—The lack of penalties?
184. Deputy B. Desmond.—What would be the policy of the Authority in that direction? Would it be total prohibition?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, total prohibition.
185. Deputy Deasy.—Is the reference to pirate radio?
Mr. Waters.—Yes. It is an important aspect because people operating illegally are using frequencies they are not entitled to use; they are causing interference to other services and other broadcasters, and on the international scene they are causing interference to transmitters in other countries.
186. Deputy Deasy.—Are they causing loss of revenue from advertising?
Mr. Waters.—Not an awful lot at present, but it could grow.
187. Deputy Deasy.—Could the Authority specify the types of interference these operators cause?
Mr. Moriarty.—First of all, they are breaking the law as much as is somebody who is running a shebeen, wherever it may be, without a licence. They are breaking the law and being allowed get away with it, which is a bad flaw in the law. If the legislation under which that could be prevented is deficient, then the legislation should be amended, as the Director-General has said.
188. Deputy Deasy.—Are the Authority aware that a Bill has been brought in which seeks to amend the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926?
Mr. Moriarty.—None of us is allowed to anticipate legislation by going and doing our own thing.
189. Deputy Deasy.—Could the Authority specify the type of interference that is taking place and the extent of it which is due to these pirate radios?
Mr. Waters.—There has been interference with the ambulance services, for instance, in some places in the country. There has been interference with television reception. We have had break-through from these people on some of our own broadcasts transmitted by our studio. I cannot give complete details because I have not got them, but we have had complaints from other organisations and other countries about interference from here. If transmitters are put on the air without being subject to the overall planning that went on in relation to the whole spectrum of frequencies, then inevitably interference will occur.
190. Deputy Deasy.—Have the Authority many interference problems with CB radio?
Mr. Waters.—We have some problems with CB radio. We have had interference on cable systems in Dublin and with our mobile community radio.
191. Deputy Deasy.—So the Authority would welcome legislation to govern CB radio?
Chairman.—I wonder if we could speak up a little more. The transmission is not loud enough.
192. Deputy B. Desmond.—With regard to the geographical coverage of the RTE network the Authority have radio coverage over virtually the whole of the island. Can you comment on that?
Mr. Waters.—For radio on the 500 KW transmitter at Tullamore we have coverage of virtually the whole island during the daytime. At night-time, unfortunately, we have some risk of reduction in that, due chiefly to foreign station interference. On our VHF networks we have virtually total coverage of the 26 counties and we have individual medium wave transmitters in Cork and Dublin and transmitters for Raidio na Gaeltachta. We have a medium wave transmitter for Radio 2 in Athlone, which does not give us total coverage of the country by day or by night, and we have used the VHF network in conjunction with that in order to get coverage of the Republic.
193. Deputy B. Desmond.—Have the Authority any future plans on the radio side?
Mr. Waters.—We have. We have requested another set of VHF frequencies in order to use it in conjunction with our Radio 1 service to give us the coverage that we want there.
194. Senator Cooney.—If the Authority are refused this second VHF network for Radio 1 what will be their policy with regard to use of the existing VHF network?
Mr. Waters.—I might first explain the existing VHF network. VHF transmission in Ireland was introduced in 1966 in order to make up for the deficiency in coverage from the Athlone transmitter. At that time we had only one radio service. The Athlone transmitter was 100 KW and was not sufficient to cover the whole of the country or even the Republic then. It was agreed that we would introduce VHF in order to provide that coverage to make up for the deficiency in coverage on MF. Because we introduced VHF we also had the opportunity of adding stereo transmission to radio. Of course. VHF is a higher quality service anyway. The history was that when we came to introduce the second radio service. we had by that time negotiated a 500 KW medium wave transmitter for Tullamore which virtually gives complete coverage of the country, except at night in the areas I have talked about, so that it was necessary for us to use the VHF network in conjunction with the new Athlone 100 KW transmitter; in other words, we were going back to the pre-1966 stage in relation to Radio 2. We could not provide national coverage from 100 KW in Athlone; therefore we had to use the VHF network with Radio 2 transmission in order to get that coverage. The situation at present is that there has been a tremendous growth in VHF reception since we introduced Radio 2. I have not the figures at the moment, but the percentages of listeners that are now using VHF for both Radio 1 and Radio 2 has gone up considerably in the last two or three years, so that there is a position where if we do not get the VHF network for Radio 1. I cannot see any other way of providing a service in the remote areas.
