MIONTUAIRISC NA FIAINISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 14 Eanáir, 1981
Wednesday, 14 January, 1981
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.
267. Chairman.—Since the last meeting I received a letter asking the Committee to inquire why RTE decided to cancel sponsored programmes. Will this decision result in a net loss of revenue and will it affect the cost of the licence in future? How many private sector jobs will be affected?
Mr. Waters.—The decision was taken by the RTE Authority many years ago. The last phase of the elimination of sponsored programmes is the one the letter writer refers to. I cannot remember exactly the date when the original decision was taken but it was more than five or six years ago that we started to phase out sponsored programmes. The reason was the Authority felt that editorial responsibility for all programmes should be within RTE, not outside it, and there was very little editorial control in relation to sponsored programmes. Whereas many of the programmes were of reasonably good quality, there were many which were not. There was no way RTE could improve that standard. In relation to the amount of revenue——
268. Chairman.—What will be the effect on revenue?
Mr. Waters.—In the present financial climate — we did an exercise on this just before Christmas — we expect there will not be any loss of revenue, if the advertising sales stand up over the next year. In the longer term there is no doubt that there will be an increase in revenue as a result of selling spot advertising. I doubt if many jobs in the private sector will be affected. Perhaps the Assistant to the Director-General could give you more information.
Mr. Moriarty.—It would be useful to give the Chairman the number of sponsored programmes which were phased out over the past five or six years, the number involved in the beginning and the number we were left with, which were phased out this year.
Mr. Gahan.—About 49 sponsored programmes came back through the omission of sponsored programmes in the mornings first of all, and then in the 1 to 1.30 period so that they were restricted to 2 to 3 o’clock and 1 to 1.45 on Saturdays, which was 21 programmes during the week. The value of sponsored programme time to RTE at present is £170,000 net. The revenue to be earned from spot advertising, subject to the maintenance of the level of income, would be in excess of that amount.
269. Senator Cooney.—The prime reason for change was that you did not have editorial control over the content of the programmes. Had these programmes provoked any adverse reaction from listeners?
Mr. Waters.—The decision was made many years ago. I was not Director-General at the time the original decision was made.
270. Senator Cooney.—I will put it another way — have these programmes, in the recent past, provoked any adverse reaction?
Mr. Gahan.—There was adverse reaction to some of the programmes.
271. Senator Cooney.—A small reaction?
272. Senator Cooney.—Would there have been more adverse reaction to other programmes over which you had editorial control?
Mr. Gahan.—Some of course.
273. Deputy B. Desmond.—One of the particular programmes over which there has been controversy has been the Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann programme. What are the observations of the Director-General on that?
Mr. Waters.—We have had a lot of correspondence with Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann over the cessation of the sponsored programme and we have told them we will take account of their requirements. One of the requirements is that there will be a fair proportion of Irish music and so on. That will be included in a new programme which has already started from 4 to 4.30 in the afternoon. We have also told them, in relation to any informational aspect of the programme, that spot time will be available to them.
274. Deputy B. Desmond.—There is no prospect of their being able to continue that operation?
275. Deputy B. Desmond.—What kind of spot inserts would they get?
Mr. Waters.—Whatever spot inserts they wanted. At any time during the day they could book spot advertising the same as any other advertiser would for the informational aspects of their requirements.
Mr. Carroll.—Might I add that Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann have a great deal of archive material themselves? We have offered to use some of this archive material in this new programme and they are aware of that.
276. Deputy B. Desmond.—Are relations harmonious?
Mr. Carroll.—We hope so. In that respect may I say that we had several meetings with them on a number of issues and we have put certain proposals to them. We are now awaiting their formal reaction to those proposals. I think what has been happening in the recent past is that we have been getting a backlog of reaction before we concluded our negotiations with them.
277. Chairman.—Are we finished with sponsored programmes? If there is nothing else anybody wants to ask then perhaps we could commence on programmes with a few questions about the national aims. Section 17 of the 1960 Act, amended by section 13 of the 1976 Act, set out the guidelines as to how RTE should fill its programmes. One aim was that of furthering peace and understanding. I know the Authority are very careful how they deal with the question of violence in the North. Perhaps we may have some other questions about paramilitary violence and so on. But in general terms I think it can be argued that the amount of violent films screened from time to time could scarcely be designed to further peace and understanding. Would anybody like to comment on that? It may be that watching a very violent cowboy film does not necessarily affect people’s attitude in relation to the North of Ireland and so on, but another point of view is that it could affect this.
Mr. Hill.—We are indeed conscious of this particular difficulty. Perhaps I may sketch in the background as to how we acquire our material for television. This is important for an understanding of what I shall say later about how we decide what to transmit and what not to transmit.
Materials available on the international market, in the first instance, are auditioned by us at the source of origin. By “auditioned” I mean precisely that. A look is taken at the material, first of all, in a general way, to establish whether or not it is something which is suitable for our schedules at all, whether it is something that the public we serve would wish to see or whether it would give offence in any number of ways. Once a decision has been taken that it seems to be appropriate material for transmission on RTE, it is then brought “in house” where every programme, before transmission, is previewed by a corps of very experienced, mature and artistically aware people. They would be watching out for all of the factors I mentioned earlier, with particular reference to matters of sexuality and violence, which is what we are talking about.
In the case of violence we have to recognise that in the dramatic situation, villainy of one kind or another, and sex in one form or another, has been part of the dramatic form since the earliest times. But what we strenuously attempt to avoid is the gratuitous inclusion of either in any of the programmes we transmit. Of course there is no gainsaying that material containing violence, material of that kind, is transmitted by us. But what is very important to realise is that we do take care. First of all, we recognise that nothing contrived, nothing that we are likely to show in a dramatic form, can transcend that which is seen in actuality in news and so on. There is now a recognition that, in the public mind, there exists a clearer definition than heretofore, of the difference between make-believe and reality. Nonetheless, that having been recognised, we take care to ensure that none of the plots included in the material we acquire can be blue-printed into the Irish situation; in other words, that it cannot present a form of violence which could be exploited by a situation obtaining, or which may obtain, in this country.
Similarly and more precisely, we take care that material does not have analagous violence which could give inspiration to sections of the community here. Thirdly, we take care that we do not present material with a violent content which appears to give approbation to the use of wholesale violence even in the support of right or — to use a colloquial phrase — by the ‘goodies’. That is the physical violence I have been speaking about.
There is another factor to which we devote considerable attention, that is non-physical violence in which the delineation I made between actuality and make-believe is not so clear in the public mind at all. The kind of thing about which I am thinking is this; that viewers, and particularly younger viewers — although they might not be able to identify with physical violence — can readily identify with inter-personal, perhaps even non-verbal violence of the household tension kind. We are not now unique, but we were the first organisation to point out to the European Broadcasting Union that this non-physical violence was an aspect that had to be taken into account. Of course we are sensitive in this respect. And the stages of acquisition of material in these categories I have spoken about is governed, as is all our programming — home-originated as well — by a carefully constructed referral system. Therefore, if we run into a situation in which there is a doubt in somebody’s mind, somebody previewing a programme, there is referral upwards to cope with any areas where there may be some doubt in the mind of somebody making a programme selection.
278. Chairman.—Even assuming that you have a very strict test — and I accept your contention in relation to both violence and sex that it should not be gratuitous and should be part of the integral plot — and carry it out very carefully, can the situation arise in which you feel, in relation to all of your programmes, that there are too many violent programmes, even though each one complies with the requirements of that test?