195. Senator Cooney.—Have you ever thought of changing the arrangement around?
Mr. Waters.—We did, but we see the Radio 1 service as being a little more than just national coverage because it does give some international coverage at night and even during the daytime it covers quite a considerable part of Britain. If we changed the services round, we would lose the benefit we get from that. This is not a deliberate act on our part; it just happens that we have an overspill situation in relation to that particular transmitter.
196. Senator Cooney.—If you were to change it round would it have any adverse commercial effects?
Mr. Waters.—It might have some — I am not sure. Perhaps the ADG would answer that?
Mr. Gahan.—It depends on what you mean by changing it round. If Radio 2 were restricted to just Athlone transmitters then its coverage would be less.
197. Senator Cooney.—No, say Tullamore. What is the position then?
Mr. Gahan.—Then it should not have adverse commercial effects.
198. Senator Cooney.—Then that was not a factor in the original decision to broadcast on the existing transmitters?
199. Deputy B. Desmond.—On the television side, can you give us an up-to-date figure of the extent to which there is now multichannel TV in Ireland? We have a figure which says 44 per cent of the population in 1978 — is it still that figure?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, about that. It might be a little higher now — no, about the same figure, 44 or 45 per cent.
200. Deputy B. Desmond.—This percentage of the population——?
Mr. Waters.—— can receive the British services in addition to RTE.
201. Deputy B. Desmond.—What percentage do you have on a regular basis of that 44 per cent? Is it a matter of confidentiality?
Mr. Waters.—We can give it to you.
202. Deputy B. Desmond.—I do not want it now. Are you in a position to have a figure?
Mr. Gahan.—The general figure is that 98 per cent of all people with television view RTE during the week.
Mr. Waters.—During a typical week, 98 per cent of all viewers view RTE at some time.
Mr. Gahan.—Obviously the percentage viewing at any particular time would vary depending on programmes but we can give you the extract from the TAM report.
203. Chairman.—May I interrupt? What percentage of the population in the whole island can receive each of the two, RTE 1 and RTE 2?
Mr. Waters.—May I first explain that frequency planning for broadcasting, and for television particularly because of the frequencies involved, is done on the basis of national coverage and our planning is based on coverage of the Republic. Inevitably in our situation there is an overspill situation where people on the other side of the Border can receive RTE. Indeed people in Wales, if they want to go to the trouble, can receive RTE transmissions but the planning is done on the basis that we cover the Republic and not Northern Ireland. There is overspill. For RTE 1, the overspill used be about 14 per cent of the people of Northern Ireland in addition to about 97 or 98 per cent of the Republic. We are often asked how British services cover 50 per cent of the population down here and the same does not apply in Northern Ireland. The answer is that it is an accident of geography. The transmitters are in such locations that the Northern transmitters can cover a lot of the Republic because the Mourne Mountains are nearer to those transmitters. In our situation, our transmitter at Kippure and the transmitter in Monaghan cannot penetrate that mountain range into Northern Ireland. We have two additional transmitters now, one of which was commissioned only last week in Donegal and the other will be in County Louth. Those transmitters are meant to cover Donegal and North County Louth but again there will be overspill into Northern Ireland. So there will be additional coverage as a result.
204. Chairman.—Any idea how much approximately?
Mr. Waters.—It is too early to say.
205. Chairman.—Does that cover RTE 1 and RTE 2?
Mr. Waters.—Yes. It is UHF as distinct from VHF. The other transmitters are mainly VHF. These transmitters are UHF, the same band as is used in Northern Ireland.
206. Senator Cooney.—Could you say how much of Northern Ireland would be covered?
Mr. Waters.—We could guess certainly, yes.
207. Senator Cooney.—What would be your best guess?
Mr. Waters.—Could I first say that there are two elements in this. There is the primary coverage area. Transmitters are designed to cover an area where they can be picked up with ease, without having to put up elaborate, high aerials. In that situation we would probably be covering — I am just guessing now — maybe 20 or 25 per cent. Of course there are areas farther away where people could receive if they go to the trouble of erecting elaborate, high-gain aerials. If that is taken into account it could be 30 or 40 per cent.
208. Senator Cooney.—Is that of any commercial benefit for you?
209. Chairman.—You say that is — I am not sure of the word you used — your policy merely to cover the 26 Counties. Is this the policy of the Authority or is it something you feel is in the Act which governs your activities?
Mr. Waters.—It is not a question really of policy but of international regulations. Frequencies are assigned on an international basis and the ITU are the regulatory body in relation to frequency assignment and power. When we introduce a new transmitter we do it in consultation with our neighbours to ensure that if we do adopt a certain polar pattern for our aerials and a certain frequency and power, we will not cause interference with their transmissions. All our systems here are co-ordinated not only with Britain but also with France and any of the other neighbouring countries with which there is likely to be interference.
210. Chairman.—By attempting to cover Northern Ireland would you be acting contrary to international regulations?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, unless we did it with the permission of the British authorities.
211. Senator Hillery.—Has there been any discussions on the matter?
Mr. Waters.—I think there might have been discussion some years ago at Government level.
Deputy B. Desmond.—It might come under the concept of the totality of Anglo-Irish relationships.
212. Senator Cooney.—That was prior to the introduction of RTE 2?
213. Deputy Deasy.—Of the 44 per cent of the population who can receive outside channels, do you know what percentage of their viewing time they spend in watching RTE and the outside services?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, we know that but it is information we would prefer to give you on a confidential basis.
214. Senator Cooney.—Did the advent of RTE 2 make a significant change in that viewing pattern?
Mr. Waters.—Yes. It increased overall the numbers watching RTE.
215. Senator Cooney.—Had you made a projection about what change you hoped to achieve with RTE 2?
Mr. Waters.—We had some idea of what it might be.
Mr. Gahan.—We made exactly the figure we had projected.
Mr. Hill.—Some years before we got the RTE 2 channel we made a projection about the audience share that might be anticipated by a second RTE channel and that projection has been met.
216. Deputy B. Desmond.—What is the position re satellite penetration from the Continent? Will that have a marked effect on programming?
Mr. Waters.—The planning I talked about in relation to terrestrial coverage also applies to satellite coverage. The plans worked out a few years ago in Geneva assigned orbital positions for satellites to every country in Europe and defined the frequencies and power each country would use. It is based on national coverage. The power and the pattern each country can use is theoretically sufficient only to cover the home territory but, like the terrestrial networks, satellite transmissions would also have overspill. Another factor is that the technology has developed to such an extent that the patterns laid down at that conference no longer hold good. Receiving equipment is far more sensitive than it was at that stage; undoubtedly when satellite transmissions start in Europe there will be the potential to receive them here. Perhaps it could not be done with every home receiver but undoubtedly the cable systems would be able to avail of them.
Mr. Moriarty.—This situation is most evident in the United States where there is a Canadian satellite and American satellites. By way of sophisticated reception aerials, people in both countries can rebroadcast on cable. There is no international law preventing that.
Mr. Waters.—At any rate it is very vague.
217. Deputy Deasy.—You are reported as having stated recently that in ten years’ time we will be able to receive a number of stations from abroad because of the satellites. Is this so?
Mr. Waters.—It appears the Germans and the French will have satellite services in operation by the end of 1982. The Nordic countries and Switzerland are actively engaged also in planning services. There has been much discussion in Britain about the use of the satellite in their orbital position. In ten years’ time, I think a number of programmes will be available.
218. Deputy Deasy.—Would you oppose amending the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, to allow direct transmission of BBC and ITV signals across the country to the 56 per cent who do not have reception from those channels at the moment?
Mr. Waters.—Our views in relation to the availability of the British services are well known since we entered into the debate on a second television service. You will remember a market survey was carried out at the time to find out what the people wanted. The result was they wanted a second RTE service rather than BBC1. There was much discussion at the time regarding the availability of the services and there were many obstacles to the provision of the services. Some of them were financial — the sheer cost of providing networks to give two or three services was very high and there were copyright problems also. The question you are asking is really a matter for Government but yes, RTE would resist it.
219. Deputy L. Lawlor.—The British television stations seem to have a high percentage of penetration but we cannot provide a service for the whole of the island and do not appear to have a planned programme to do so. Why have the British TV stations the ability to have this penetration when we cannot cover the island?
Mr. Waters.—The reasons are purely reasons of the regulatory systems and geography. The two factors combined provide for a sittuation where the British, in covering their own territory, get an overspill into the Republic. We cannot do the same thing to the same extent because of the location of our transmitters.
220. Deputy L. Lawlor.—It is a vital, ongoing process that people in the northern counties get the RTE stations. The fact that this is not possible or that plans are not being made is a major shortcoming. Do you propose to do anything about it?
Mr. Waters.—It is really a matter for the Government, not RTE.
221. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Is there the technical capability to implement it easily?