Mr. Hill.—Obviously there is a degree of professional judgement involved in assembling a set of television schedules, and I am directly responsible for that. I am bound to say that I do not run a yardstick across the two schedules and say there will be four-a-halfhours violence this week and there will be three hours only, the week after next. I do not do it that way. It is not done in a mechanistic way. But in the general editorial make-up of the schedules, we ensure that there are not numbers of serials, for example, which may contain a high level of violence, to use a phrase, running in the two television schedules at the same time. There is also the matter of the distribution of the material within the schedules which is also important. Once it has been chosen, and when it gets to the point at which violent or sexual material has to be distributed between the two channels and over a period of time, there is also the consideration that we observe a watershed at 9.30 p.m. If there is material which we believe may be disturbing, it is not transmitted before that time. The reason for that is obvious. We assume that it will then be inaccessible to young viewers. We modify this pattern to take account of school holidays. If it is particularly disturbing, we make an announcement to that effect. If such material is included in the schedule on one channel, we ensure there is an attractive alternative on the other RTE channel so that a viewer has somewhere else to go without leaving the RTE service in a multichannel area.
279. Deputy Deasy.—What does EBU stand for?
Mr. Hill.—European Broadcasting Union.
280. Senator Cooney.—While you exclude violence and sex that is gratuitously inserted into a film, you do not exclude films that have violence or sex as sub-themes?
Mr. Hill.—That is correct.
281. Senator Cooney.—I take it you have read the recent study by Eysenck and Nias carried out on sex and violence in the media?
282. Senator Cooney.—It is stated in that report that the evidence is fairly unanimous that aggressive acts new to the subject’s repertoire of responses, as well as acts already well established, can be evoked by the viewing of violent scenes portrayed on film, TV or in the theatre. Is not that at odds with what you say that you are careful to exclude realistic violence as opposed to make-believe violence? The report tends not to make that distinction.
Mr. Hill.—I recognise that. What I said was that nothing we transmit can transcend the horrors one sees in actuality, for example, material transmitted on news bulletins. This unfortunately has helped to establish in viewers’ minds a difference between reality and make-believe.
283. Senator Cooney.—The point of the research is that the effect on the viewer does not support your suggestion that there is a distinction in the viewer’s mind.
Mr. Hill.—That seems to be the implication.
284. Senator Cooney.—Have there been other studies?
Mr. Hill.—Not that I am aware of.
285. Senator Cooney.—In view of the uncontradicted validity of that conclusion does it not lead inevitably to suggest that a minimum or no violence should be portrayed?
Mr. Hill.—If we accept that some is an inevitable part of most dramatic situations and care is taken — we cannot exclude it altogether nor can we be over-protective. We have a right to be careful, but not over-protective.
286. Senator Cooney.—If what is at issue is something that has not been proved scientifically but has been proved as far as possible to be a fact and to be damaging, can you be over protective as regards protecting people?
Mr. Hill.—We cannot exclude all such material from the schedule but we keep the level of it to a reasonable minimum. I would prefer not to name specific programmes, but there are some very attractive ones which can be seen in parts of the country and which we have deliberately not taken, although for the most part they would have given considerable satisfaction to the audience. We did this simply because they portrayed wholesale violence occuring on the side of good and would have unbalanced the quantum of what we consider to be a reasonable level and kind of violence.
287. Senator Cooney.—Have you been phasing down the amount of material with violent scenes in it?
Mr. Hill.—We have.
288. Senator Cooney.—In viewing what is available on the market, is your dominant approach to buy material that does not have violence?
Mr. Hill.—Yes. We are trying to decrease the amount of violence. In a sense we are a slave to the international market in this regard. In the seventies, in the United States, there was a reaction against violence in films. It happened at a time when we were acquiring our material from non-American sources because there was a predominance of violence in their material. For them, the domestic serial became the big audience gatherer. I am talking of programmes such as “The Little House on the Prairie”. We are steering more in that direction.
Mr. Moriarty.—Shortly after we took office, the Authority asked a lot of questions about the portrayal of violence in films and a general directive was issued to the effect that care should be taken. That care was in existence beforehand but we asked for a discussion on it and were presented with a paper which suggested that social researchers were by no means agreed on the effects of television violence. The scientific evidence on a general basis as presented to the Authority at that time would be far less definite than the conclusions Senator Cooney gave. Perhaps we could submit a memorandum to the Committee on this. There was a study done by the BBC on this not so long ago. To the best of my recollection, the conclusions of the study were far less definite in ascribing a particular behaviour to violence.
289. Chairman.—Would you agree that the responsibility of the Authority in a country where violence was a very present factor would be far higher than if it were an authority in a country where no violence existed? Would you agree that they should be more careful about the amount of violence shown in this country, than in a peaceful country such as Switzerland? Mr. Hill in a sense was begging the question. He said that the violent scenes in films on RTE are no worse than what is seen on the news. However, someone may suggest that some of the violence on the news might not have occurred if RTE had not shown so many violent films.
Mr. Hill.—In mentioning real violence that is not the point I was attempting to make. Unfortunately this has assisted the viewer in differentiating between the appalling reality of violence and make-believe violence. We pay particular attention to violence that could be blue-printed or that has an analogy in situations in this country. In general, in the matter of our care relative to other people’s care, the Annan Commission Report singles out two programmes for mention as being unsatisfactory in this area.
290. Chairman.—Is that the report published by the BBC?
Mr. Hill.—Yes. Long before that report was published we had decided that neither of those series was suitable for our transmission.
Mr. Moriarty.—I could not disagree with the point made by the Chairman that public service broadcasting has to take serious account of the effect it has on the attitude and behaviour of members of the public. That might have to be different in relation to the circumstances in different countries.
291. Senator Cooney.—I should like to go further and state that RTE is on record as stating that broadcasting must generally reflect the morals and respect the values of the society in which it operates, acknowledging the standards of taste, decency and justice. Is it agreed that there is a positive obligation on the Authority to reflect the values of the society in which it operates?
Mr. Moriarty.—Yes, there is no doubt about that.
292. Senator Cooney.—Is that consideration a big one in the committee’s viewings of material to purchase or when considering home produced material?
Mr. Hill.—It is probably the single largest consideration.
293. Senator Cooney.—In that connection I should like to mention a specific programme. “Are You Being Served” the raison d’etre of which seems to be the broadcasting of double-meaning jokes. Am I correct in that assumption?
Mr. Hill.—I would not have thought it was its only raison d’etre.
294. Senator Cooney.—Is it broadcast a lot?
295. Senator Cooney.—Would you consider that broadcasting a programme with a considerable number of double-meaning jokes reflects the standards of taste, decency and justice and values of our society?
Mr. Hill.—I suggest it was not giving undue offence.
296. Senator Cooney.—The fact that it might have given some offence should be considered and I should like to know if that is taken into consideration?
Mr. Hill.—It would matter but it is inevitable with material of that kind where there is double entendre that some offence will be caused, but I suggest to the Senator that from the response we get, it would be easy to over-estimate the level of that. It is important to indicate that in all those areas in the years of existence of the Broadcasting Complaints Committee, and the Commission, that no material of this kind has been referred to it, to my recollection.
297. Senator Cooney.—Apart from the public reaction I should like to consider the question of your own judgment. Do you consider that the broadcasting of material of that type does not comply with the criteria I quoted earlier about programming reflecting the values of society?
Mr. Hill.—It is very difficult to answer that question. Obviously, I am concerned about such material and great care is taken in its selection. I have admitted that it may cause offence to a small section of the community, but we must nonetheless recognise that that programme has consistently been in the top five of the most popular programmes we present.
Senator Cooney.—The News of the World is the biggest newspaper in England.
Mr. Waters.—In relation to the public response to that programme I should like to state that every evening a telephone log is kept of all the calls in relation to complaints about programmes and so on.
Senator Cooney.—I do not wish to criticise the particular programme but it is symptomatic of the point I am anxious to make.
Mr. Waters.—If that was the main theme running through the programme we would be very concerned and would probably not have accepted it. With due respect, I do not think that was the main theme. There may have been some double-meaning jokes in it, but I do not think they predominate the programme.
298. Deputy Deasy.—Is it due for another run? Those of us in single-channel areas would be very disappointed if it did not return.