Mr. Waters.—Not easily. Obviously there would have to be discussions with the UK with regard to transmitters and frequencies. The number of frequencies is limited but it is not impossible.
222. Deputy L. Lawlor.—They had the initiative in having penetration here. We are coming in late looking for reciprocal facilities. Is that not the position?
Mr. Waters.—It has nothing to do with that, If somebody could move the Mourne Mountains nearer to Dublin, we would provide the same kind of coverage in Northern Ireland as they provide here purely by accident.
Mr. Moriarty.—It might be helpful if we submitted a map showing the geographical features in relation to the location of transmitters.
Chairman.—That might be helpful.
223. Senator Cooney.—I read in a magazine you publish an article on the dramatic technological changes that will come. They will change the whole scene and the availability of programmes. You mentioned ten years, but I got the impression from the article that many of the dramatic changes would be here much sooner. What forward studies have been engaged in by the Authority and management to provide for these changes so far as RTE are concerned?
Mr. Waters.—Through our association with the European Broadcasting Union, we have been in consultation on the whole question of satellite distribution and videotape recording. We will also have the video disc shortly. We do not see that the videotape and disc will have an immediate impact on broadcasting or will have a great impact on our operations. The home video recorder is now used as a time-shifting device so that people may watch programmes at times convenient to themselves. The cost of original tapes is high and people will not buy them every day. One could look at the video disc in the same way as the LP. That has not affected radio listening to a great extent and I do not think that the video disc will affect television viewing to any greater extent.
224. Senator Cooney.—Do you foresee that RTE will continue much the same as at present?
Mr. Waters.—Except that we will take the opportunity presented by the availability of video casettes and discs and we will market our own programme on those tapes.
225. Senator Cooney.—I got the impression reading this article — it is possible that I misinterpreted it — that in the United States. where these technological advances are further ahead, that radical changes in the structures and programming policy of the networks are being forced on them as a result. Is that correct?
Mr. Waters.—Yes. The situation there is far more chaotic than it will ever be in Europe. What has happened in the United States is that the availability of satellites has affected the broadcasters. There are more and more companies now relying on direct distribution satellites and cable distribution to provide programme services to the public. They are in direct competition, coast to coast, with the established networks. Indeed, the established networks are so worried about this that they are going into the same type of distribution. The main services that are provided are pay television services. They are available on cable and the subscriber pays an extra 10 dollars a month in order to receive a particular programme. It is quite a different situation that you will find in Europe.
Mr. Moriarty.—In New Jersey they have a choice of 14 channels. For the basic cable you pay a rental and you get a certain number of programmes but you pay on a tiering basis for additional channels. The most expensive one is the one called “home box office”, where you can see the movies that are currently being shown in the cinemas if you pay something extra. It is very expensive but it is a very big commercial operation. As the DirectorGeneral said, there is fierce competition.
226. Senator Cooney.—Do you see that scene coming here?
Mr. Moriarty.—No, because there are stricter regulations in Europe than there are in the United States. The Federal Control agencies in the US, in discussions we had with them, gave the impression that they have thrown their hats at it.
Mr. Waters.—The policy of the Federal Communications Commission is one of deregulation rather than regulation in relation to cable and satellite distribution, but there is an essential difference between what is happening in the US and what is happening in Europe. The satellites used in the US are what are known as distribution satellites and the signals they lay down are not strong enough to be received by a normal domestic receiver. They can be received by more elaborate receivers and then distributed on cable systems. In Ireland, of course, cable systems mainly exist in Dublin city. It is because of the nature of the distribution of population throughout the country that it is only in big cities that cable systems would be viable. Therefore, I do not see the same situation here. What will happen here will be quite different. In Europe the satellites that are proposed are what are known as direct broadcast satellites and they are designed to provide a signal strong enough to be received by a small aerial in the home. The frequencies and powers assigned to each country are basically those necessary to provide a domestic and national service but, inevitably, there will be overspills. In the case of the UK their channels and their powers were assigned on the basis that they would cover all of England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland. It would be impossible for them to cover Northern Ireland without covering most of the Republic also.
227. Senator Cooney.—If the British put up a satellite will their programme be freely available to over 80 per cent of the Republic?
Mr. Waters.—Without doubt.
228. Senator Cooney.—Have you done a projection — you may tell us the figure later — as to the effect that would have on the viewing pattern in the Republic?
Mr. Waters.—We have not done that because at this time there is no British proposal for a satellite. It is really at the discussion stage and we do not know for what purpose they would use the satellite. It might be for pay television and, if it is, the signals will be coded and will not be receivable without a decoder at the receiver. At this stage I do not think there is much point in trying to make projections.
229. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Would they consult with you under the regulations?
Mr. Waters.—They would be required to consult with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. They would have to co-ordinate the frequencies in the same way as we have to do it through the Department with the Home Office in Britain.
230. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Mention was made of the fact that the French and Germans are likely to have satellite facilities and I should like to know if that will only be available here through a cable arrangement?
Mr. Waters.—It would only be available here with a rather elaborate aerial array. It would not be available on small domestic arrays that are designed for direct reception. The point I was making earlier is that technology is developing so rapidly that, by the end of 1982, it may be that receivers will be on the market that are capable of receiving it.
231. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Is it realistic to hold the monopoly on the home market when in time all those outside television stations will be capable of beaming in a signal to this country?
Mr. Waters.—We have never had a monopoly. We have always been in competition from the start of our service with the British services.
232. Deputy L. Lawlor.—I am referring to the fact that at home it is not possible to set up an alternative. If it is a paying operation would RTE encourage the setting up of private television stations as such? What trend do you see in this situation because it appears that viewers will have an alternative from outside. In that event why not open up the market to home interests also?
Mr. Moriarty.—There has not been a monopoly and Irish broadcasting has had to compete since the beginning with the best of broadcasting in the world, BBC radio, and subsequently BBC and ITV television. Somebody in Ireland has to have the responsibility to have a distinctive Irish flavour public service broadcasting. The only possibility that that will be under some control from the point of view of being distinctively Irish, looking after aspects of our culture, our heritage, our history, aspects of our present economic and social situation, is if we do not diffuse it among a host of private enterprise companies whose main objective will be to make the maximum profit. There is no question of doubt about that. That is what people are in broadcasting for, to make a profit.
If we believe that there has to be a distinctively Irish flavour to broadcasting we must give some organisation the responsibility for that and we must give it the resources and the protection to implement that sort of a national interest policy. There is not any public service here whether it is broadcasting, transport or whatever, that could not hive off a lucrative part to somebody else to run on a very attractive commercial basis and leave the unremunerative parts to be financed and serviced by the taxpayer. I would question the constitutionality of doing that because the Constitution states that all people of the country should be cherished equally. If we give commercial broadcasting in Dublin city to a commercial interest, who is going to broadcast to the people of Connemara or Kerry where the cost of making reception available is almost prohibitive? That is the issue. It is a question of covering the whole of the island with broadcasting of a distinctive Irish flavour and having somebody to take responsibility for it. The arguments of providing more competition at home do not stand up at all in the context of having Irish public service broadcasting.
233. Chairman.—It has been argued in the UK that the advent of the Independent Television network greatly improved the BBC because of the competition. Would that not apply here?
Mr. Moriarty.—There is an order of magnitude. The revenue the BBC has is probably 20 times that of RTE. There may be an argument for providing competition in a territory with between 40 and 50 million people, but those arguments would not apply to a territory with 3½ million people.
234. Deputy L. Lawlor.—The financial point should also be taken into consideration. However, in the national broadcasting sense the point made is taken, but surely it is only a financial mechanism to cream off from the independent operator the funds of the national service to provide a service to the remote corners. If one assumes that there are alternative independent Irish operators surely they will want to maintain the provision of programmes for our cultural heritage. Is it not a narrow attitude to say that we are going to take in everything from outside and we are going to be restrictive on the home market and not allow any other Irish people to provide an alternative?
Mr. Moriarty.—The views of the present Authority in this would be that in the US and the UK there is commercial broadcasting and private interests have made not just millions of pounds, but multi-millions of pounds, out of a resource that belongs to the people of the country, every year. In the UK millions of pounds have been made and continue to be made. One need only look at the competition there is between companies in the UK at the moment to get the franchises. The competition to get the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s franchises is absolutely cut-throat. If that sort of money is available, it should be available to the people of the whole island and not just to a few people who are in a position to get the franchise and put the investment in as it started out first. We must look at RTE in the context of all this and see the extent to which RTE, since Radio Éireann was founded, have exercised a very high degree of social responsibility by supporting the arts and culture, having orchestras, players, repertory companies and so on, all of which cost money but which no private enterprise company in their right senses, if they are interested in their further investment, would have anything to do with. The public service broadcasting in the manner in which it is financed has served this whole nation commercially, culturally and artistically. From the communications, information and education points of view it has served the nation very well. It is a bit late in the day to say that competition would be good for those so-and-sos.