Mr. Hill.—The Senator has indicated that he is talking about that genre of programming rather than that specific programme and I should like to give him some reassurance by stating that two popular series which we ran in previous seasons have not been continued. That was not done because of double entendre but because in one case we felt it had become a blasphemous series and it would have been offensive to Roman Catholics and Christians in general. I am talking about British material in both cases. Recently there has been a spate of what we call “Paddy bashing jokes” in some of the popular programmes and we have excluded such programmes for the same reason. It is difficult to give the global reassurance the Senator is seeking but I am anxious to indicate to him that tremendous care is taken in all the areas we have been discussing this afternoon.
299. Deputy Deasy.—Is everything that is scheduled for showing previewed?
Mr. Hill.—Absolutely everything.
300. Deputy Deasy.—What type of a team have you to do this work?
Mr. Hill.—They are people of maturity, people with families of their own who would be acutely aware of the sensitivity of the ordinary person. Because they view a whole range of programmes they are people of artistic judgement. I should like to tell the Committee that one of them is arguably or possibly the most celebrated film person here. Certainly, he is the person longest connected with the film industry here. That area is headed by a man who is recognised internationally for his judgements in relation to acquired material.
301. Deputy Deasy.—Do I gather that you reject some popular BBC and ITV series because of their offensive nature?
302. Deputy Deasy.—Will you tell the Committee some of the series that were rejected?
Mr. Hill.—I do not wish to use titles, if that is possible.
Deputy Deasy.—It is better not to.
303. Chairman.—Perhaps it would be possible to give us a list of some of the programmes?
304. Chairman.—One of the guidelines is upholding democratic values, especially freedom of expression. I should like to ask those present to express their views on people who are being interviewed not being allowed to express their views. There is a tendency by presenters to keep on asking questions and not allow those being interviewed to answer. This may be a relatively unimportant aspect of freedom of expression but it is an area where people, who represent a point of view, are continually asked questions and before they are half way through their answer are interrupted. Unless they are very firm, they do not manage to get in any answers. Is it a case of this being an isolated matter or is it felt that it makes interviewing more interesting or entertaining? Is it the policy of the Authority?
Mr. Boyd.—That type of interviewing is not encouraged. The purpose of the interview is to elicit information. There is also a responsibility on the interviewer to ensure that the interviewee gives information and does not try to get away with giving propaganda instead of information. Our interviewers are not encouraged to harrass or to interrupt or to try to dominate the interview. We regard the interviewee as the dominant person in the interview.
305. Chairman.—When it happens very often, is it just that it happens and that it is not encouraged?
Mr. Boyd.—It is not encouraged. Certain interviewers have certain styles of interviewing but bad manners are not encouraged and if an interviewer persists with bad manners or bad interviewing, it is drawn to his or her attention.
306. Chairman.—Perhaps I am affected unduly by the practice in the courts where most cases probably are won or lost by crossexamination. It is a very strict rule there that when a question is asked, a witness must be allowed to answer it in full and to qualify it. A judge will step in immediately if somebody cross-examining tries to interrupt a witness when he is answering a question. I am not suggesting that the Authority should be as strict as that, but there is no question whatever that quite frequently, people who are interviewed are not allowed to answer. They are interrupted and they are not allowed to say what they want to say. From the point of view of the public and not merely from that of the person who is the interviewee, very often they want to hear what a person is going to say and they do not hear it.
Mr. Boyd.—I am not suggesting that it does not happen sometimes but it is not encouraged. One also has to bear in mind that the interviewer has a responsibility to elicit information and some people may not want to give that information. They may want to get a particular point of view across rather than answer the question and it is in those regions that the interruptions would occur more frequently than in other regions.
Mr. Waters.—Also we have to bear in mind that there are time restraints on interviewers in relation to programming. They have a certain amount of time allocated to them to do their interview or present a programme. I am not suggesting that that is always the reason, but it may be the reason on occasions that the interviewer knows that he has to be finished in a particular time and therefore he may have to cut short an interviewee occassionally.
307. Chairman.—An interviewee who is rambling on?
Mr. Moriarty.—It would be better to say that the management in RTE have guidelines in relation to it being necessary to treat people with courtesy and not harass them in any way. These people have the right to freedom to express themselves and not to be put at any major or serious disadvantage. I have looked at this for a long time now. I make a point of seeing all the news programmes and all current affairs programmes. I submit the overall judgement that in RTE at present the standard of interviewing is high. It is penetrating but it is also courteous and gives the recipient of the question a fair opportunity to present his point of view. I suggest also that there is a responsibility on a person being interviewed. Unlike a person in a court, he is not obliged to attend if he does not wish to and there is an obligation on the person being interviewed to realise that he is getting involved in a very penetrating medium and is going to be asked specific questions, and he should be prepared for it. That responsibility on the interviewee is not realised fully by a lot of people.
308. Senator Cooney.—I have a more general question regarding policy. The Broadcasting Review Committee stated in paragraph 21.1. “that broadcasting and particularly television affects moral standards by the constant repetition of particular values and by the assumptions underlying programming”. They appear to make the same statement when they say that a given country, at a given time, has a certain moral climate; this climate can easily be disrupted by propaganda in the media and elsewhere. It would seem a priori a correct proposition in the submissions that we have got from members of the public. One objection that has been repeated in these submissions was that minority points of view, contrary to the mores of the majority, seem to get an inordinate amount of time and that the assertions of the traditional values in a very positive way do not seem to get the same airing. This feeling is held fairly widely. Would the Authority like to comment on that, and what is the general attitude in regard to these considerations?
Mr. Waters.—Probably there are as many views on this as there are people who complain about it or who write about it. I think overall that there is a very level and strict balance in relation to the views of minority groups and the views of majority groups. In the circumstances I do not think that the Senator’s assertion is true overall. It may be a subjective judgement of somebody who feels positively that his or her point of view is not getting enough airing. The Committee can well imagine that very often I get letters and with the range of subjects that we are expected to deal with over a period of a week or a year, it is very difficult to satisfy everybody.
309. Senator Cooney.—Is it a firm and conscious policy of the Authority that the traditional viewpoint or the viewpoint representing traditional values and majority mores will get as much if not more space in these areas because of the majority size?
Mr. Waters.—It is indeed and I think we reflect that.
Mr. Moriarity.—When I and my colleagues became associated with this present Authority there were guidelines on these questions in existence in RTE. Since we took office a year last June, we have issued guidelines on different aspects of broadcasting and we are happy that these guidelines are being observed in the programmes being made and produced.
310. Senator Cooney.—If a programme on, say, current affairs — indeed, very often the objection is that they are not specifically current affairs programmes but mixed-bag programmes — deals with divorce or abortion, for example, there is a feeling that those advocating change get a better crack of the whip than those in favour of the status quo. Is that true? What are the editorial controls there?
Mr. Waters.—In relation to any subject like this of a controversial nature we are obliged to provide balance under the Act and we do this as far as it is possible. Subjects like divorce, contraception and abortion which have a very high profile in the community, tend to be regarded by some people as programmes we should not do at all. In some people’s minds once the subject is mentioned we are biased in favour of it. We have dealt with subjects like these in various programmes and I believe we have to deal with them. I hope that we have dealt with them in a responsible manner. It is not true that the minority point of view always gets the greater airing in relation to them. Perhaps the Director of Radio Programmes might like to talk about this, because very many of the things we are talking about have come to fall within radio more than within television.
311. Senator Cooney.—What are the mechanics behind the scenes in deciding what subject is to get an airing, what are the controls for saying who is brought on to give them the airing and who will decide the contrary points on balance?
Mr. Carroll.—There are very strict controls. In fact, in matters in the current affairs area which includes some of those you spoke about, there is every week an editorial committee chaired by the Director-General and subject matters that will arise within the next week are discussed at that meeting. The people who are to appear on a particular matter are named and we ensure within Radio Programmes Division that there is a balance pro and con the particular subject. It is not always possible nor indeed necessary that one programme should deal with the subject and that in itself should be balanced, but that there could be a programme which would be pro and a programme a few days hence that would be con, so that we are satisfied that both points of view are put. Indeed we are obliged by the Act to ensure that this happens.