Mr. Waters.—I want to make two points. One is in relation to the Chairman’s comment about the improvement in BBC programmes because of the commercial competition. It must be remembered that RTE have had this competition since the very beginning of the service and we do not need any more competition to make them better.
The second point I would like to make is that, in relation to independent commercial broadcasting, you have to look very carefully at the population base to which you are working. You cannot compare this country with Britain or with the US and, in fact, I do not think there is any country in Europe you can compare it with, because we have a population base of 3 million or so people, more than one-third of whom are in Dublin city. If independent local radio is licensed in Dublin city alone — we have made projections on this, Senator Cooney — it will cost RTE between £1.5 million and £2 million per annum. That will mean that in order to make up that sort of revenue, if we are to continue the service we are giving the public now, we will need an increase, at present-day costs, of about £5 on the colour licence and £3 on the mono licence, and that is a serious consideration.
235. Senator Cooney.—We would be asking the people to pay £1 million or £1.5 million to private enterprise and the taxpayer would make it up?
Deputy B. Desmond.—I could not do better myself.
236. Deputy Deasy.—Could the Authority tell us the constitution of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, how many members there are on the Commission and who they are?
Mr. Waters.—There are three members. The Chairman is Mr. V. Landy.
Mr. Gahan.—The other two members are Mr. Eoin Patton and Mrs. Moira O’Sullivan.
237. Deputy Deasy.—Were the Commission out of existence for some time?
Mr. Finn.—For a very short period. There was a short lapse between the dissolution of the previous Complaints Advisory Committee and the setting up of the present Commission.
238. Deputy Deasy.—Do the Commission receive many complaints?
Mr. Waters.—I can tell the number precisely. Since 1974, 21 formal complaints were made.
239. Deputy Deasy.—Can the Authority break those down?
Mr. Waters.—That is for the two bodies, the Complaints Advisory Committee and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. One of them was pre the latest Act.
240. Deputy Deasy.—Could we have a breakdown of the 21 complaints between groups and individuals?
Mr. Waters.—Between groups and individuals?
Mr. Waters.—They were mostly from groups. Nine or ten were from groups.
241. Deputy Deasy.—How many of the 21 complaints have proved to have some substance?
Mr. Waters.—Only two in my opinion — and not only in my opinion. It was the opinion of the Complaints Commission also.
242. Deputy Deasy.—What about the other 19?
Mr. Waters.—They were not upheld.
243. Deputy Deasy.—Was remedial action taken on the complaints?
Mr. Waters.—We are not obliged to take remedial action. People do take note of what the Commission find and we publish the results of the Commission’s findings in the RTE Guide. We do take note in certain cases and if something is wrong with the type of programme we do take action. Very often the complaints are related to a particular programme that has gone and very little can be done about it.
244. Deputy Deasy.—Do the Authority take suitable measures to protect the confidentiality of the complainant?
Mr. Waters.—The complaints are not made to us. They are made to the Commission. When a complaint comes to us in the first instance, we give a reply to the complainant who is free to accept that or to apply to the Commission.
245. Deputy Deasy.—To appeal, in other words, they complain to the Commission. Is that the position?
Mr. Moriarty.—It is really not an appeal. I have had letters from time to time from people who came back and persisted in complaining and were not satisfied with the explanation I gave them. I have suggested to them that, if they wished, they could have this thing examined objectively by a third party and I have explained to them the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. They are totally independent of RTE. From a secretarial point of view, they are serviced by the Department of the Public Service. Once the complaint goes to them, we know nothing about it until we are asked for a submission in relation to it and then they publish their findings which we publish in full in the RTE Guide.
Mr. Waters.—Maybe there is a misunderstanding about this. The Complaints Commission are not under RTE control. The Commission are appointed by the Minister and they are totally independent.
246. Deputy Deasy.—In years gone by there have been instances of abuse of privilege on radio networks particularly in the US and Britain with regard to the playing of records. Have the Authority ever had an instance in RTE of a complaint that there was a commercial link-up between presenters and music companies?
Mr. Waters.—I remember getting one complaint, but I found that it was not valid and there could be no objection. I do not recall any others.
Mr. Carroll.—From time to time this accusation was made but when investigated it was found to be untrue. It had no substantiation at all.
Mr. Gahan.—Including the sponsored programmes.
247. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Am I right in interpreting that, when they send the complaint direct to RTE, the Authority automatically send the complaint to the Commission?