Mr. Waters.—Balance would be achieved over a period of time, if not in the particular programme when it first goes out.
312. Senator Cooney.—I think one programme intended to present interviews with prostitutes on one occasion — is that right?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, some time ago.
313. Senator Cooney.—And that was prohibited. It did not go ahead?
Mr. Carroll.—There were a number of programmes. Some programmes did go ahead on that subject and others did not. I think we would have felt that perhaps it was sufficiently covered and that we thought it should not go ahead. I think I recall that was the reason.
314. Senator Cooney.—Were there other programmes that have been out of line? I recall reading in the newspapers about one programme as a result of which a producer was suspended?
315. Senator Cooney.—Could you explain, if the programme was so bad that the producer had to be suspended afterwards, how the mechanics failed and that it got on to the air?
Mr. Carroll.—Obviously, I do not want to name names but I think in that particular case the programme deadline was reached very quickly, almost too quickly and the programme got on air. I think it was completed the night before or within hours of the transmission. However, a great deal of trust is put in producers — that is their job, what they are paid for — to ensure that there is balance and so on whatever the subject they are covering. Unfortunately, in this case the trust was misplaced and we felt that the programme was not balanced and that was why we took off the repeat. I think that is the one you are talking about. But it was a very rare lapse.
316. Senator Cooney.—How are producers recruited?
Mr. Carroll.—By open competition.
317. Senator Cooney.—What are the qualifications to become a producer?
Mr. Carroll.—The normal criteria apply, an interest in, depending on which particular area, current affairs if it is current affairs, the arts in general and so on. If it is a sports producer, an interest in sports and if agriculture an interest in agriculture. We have producers who specialise to integrate into the particular departments that we have.
318. Senator Cooney.—All coming from varying backgrounds?
Mr. Carroll.—Exactly — university and so on.
319. Senator Cooney.—Are they recruited as trainees and are they trained?
Mr. Carroll.—They are absolutely trained, yes, from six months to nine months training.
320. Deputy Deasy.—According to Section 13 of the 1976 Act, RTE should be responsive to the interests and concerns of the whole community. I know there are great financial constraints on RTE but still there is an imbalance in regard to people who appear on panels in particular and who get access to chat shows, such as the Gay Byrne programme in the mornings. That imbalance is very heavily in favour of people in and around Dublin who can dial directly if they wish to ask a question or partake in a quiz. The same thing applies to people who go on panels or come in for interview. There is a continual bias in favour of Dublin and surrounding areas. It actually goes down as far as politicians. If you have a panel of politicians to discuss something topical, you find invariably the people chosen are from in and around Dublin. I understand there are financial problems and that you cannot have studios all over the country, but surely you should make an exceptional effort to see that the imbalance is redressed in the provinces?
Mr. Moriarty.—I think that is a legitimate criticism of RTE. This Authority has been very conscious of it and has directed that there should be more provincial involvement in broadcasting and a greater provincial input into the type of programmes to which the Deputy refers. It is a fact that the greatest proportion of the population is in a very small area in the vicinity of Dublin and as such there will always be a weighted participation from that area. But RTE are now providing studio facilities in provincial centres and if we could overcome to some extent the financial difficulties, it would be the objective of the Authority to remove any criticism there is at present that there is undue weighting in favour of Dublin. Technological developments which are in the course of negotiation in RTE in relation to news gathering and so on — when these are introduced it will greatly facilitate provincial involvement. That is an objective towards which RTE are now very positively directed — to have a greater involvement of the whole community in television and radio broadcasting.
Mr. Waters.—Perhaps I could give some figures and statistics in relation to the facilities we now have throughout the country and the increase we have had in recent years. The Chairman said that the present Authority were committed to more provincial origination; in fact that was the policy of the previous Authority also. Over the past few years we have been establishing bases throughout the country so that we can get more material from non-metropolitan sources. Since 1974 the number of film crews for television has increased from 13 to 22 and we have four RTE-based crews, crews based in the provinces in Cork, Clonmel, Galway and Belfast. In addition now we have 17 stringers or freelance cameramen and they are very evenly distributed through the country. In Ulster we have one in Derry, Lurgan, Cavan and Donegal; in Leinster, in Dundalk, Athlone, Kilkenny and Bray; in Munster, in Waterford, Limerick, Killarney and Tralee; in Connacht, in Galway, Sligo, Castlebar, Ballina and Ballinasloe. I think we spoke earlier about new developments in electronics in connection with originating material in the provinces. I think I said at that time that there were two constraints at the moment in relation to the introduction of them. One was within our own control and that is negotiations with the staff and these are going on at present. The other is the non-availability of circuits from the provinces. They will become available when the microwave link network that I spoke about is completed.
321. Deputy Deasy.—It is not so much that; we went through that at a previous hearing and we appreciate that you are working on that, but take for instance the Gay Byrne morning show, to mention one, which has a very high popular appeal all around the country. There is obviously a bias against anybody who is not able to dial directly. The person in the Dublin area has more chance of getting involved in that programme. Do you make any provision whereby a person who rings from a distance and has to make an expensive phone call is compensated by RTE? It may cost £1 to ring from Kerry whereas it might cost only 10p in the Dublin area.
Mr. Waters.—What we have tried to do in the past is that occasionally we have tried to bring that programme out into the provinces and do it from Cork or Limerick and help to get provincial involvement.
Mr. Carroll.—The programme is brought out from time to time to provincial studios in Galway, Cork and so on and indeed Tralee — the festivals and so on. I admit that, with the telephone system as it is, it is naturally much easier for Dublin people to get through quickly. There is that unfortunate bias as long as the programmes stem from Dublin.
322. Deputy Deasy.—Take for instance. the children’s programmes on television, the people involved in that are obviously from Dublin and around Dublin — have you any plans to try to overcome that imbalance?
Mr. Waters.—I can only speak of overall planning. Our ambition in the longer term is to have facilities for television in Cork, Galway and other centres in the country. This is a very expensive exercise. We have planned to build a small studio centre in Cork and to follow that with one in Galway. This is the policy of the Authority, as it was the policy of the previous Authority.
However, in the present economic climate I am afraid it will not be easy to do that quickly.
323. Deputy Deasy.—You do appreciate that there is a sense of grievance about this matter?
Mr. Moriarty.—That matter and the quality of reception are the two most frequent complaints I get.
Mr. Waters.—We do a number of programmes, both television and radio, from provincial centres. We go around the country with various programmes, such as the Donncha O’Dulaing show. The programme “Ireland’s Eye” has a considerable provincial input and there is also the “Countrywide” programme on television.
324. Deputy Deasy.—I appreciate that but do you not agree that the programme I referred to is one that is of considerable interest and many people would like to be involved if they got the opportunity?
Mr. Waters.—The only way we could overcome that would be to bring that show more often from provincial areas but, of course, there is a cost factor associated with that. That is the only way it could be done in the present circumstances.
325. Senator Cooney.—On variety shows or on current affairs programmes, time is often given to a certain project or perhaps an author may be interviewed in connection with a new book. From representations made to us it appears that some of this is a form of advertising for a particular book or project. Obviously those people who apply to be interviewed in the context of their particular work will be dissatisfied if somebody else is interviewed. What criteria are applied in deciding who comes on a programme? Obviously if an author is interviewed in connection with his book, that will be of value to him in the sales of that book, but the standard of the work may not be worthy.
Mr. Waters.—In all cases the initiative is taken by RTE. The producer of the programme in question will decide on what he wants to include in the programme: he will approach the people concerned and select them. It is mainly the judgment of the producer.
325A. Senator Cooney.—Is that not very considerable power for a producer?
Mr. Waters.—It is a great responsibility for him.
Mr. Carroll.—Producers are accountable on a day-to-day basis to the head of the Department, Assistant-Controllers are accountable to Controllers and so on.
326. Senator Cooney.—Have there been complaints from disappointed people?
Mr. Carroll.—There have been very few complaints.
Mr. Waters.—Inevitably a certain amount of advertising is involved when we use people in programmes. It is the same in relation to politicians.
Mr. Carroll.—We are encouraging Irish art and Irish artists.
Mr. Hill.—That is particularly the case in relation to the publishing world. If it is an Irish publication that is involved, it has a good chance of the kind of support mentioned. The general policy is to be supportive of activities or publications of artistic merit.
327. Chairman.—Not necessarily because the matter is controversial?
328. Senator Cooney.—Would the overall criterion of reflecting national values apply in the case of what might be in a particular book?
Mr. Waters.—It would in relation to programmes dealing with books as such. In other programmes somebody might be interviewed for another reason, perhaps because of the contents of a book or something like that.
328A. Senator Cooney.—If there was a lapse from the normal criterion, I presume attention would be drawn to that fact and there would be no repetition?
Mr. Moriarty.—It has happened. We are conscious of mistakes having been made in this regard.
329. Deputy B. Desmond.—There is the question of the non-broadcasting by RTE of interviews and reports of interviews with spokesmen of organisations proscribed in Northern Ireland under the legislation dealing with emergency provisions as a result of the 1978 situation. How have you found your control over situations as devolved by successive Ministers?
Mr. Waters.—Perhaps the Director of News would like to reply to that? This question usually arises in relation to news broadcasts and perhaps he would outline the situation in that regard.
Mr. Boyd.—I do not think any journalist or broadcaster would attempt to defend section 31. We do not like it but it is the law of the land and, as responsible broadcasters and journalists, we observe it. It inhibits coverage of some events, particularly events in the North of Ireland. However, it does not inhibit them to the extent that people are being denied knowledge of what is happening in the North of Ireland because we still carry statements from legal and illegal organisations. We can refer to their activities; we publish their claims or denials of responsibility for certain events. It is not a complete inhibition but we feel it prevents the presentation of a complete and balanced picture of what is happening. Most responsible journalists feel it would be of benefit to the public if searching interviews could be held with certain people who are active in certain activities North and South of the Border. Those people have never been called publicly to explain themselves on RTE because of section 31. In a general day-to-day news sense it imposes very little upon us. We have responsible journalists working in Belfast and in other centres and they give a true and honest account of what is going on. They are obliged to be impartial, to give both sides, and I am confident they do that. However, we consider we could give a more complete picture if section 31 were not there.
330. Deputy B. Desmond.—To what extent have you received complaints from Government Departments or from individual Ministers alleging that RTE are in breach of the directive? I am trying to get information on this point.
Mr. Moriarty.—May I start to answer that question? Since I became Chairman, I have received no complaints from any Minister, Government Department or anybody else that there was a breach of the directive on the part of the Authority. Neither I nor the Authority have had any complaint.
Mr. Waters.—I have not had any complaints, either.
331. Deputy B. Desmond.—Since the directive was first introduced, am I correct in assuming that, apart from the framing of the directive by the Minister and its passing over for implementation to the Authority, the Ministers concerned have not complained?
Mr. Moriarty.—That is right.
Mr. Waters.—That is correct.
Mr. Moriarty.—On the basis of the directive which was first issued by the Minister back, I think, in 1971, RTE drew up a set of internal guidelines governing their news and current affairs activities, so that these would be complied with and that everybody would be aware of how they would be complied with. As far as I am concerned, since I became associated with RTE there has been no difficulty in having those guidelines implemented, no great difficulty.
Mr. Boyd.—All members of the staff are aware of the guidelines. From time to time we circulate copies of these guidelines. They have been revised, but revised very little from time to time. They are commonsense guidelines and are quite easy to follow. There is no confusion about them.
332. Deputy Deasy.—Could you tell me what are the proscribed organisations under the Act of 1976?
Mr. Boyd.—I have a list of these organisations which are proscribed under section 31, being the organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, the organisation styling itself Provisional Sinn Fein, the organisation styling itself the Ulster Defence Association, any organisation which in Northern Ireland is a proscribed organisation within the meaning of section 21 of the Act of the British Parliament entitled The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1978.
333. Deputy Deasy.—What is the position regarding the Irish National Liberation Army?
Mr. Boyd.—That organisation is proscribed within the meaning of the British Act.
Mr. Waters.—It is automatically proscribed here, then.
334. Deputy Deasy.—That is what I was getting at. There was an interview last year involving either a member of that organisation or the IRSP. I raised a query at the time but never got a reply. What is the position regarding the IRSP?
Mr. Boyd.—The IRSP is not proscribed in the North of Ireland, or in the South, for that matter.
Deputy Deasy.—I see.
335. Senator Cooney.—Apart from not getting complaints from Ministers, have there been any breaches of the prohibition order since 1971?
Mr. Moriarty.—There have not been, as far as I am aware.
Mr. Boyd.—Not that I am aware of.
336. Senator Cooney.—Mr. Boyd objects to section 31 of the prohibition. Does he think that people who engage in violence to achieve political aims should get the freedom of the national airwaves?
Mr. Boyd.—No, and I do not think that they have ever been offered that freedom before or after 1971.
Senator Cooney.—I must have misunderstood Mr. Boyd.
337. Deputy B. Desmond.—Have the Authority received any recent information from the Minister regarding this particular Directive?
Mr. Moriarty.—No. It is due for renewal. It lapses on 19 January and I do not know what the situation is in regard to it. Either it will be revived or it will not be revived.
338. Deputy Deasy.—Have the Authority received many complaints about lack of impartiality in programmes, particularly in regard to political matters?
Mr. Waters.—Constantly, is the answer to that. However, I would not agree that we have always acted in a partial manner. We very often get complaints from individuals who perhaps feel that they should have got more time or that their point of view should have been sought. This is part and parcel of broadcasting. It goes on all the time and not just from politicians, but from all sorts of people.
Mr. Moriarty.—There has been great publicity recently in the papers about our alleged partiality. On balance I must say that everybody gets a fair crack of the whip but nobody thinks he or she is getting a fair crack of the whip.
339. Deputy Deasy.—Particularly politicians?
Mr. Moriarty.—I do not mean particularly politicians.
340. Senator Cooney.—There are times when politicians would be extremely sensitive on this issue, particularly at times coming towards an election. Would you agree?
Mr. Moriarty.—Yes, that is right.
Chairman.—There is not necessity for sensitivity at the present time.
341. Deputy Deasy.—There seems to be a very reduced participation by politicians in RTE television programmes in recent years, certainly it is not as great at the moment as it was eight or ten years ago. Is there any reason for that?
Mr. Moriarty.—I suppose a short answer is that eight or ten years ago they were the main articulate section of the community, but I do not really know.
342. Deputy Deasy.—Is it as a result of station policy?
Mr. Moriarty.—No, no.
Mr. Waters.—No. I would feel that in our present schedules there is far more participation by politicians, simply by virtue of the fact that we have more current affairs programmes.
343. Deputy Deasy.—There may be more current affairs programmes but there does not seem to be more participation by politicians. If there is, which I doubt, it seems to be more concentrated amongst the few and amongst the larger spread, if you take my point. Would you agree with that?
Mr. Waters.—I could not agree just now, because I would have to look at statistics in regard to that question.
344. Deputy Deasy.—Would you let us see those statistics?
Mr. Moriarty.—Perhaps we could give the Committee statistics over a period immediately past as to which politicians participated in what programmes.
Deputy Deasy.—Exactly. I should like that.
Mr. Moriarty.—We could submit those statistics to the Committee. It should not be too difficult.
345. Deputy B. Desmond.—There might be some difficulty in that very often individuals from all walks of life, including politicians are asked to take part and may not do so. To get a balanced picture, one might have to say that Minister X refused to appear, therefore Deputy Y was not called upon. Is that the position?
Mr. Moriarty.—Is it not a feature of the political scene that each party has a spokesman and if at a particular time a particular subject is more controversial or more in public debate, that limited number of people to which the Deputy has referred would tend to be the people called upon?