Mr. Waters.—No, we do not. We reply to the complainants and they are then at liberty to feel that they can complain and ask the Broadcasting Complaints Commission to adjudicate on the complaint.
248. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Would the 21 be official complaints?
Mr. Waters.—Official complaints, yes.
249. Deputy Deasy.—How vigilant can you be to see that one specific record for instance is not plugged unduly and in an unfair manner?
Mr. Waters.—I think I should ask the Director of Radio Programmes to reply to that.
Mr. Carroll.—There are rules and regulations which are laid down in both Radio 1 and Radio 2 to give everybody a fair chance to play their records.
250. Deputy Deasy.—Is it ethical for a presenter, when giving the name of a record, to mention the date of release and where it would be on sale and so on?
Mr. Carroll.—This is done from time to time. We do not see anything wrong with it. Some presenters do it; some do not.
Mr. Waters.—It is done regularly and it is done for all. I mean it is not in relation to a particular native record or a particular artist.
Mr. Moriarty.—Off the top of my head I would say that if people have an interest in something that they hear, they should also be told where they can get it but I suppose that would have to be protected to the extent that we should not favour one retail outlet against the next retail outlet.
Mr. Carroll.—I think it is very seldom that retail outlets are mentioned. You usually get the producer of the record. This is done on the principle that you give books, publisher and price and so on.
251. Deputy L. Lawlor.—I had cause to make representations following complaints from constituents about too much violence on RTE. Is that a regular form of complaint?
Mr. Waters.—I said recently that we get complaints about too much violence, too much sex, too much everything on RTE and we also get complaints about too little. I shall ask Dick Hill to answer that.
Mr. Hill.—I am not sure what the Deputy means——
Deputy L. Lawlor.—Sorry, I think it was about 7 o’clock there was an American programme which was quite violent and it appeared at a time when children would see it in comparison with a later night presentation.
Chairman.—Sorry, I do not want to get involved in programmes. We are talking about complaints and trends; we will come to programmes.
Deputy L. Lawlor.—I am talking about violence on television.
Chairman.—We shall be dealing with programmes later. The two in a sense are bound up but merely deal with the complaints end of programmes at present if you want to do that.
Mr. Hill.—It is not a regular occurrence but I do get a leavening of complaints concerning violence on television, something of the order of less than a half dozen a month. They would be complaints which for the most part can be disposed of easily, because they may be complaints relating to a programme that the person has not actually seen but has heard a report of. Very rarely indeed is there an extremely serious complaint that has to be considered or proposed to be put before the Complaints Commission or anything like that. Most of them can be dealt with informally.
252. Chairman.—Before leaving complaints I want to ask one question. I was mystified by whatever it was — 21 complaints in six years. There was an interview with somebody in the paper on Sunday by a woman who said she was on the Complaints Commission and that they met once a week and that they had an average of five or six complaints a week. Could there be some other programme — not yours anyway?
Mr. Waters.—Some other channel.
253. Deputy Deasy.—Do you keep a record of the number of complaints you get over the telephone?
Mr. Hill.—Yes. Every evening there is a telephone log prepared and Information Assistants write down all the complaints they get during the evening and all the comments of viewers who ring in. Some of them, incidentally, are unprintable. They are distributed every morning to the Programme Heads, the Director-General, and various others who are interested within the organisation. The members of the Authority get them on a regular basis also.
254. Deputy Deasy.—About how many of these complaints would there be?
Mr. Hill.—I could not for a minute tell you how many? The telephone is going constantly.
Mr. Moriarty.—We would need to divorce the two statistics. The public may think there is only annually 21——
Mr. Waters.—no, 21 formal complaints to the Commission.
255. Senator Cooney.—Would that small number be a reflection of the fact that people are not aware of the existence of this Commission?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, to some extent that might be so. We drew attention to that fact in this year’s Annual Report because the Authority felt that maybe people were not aware that this independent machinery was there, where they could complain if they felt that a subject or a group or they themselves were not given fair treatment in broadcasting, or if they felt the material had the wrong sort of impact on the community.
256. Chairman.—Do you draw attention to this from time to time?
Mr. Moriarty.—Yes, we do. Yes. I readily do it in the personal correspondence I get and I know the Deputy Director-General does. While the telephone is kept very busy, and there is a very big volume of telephone calls, many people are looking for information about the time something is to be broadcast. Some get on with complimentary remarks. I have looked at telephone logs quite regularly and if you take the number of people who call in relation to the number of people you know are either listening to or watching that programme you come to the conclusion that there is nothing you could put out anywhere that somebody will not object to. I have one gentleman writing to me regularly about why RTE did not show as news the fact that he had an anti-strike picket at some big gathering.