346. Deputy Deasy.—Perhaps we could be given statistics of refusals of people, generally to participate?
Deputy B. Desmond.—I very much doubt if the records would be as comprehensive as all that. Programmes, as we know, are compiled in a matter of hours. There might be 20 phone calls, resulting in two people participating.
347. Deputy Deasy.—Is there a drawback for Opposition parties generally, in that if a Minister is asked to appear with an Opposition spokesman and declines, then obviously the programme is not going to be held at all, or that part of it?
Mr. Waters.—Not necessarily.
348. Deputy Deasy.—Have there been instances where the Minister has declined and RTE have gone ahead with the programme?
Mr. Waters.—Usually in a case like that, where there is no spokesman for the Minister, then the interviewer is expected to provide the element of balance which is necessary.
349. Deputy Deasy.—I am glad to hear that. Some of us were under a definite impression that there were cases where, because the Minister had not agreed to appear, the programme had been cancelled. Is this correct?
Mr. Waters.—There may have been cases, but there were also cases where Ministers have not come on and the programme has been presented. At times we may not do so. I do not know the reasons.
Deputy B. Desmond.—There have also been cases where the spokesman for the Opposition has failed to turn up.
Deputy Fitzsimons.—I want to talk of the actual fact that Opposition spokesmen get a very good chance, both on radio and television, where very often the Government of the day are to be criticised, particularly after the news on the radio during the day. It seems that Opposition spokesmen get a very good balance, both on radio and television. That would be my opinion.
Mr. Waters.—In reply to Deputy Deasy’s remarks about some politicians getting more exposure than others, this is very often the result of some public statement such individuals may have made. We know that certain TDs speak in public more than others and it is natural that a reporter would seek the views of someone who had made a public statement on an important matter.
350. Deputy Deasy.—Deputy John Kelly is a much more interesting personality on television than many. I should like the Authority to take cognisance of this: it has been represented to me that in a recent TV programme the presenter picked out of the audience in a pointed manner a person likely to be a byelection candidate in the near future. Is that correct?
Mr. Waters.—I do not know the case the Deputy is talking about. We have particular rules and regulations applying to the exposure of people on television and radio during election periods.
351. Deputy Deasy.—What is the situation since the election has not taken place yet?
Mr. Waters.—In that situation it would be very difficult to say than an individual should not be interviewed.
Deputy Deasy.—People were taken aback.
Mr. Waters.—I do not know of the case.
Mr. Moriarty.—My attitude would be that if I somebody told me this sort of thing did not happen by accident, I would deplore it and I think the Authority would take a serious view of what I would call this sort of manipulation.
Deputy Deasy.—I will give you particulars of the people involved — I will not go into detail here about it or about the recent “Quicksilver” programme.
352. Deputy Fitzsimons.—You set a target of 50 per cent of home-produced programmes. What happened to that target? Have you abandoned it or is the target still there?
Mr. Waters.—I do not know if we ever had such a specific target in relation to home produced programmes.
353. Chairman.—Was it not contained in a document by Mr. Fisher, a sort of objective?
Mr. Waters.—That related to RTE 1 when there was a single channel.
354. Deputy Fitzsimons.—Has it got worse since RTE 2 came in?
Mr. Waters.—Not on RTE 1. The statistics are in relation to the peak viewing time, from 6 p.m. to closing time — what happens before that is not relevant. Fifty-five per cent of the programmes in that period are home-produced. The percentage for RTE 2 is 23 and the target was something like 20. On both channels the percentage of home-produced programmes is 39.
Mr. Moriarty.—The original target of Mr. Fisher applied to RTE 1 only. The purpose of the establishment of RTE 2 was to give a choice of programmes to viewers in the onechannel area. The object was to get the best of the BBC and ITV and it will be agreed that, to have a large number of the programmes on that channel, home-produced might be contrary to the basic objective, to the terms of reference in regard to that channel.
355. Deputy Fitzsimons.—Your 1979 guidelines proposed a strengthening of the position in regard to home-produced programmes. Has this been achieved?
Mr. Waters.—That is still our objective but it is not the only objective because we must maintain quality. It must be remembered that we are in competition — it is not the over-riding consideration — but our objective all the time has been to maintain quality. Of course this applies to home-produced programmes. The facilities we have at our disposal at the moment are fully stretched. Indeed our financial position is over-stretched. Members will have read about the cutbacks we had to make in certain areas.
Deputy Fitzsimons.—It is much more expensive to make home-produced programmes than those for which you can shop around and buy.
356. Senator Cooney.—Irish language enthusiasts are dissatisfied with the percentage of Irish language programmes. What are your views on this?
Mr. Waters.—The Authority have set an objective of 20 per cent Irish language programmes in home-produced content. Again, quality comes in for very high consideration here because percentages do not mean much unless programmes presented are being watched by the people. Our target for Irish language programmes is 15 per cent of TV viewing time. We have a long way to go yet until we reach that.
Mr. Moriarty.—Our ultimate objective in RTE is approximately 20 per cent of programmes in Irish with one substantial Irish language programme is 15 per cent of TV viewing time. We have achieved that except on Tuesday nights. We should like to extend these Irish programmes to cover sports and young people’s affairs, which we have not had in Irish up to now. There are plans for that. We have a very substantial programme of learning Irish language scheduled for next autumn and at the moment we are going on with an introduction to the whole series. In relation to Irish language programmes, RTE will have achieved a large measure of the objectives in six to eight months. It surprises me how long it takes between conceiving a programme and the arrival of that programme in regard to a TV series. That would be part of my apologia in that regard.
357. Senator Cooney.—Can we look forward to Irish drama on TV?
Mr. Moriarty.—We have had Irish drama.
358. Deputy B. Desmond.—What about educational programmes?
Mr. Moriarty.—We have been in consultation with the higher education authorities in regard to proposals for broadcasts in formal education and this has been assigned to a senior officer in RTE. We are also participating in the Minister for Education’s Committee on Educational Broadcasting. In the end, it is a matter of resources and with our present level of resources we could not contemplate educational broadcasting of the type available across the water.
Mr. Waters.—Nor would we see it as our responsibility to finance such programmes.
359. Deputy B. Desmond.—Bearing in mind the very substantial increase in the Public Capital Programme with regard to education, has there not been an intimation from the Minister for Education that he would make even a couple of million pounds available?
Mr. Moriarty.—The Minister recently set up a Committee on this matter in which RTE have been invited to participate, but the setting up of the Committee does not involve any financial commitment.
360. Deputy Deasy.—Are certain types of educational programmes international?
Mr. Moriarty.—Yes. Programmes of a scientific nature are international.
361. Deputy Deasy.—On the subject of programming, RTE broadcast the “Johnny Logan Special” twice within a matter of days on different channels which seemed a bit of a waste, although the individual is popular. On 1 January two very popular films were shown at the same time, one involving the recehorse “Gay Future” and the other being “Chinatown”. The public would like to have had the opportunity of seeing both films and there was a bad clash. How did this arise?
Mr. Hill.—The “Johnny Logan Special” was not the only programme of home origination repeated in that fashion. We did the same thing with the “Rock Nativity.” From past experience we have discovered that, although Christmas is an intense viewing time, people are involved in many domestic and social activities. In the case of these two expensive productions which would obviously be successful, we decided to provide two opportunities for viewers during the holiday period. I take the point about the two films being shown at the same time. It is no excuse but it is true that another movie was scheduled for that night which we were not able to obtain and “Chinatown” was shown instead. I accept the Deputy’s criticism.
Mr. Waters.—That type of clash is inevitable from time to time. It must be said that we repeat only about 5 per cent of home originated programmes, while the BBC repeat 37 per cent.
362. Deputy Deasy.—There is no objection to the repeats, especially on different channels but these repeats could have been kept further apart. I wish to raise another matter regarding the use of the word “killed” when a person has been murdered in Northern Ireland. That person might not be a soldier but might be a private individual. Is there any specific reason for toning it down?
Mr. Boyd.—We do not exclusively use the word “killed” but there are cases where it may not be clear that a killing is a murder. We regard the word “murdered” as something which should be used only in cases where it is absolutely clear that a murder has been committed. If one were to be ultra-cautious, the word “murdered” would not be used until there had been a conviction in a court. “Killed” is regarded as a more neutral and acceptable word to describe what has happened. We occasionally receive statements from illegal organisations claiming that they have “executed” people but we never use that terminology; we say instead that they have “killed” someone.
363. Deputy Deasy.—Surely that would be a clear case of murder?
Mr. Boyd.—The word “murdered” could be used in those circumstances, but we prefer to use the word “killed”. There is no rigid rule about it and quite often it is left to the journalist covering the story to decide which word to use. It is not a matter which we debate in every case.
364. Senator Cooney.—Surely 99.9 per cent of the deaths through violence in the North are palpably murders. Would it not be proper to describe them as such in order to bring home to the perpetrators that the national broadcasting authority consider them to be murders?
Mr. Boyd.—We have to deal with these events much more immediately than the newspapers and the circumstances may not be fully clear. If there is any doubt in the mind of the journalist, he uses the word “killed”, but if there is no doubt it is quite permissible for him to use the word “murdered”. It is normally left to the journalist covering the story to make his own decision.
365. Senator Cooney.—Would you agree that in the majority of reports the word “killed” is used?
Mr. Boyd.—I would not disagree because I have not kept a record of the use of the word “killed”.
366. Senator Cooney.—As one who is sensitive in this area, my clear recollection is that the word used is “killed” and that the murderers are described as “assassins” or “attackers.” Are you suggesting that in all these cases the journalists would be in doubt as to the nature of the crimes?
Mr. Boyd.—There could be cases where there would be legitimate doubt.
367. Senator Cooney.—Would that be only a minority of cases?
Mr. Boyd.—Many peculiar things happen in the North of Ireland.
368. Senator Cooney.—I took it from what you said earlier that there was a legal inhibition in describing an event as “murder” until such time as it was palpably clear, but surely if the murder takes place in the North of Ireland RTE cannot be under any legal disability?
Mr. Boyd.—We follow a practice of trying to observe the jurisdiction whether it is in Northern Ireland, Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland.
369. Senator Cooney.—Is that the reason why you do not use the word “murder”?
Mr. Moriarty.—Mr. Boyd has made the point that there is no directive to anybody regarding which word to use and normal journalistic practice will apply.
Mr. Boyd.—There is no house rule and it is left to the journalist closest to the event to decide how it will be described.
370. Senator Cooney.—As a matter of public policy, do you not consider it preferable that these killings should be described as murders?
Mr. Boyd.—An overall ruling like that could lead to mistakes. For example, if a policeman were found with a bullet in his head it could be assumed that he had been murdered, but it could be a case of suicide. This has happened on a number of occasions.
371. Senator Cooney.—I agree that there are cases where there would be an obvious doubt but I suggest that in the majority of reported cases there could not be any doubt?
Mr. Boyd.—After a lapse of some hours there may not be any doubt, but this is not always the case when we have to deal with the event. We are on the air 17½ hours every day of the year and we broadcast hourly bulletins and must exercise care.
372. Senator Cooney.—I put it to you that in cases which are absolutely clear and without doubt the use of the word “murdered” would be preferable?
Mr. Boyd.—No one prevents the journalist reporting the case from using that word if he wants to do so.
373. Senator Cooney.—I am suggesting that as a matter of station policy the word “murdered” should be used in these cases, irrespective of the word the journalist might want to use.
Mr. Boyd.—Any editor would hesitate to lay down a rigid rule which might lead to mistakes.
373A. Senator Cooney.—I am not suggesting a rigid rule, except when you are absolutely sure.
Mr. Waters.—Would you not see that the use of the word “murder” is emotive if used constantly?
Senator Cooney.—No, because it is important in relation to the perpetrators of these murders, who consider themselves valid, that the national broadcasting station use words which show they are invalid.
Mr. Waters.—Where the case is clear, I would agree.
374. Chairman.—Some of our submissions said that RTE is a male-dominated station, perhaps unconsciously, and portray the role and dignity of women as being inferior and subordinate. Could we have some comments on that?
Mr. Waters.—We would not accept that.
Deputy B. Desmond.—Here we have RTE on one side and politicians on the other — both male-dominated.
Mr. Waters.—There has been a lot of publicity about this subject recently. I do not agree fully with that statement. We have a committee sitting within RTE who are examining the role of women in broadcasting and we have not had their report yet. They have been working for more than one year and I would prefer not to comment on this matter until I hear what they have to say.
375. Chairman.—You accept this is a problem?
Mr. Waters.—We accept that some people said it is a problem and for that reason we feel we should look at this matter to see what can be done. We have given every encouragement internally to women to apply for positions within the organisation and we have experienced great difficulties, particularly in relation to the low number of applicants for promotional jobs. I realise this question is not directly related to the point raised but reference was made to the portrayal of women on radio and television.
376. Chairman.—That is one aspect but what about the other point mentioned which was the small number of women particularly in managerial and executive jobs?
Mr. Moriarty.—That is a feature of all organisations, not just RTE. The problem is that sufficient numbers of qualified ladies have not presented themselves for vacancies when they are advertised. There would be no objection in RTE, the ESB or anywhere else to employing more women engineers or accountants, but women are not going into these areas in sufficient numbers to compete in equal numbers with men. Consequently many of them do not move through the system to executive and managerial positions. This is a problem that will exist in all organisations until women go into more professions than they are doing at present.
377. Deputy B. Desmond.—In the submission to the committee was it not said, that out of 120 executive positions, only about six were held by women?
Mr. Waters.—That is true.
378. Deputy B. Desmond.—The submission asked us to take action and to ensure that the ratio is changed. What action are RTE taking on that question?
Mr. Waters.—We dealt with this point at an earlier session. Every encouragement is given within the organisation to women who apply for more senior positions and there is no bar on recruitment, but the facts are the women are not presenting themselves at the competitions.
Mr. Moriarty.—We have a high level committee, comprising mostly of women, in RTE who are at present working on this question. They are to make recommendations as to how females could be used in all aspects of the broadcasting business to a far greater extent than they are at present. Their report is expected shortly and when it is received it will be examined seriously by the Authority and the management and such recommendations as are practicable will be implemented without delay.
379. Chairman.—Will this committee deal with the other aspect? At present we are dealing with the manner in which they are trained.
Mr. Moriarty.—The committee are to deal with women in broadcasting in all its aspects. We get a lot of complaints about the portrayal of women in advertising.
380. Chairman.—If I may address myself to the members of the committee and RTE, I want to draw attention to the fact that it is now 5.05 p.m. and if we continue it might be possible to finish in 15 or 20 minutes. Therefore, I would ask everybody to be as brief as possible. We were asked how RTE justified the continued advertising of alcohol in view of the damage it causes. Any comments?
Mr. Moriarty.—The last Authority made the decision to phase out the remaining commercial advertising of alcoholic drinks — beer and, to a limited extent, wines, because spirits had been phased out a long time ago — and that decision still stands. We had representations from the Brewers’ Association 12 months ago pointing out many reasons why this should not happen. One strong reason was that the lighter drinks — beers and ales — being advertised might turn people from hard liquor. Their main case was that it had not been proved that television advertising increased the consumption of alcohol. In support of that is the study which was carried out by Mr. Brendan Walsh of the ESRI. The response of the Authority to the Brewers’ Association was that they would defer for a year the decision to commence this phasing out and that they would look at it in the light of an educational programme — which they promised to develop in conjunction with the Health Education Bureau, the National Council for Alcoholism and the Department of Health — which would cover schools and advertising with a view to promoting responsible and moderate drinking. That is the position at the moment. It is their responsibility to come back to us, but, failing their presenting this programme by the end of this year, we will commence phasing out all liquor advertising. Of course what they propose will have to be fully acceptable to the Health Education Bureau and the National Council for Alcoholism, and the Department of Health and RTE. Meanwhile, RTE have introduced a very stringent code of practice in relation to drink advertising, far more stringent than the code which applies in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. We think we have adopted a responsible attitude to this matter but our policy is to phase this type of advertising out, if all the competent authorities who should be involved feel it would be in the national interest to do so.