257. Senator Cooney.—With regard to your application for a second VHF channel, what is the present situation?
Mr. Waters.—This is the third VHF network now; we have two national networks at present. I understand that the present situation is that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs are in international negotiation about this. There has been a change in the VHF spectrum in the past couple of years: there has been a portion added to it which will make available more VHF channels and negotiations in regard to that extra bit of the spectrum are now going on. We are hopeful that there will be some positive development in the near future.
258. Senator Cooney.—Is it going too far to say that the only obstacle is this international technical negotiation?
Mr. Waters.—We apply to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs for frequencies. We are completely at their mercy; they can decide to give us frequencies or not. In relation to the VHF network for which we are looking, the frequencies are not available to the country at the moment. That is the only obstacle.
259. Senator Cooney.—There is no policy obstacle?
Mr. Waters.—I understand there is not. I would not be 100 per cent sure of that.
Mr. Moriarty.—I am not aware that there is any.
Mr. Carroll.—May I comment on this? Obviously, with the pending legislation the Department is very reluctant to release any frequency and I believe that, were we internationally to have frequencies available, we would not be sure that we would get these frequencies.
260. Senator Cooney.—That is what I was interested in. Is it tied up with what is coming?
Mr. Carroll.—It is. That seems to be the position at the moment.
261. Deputy Deasy.—In regard to the microwave link — I have said publicly previously that I think you are not doing your duty in regard to the promoting of news from the provinces. It seems you have a number of expensive and well-equipped studios in four or five locations in the country but you still seem to be incapable of transmitting items of interest back to Donnybrook directly by recording events from the country as they occur. This is particularly irritating to the public in the provinces. I would like to know when we can expect to have this technical advance, because it seems quite simple? I believe you have the bulk of the equipment, if not all of it.
Mr. Waters.—I think that everybody in RTE would agree to some extent with your remarks about the necessity to provide more coverage from provincial areas and particularly in regard to news. The big difficulty in that regard is that, in order to get television pictures out of the provinces quickly, one must have a microwave link network. We must have contribution circuits from the provinces to Dublin. We do not have those at the moment. The basic difficulty is that the microwave link network which we asked the Post Office to commission for us some years ago has not yet been completed. When I was Director of Engineering. I made a submission to the Broadcasting Review Committee in relation to the microwave network. I believe it should be under the control of RTE, not the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. We should operate it and maintain it. It is an illogical situation where we are responsible for the production and transmission of programmes, but we do not have control over the link network in between; in other words, the method of relaying programmes from our Dublin studios to transmitters throughout the country is in the hands of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. We believe it should be under the control of RTE. We made a submission to the Broadcasting Review Committee. On reading their report, I believe they misunderstood the whole matter of microwave link network. There are two reasons we do not have the facility mentioned. One is that we have some industrial relations problems with regard to the use of the ENG equipment we talked about. That would enable us to get pictures directly from provincial areas through the microwave link system to Dublin. I could not tell you when the system will be available to us. I understand the part between Dublin and Sligo is almost completed and should be handed over shortly, but we have been waiting a very long time for it.
262. Deputy Deasy.—You have given two reasons why it is not working. First, you say the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have not completed the job. Why is this? Then you said you have the ENG system in the Donnybrook studios but because of some negotiation with the union, it has not been used yet. When will that matter be resolved?
Mr. Waters.—The second matter is within our own control and I hope we will solve it shortly.
263. Deputy Deasy.—Could you explain the reason for the delays?
Mr. Waters.—There are a number of reasons; one has been because of industrial relations problems involving some of our staff and Post Office staff. There have been various delays on the link network due to these difficulties. I hope the link network will be finished in the not too distant future, but I do not know when exactly.
264. Deputy Deasy.—Can you estimate when?
265. Deputy Deasy.—Will it be months or years?
Mr. Waters.—We hoped the link network would have been ready and handed over before the introduction of RTE 2 in 1978.
Mr. Moriarty.—The Papal visit was another milestone and we thought it would be finished then.
266. Deputy Deasy.—How many fully equipped studios have you throughout the country?
Mr. Waters.—Our studios throughout the country are for radio, but there are facilities there for television in the longer-term. The introduction of mobile lightweight equipment does not really require a studio.
Chairman.—We will leave the matter at that for the moment.
The witnesses withdrew