Mr. Waters.—We do not advertise alcoholic drink on Radio 2 because it has an audience of young people and we do not advertise it on sports programmes.
381. Deputy Fitzsimons.—Do the brewing companies save much money in tax exemption by using nicely glamorised drink advertisements?
Mr. Waters.—Do they save much money?
Deputy Fitzsimons.—Yes, in tax exemption. Obviously, they spend a considerable amount of money on advertising.
Mr. Waters.—Yes, Presumably, if that situation obtains, the profits of the company would be subject to normal tax.
Mr. Gahan.—It is a business cost at the present time.
382. Deputy Fitzsimons.—When will the advertising of alcoholic drink be phased out?
Mr. Moriarty.—We will be phasing it out at the end of this year, on 1 January next. The brewers have engaged an international consultant, a psychologist, who has been involved in the alcoholism scene in the United States, and he is regarded as an authority. RTE, obviously, want to do the right thing nationally, even though it has serious financial implications.
Mr. Gahan.—We will begin phasing out at the end of this year.
Mr. Waters.—Yes, if there is an agreement among authorities on the whole question of the harm of advertising alcoholic drink.
383. Chairman.—We appear to have reduced the number of home-produced schools’ programmes. Why is this the case?
Mr. Finn.—The position is that since 1975 we have been meeting the costs of the Telefis Scoile transmissions ourselves. For about ten years prior to that, between 1964 and 1974, there was an arrangement whereby the Department of Education put up the money each year and we made the programme in consultation with them and transmitted them in a manner which fitted in with the schools’ syllabus and teaching requirements generally. The Department of Education ran into severe financial difficulties in 1974/75. It was a difficult time generally and they had to withdraw from providing finance for school broadcasting. In 1976, we had an arrangement whereby we met the costs ourselves but, apart from financial considerations, there is a statutory consideration also, that, under an amendment to the 1960 Act, we are permitted to provide services free of charge for other Departments or Ministers only by agreement with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. They have an interest in this, because any such “free service” obviously costs us money and might have an implication for the licence fee. Because of statutory constraints, never mind financial ones, what we have been doing since the Department of Education withdrew from the arrangement that used to obtain, has been to provide a schools service on television which is made up of bought-in material, which we pay for, and repeats of home-produced materials. To that extent, it has been a lesser service in recent years than applied in the period from about 1964 to 1974. As has been mentioned earlier, there is a Committee sitting at the moment. It had its first meeting in the middle of last month. It is looking generally at the value of broadcasting in the educational field and it may be, arising from their deliberations, that some new source of finances for schools broadcasting will be possible. At the moment, we are trying to balance between what is statutorily possible and what is within our financial capacity. Our financial capacity at the moment is limited. That is the history of schools broadcasting on television.
We have also on radio a service for schools and there, unlike television, we regularly produce new programmes in a number of areas, including music, languages and so on. We are doing the best we possibly can, taking account of the statutory constraints, and financial limitations.
384. Deputy B. Desmond.—There has been some criticism that there is a lack of dynamic consumer programmes. Is that the position?
Mr. Moriarty.—Some consumer programmes in the past, admittedly, were ill-fated. The Authority would like to see more programmes on consumer affairs.
Mr. Waters.—We think the structures which are now being set up in RTE will permit this to be done. There is an Economic Unit attached to the Newsroom and the whole current affairs area has been strengthened.
385. Deputy B. Desmond.—With the growth of consumer legislation would it be possible to see short television programmes, about 20 minutes in length? I know there are commercial problems involved. If the price of drink goes up, there is no television debate at national level.
Mr. Hill.—The level of consumer information is probably as high as it has ever been. It is distributed across magazine programmes and current affairs programmes and so on and is not corralled into one programme giving that kind of information only, but we are proceeding in that general direction.
Mr. Moriarty.—Mr. Hill would not be doing himself justice if he did not mention the programme which Pat Kenny puts out, which is very much a consumer programme. He had two programmes recently on property insurance. Mr. Hill started those programmes.
386. Senator Cooney.—I understand the Broadcasting Complaints Commission considered only two complaints in 1979. In one case the complainant died and the other complaint is still under consideration. Having regard to the submissions made to us, the number of complaints seems remarkably small. I wonder is the mechanism defective and should there be something else that would provide for a quick investigation and a quick reaction from the Authority? I can see the difficulty that you do not want to set up something whereby every time somebody has a complaint, you are inundated or snowed under. But is there some via media between the present and that situation?
Mr. Moriarty.—The Senator will be happy to know that it is considerably more active now than it was in the years to which the Senator refers. At present there are six issues before the Commission being heard and adjudicated, and I understand this is being done fairly rapidly.
In the last annual report of RTE reference was made to the existence of this Commission. It appears that a lot of people — certainly from the correspondence I receive — are not generally aware of its existence. I draw people’s attention to it. If they write a second time that they are not happy with an explanation I have given, I draw their attention to its existence. There is possibly a lack of publicity of its existence, a lack of public knowledge of its existence that causes it to be so under-used. We draw attention to this in our last annual report. Certainly I draw attention to it in every letter I write and I know the Director-General does as well, but people still tend to be dissatisfied with the answers we give them.
Mr. Waters.—The mechanism is that the complainant must complain to RTE first. Then if the complainant is not satisfied with our reply, he is at liberty, within certain constraints, to apply to the Complaints Commission.
387. Deputy B. Desmond.—In relation to local radio is there any possibility at all that RTE, out of their limited capital programme for 1981-1982, could scrounge together to get sufficient to get a local radio off the ground in the major provincial areas in a real sense? I am fearful, in a political sense, that a decision will be taken which will introduce the very aspects of commercialisation which would push you people out of it?
Mr. Moriarty.—We have had Community Radio on a mobile basis for a number of years now travelling around the country visiting towns. We have proposals for a Nationwide Community Radio with the Minister. It could be got off the ground fairly rapidly, we could start fairly rapidly, if we got approval but, unfortunately, the allocation of frequencies is associated with it. There is nothing we could do tomorrow morning even if we wanted to——
Mr. Waters.—We could not do it anyway without Ministerial approval.
388. Deputy B. Desmond.—But you are ready to go if you get approval?
Mr. Waters.—We would be ready to start on the construction of the necessary studios and transmitters straightaway if we had to.
389. Deputy B. Desmond.—Even on a temporary basis, would you not be in a position? If you got a frequency could you, say within six months, open up at local level? I am thinking of three major provincial centres.
Mr. Waters.—Our ambition was to start in the parts of the country that we consider at present are not as well served as others in relation to broadcasting, namely, the southwest and north-west. It would be our ambition to get installations going there as soon as possible. But I am afraid it would take more than six months, because we would have to build transmitters, acquire sites for them and so on.
390. Deputy B. Desmond.—But if commercial undertakings came in and said that they would have it off the ground in six months could you compete? Suppose they are capable of putting up six mobile units?
Mr. Waters.—We are quite capable of doing that. But the point is that, if commercial undertakings were to get franchises in the cities where there is a very small area of coverage then that is possible in a much shorter time. But our proposal was one that would involve all of the community throughout the country. Therefore the coverage areas we are talking about are far bigger than would be envisaged in relation to local commercial radio. But if the Deputy is asking, for instance, could we get a local radio transmission going in Dublin, Cork or Limerick, the answer is yes; that could be done.
391. Deputy B. Desmond.—Overnight?
Mr. Waters.—Not overnight but rather rapidly.
Mr. Carroll.—It is important to state that that proposal is also with the Department — for local radio in Dublin, Cork and Shannonside, coupled with the Nationwide Community Radio proposal.
392. Senator Cooney.—On audience research, I gather that one of your vehicles for audience research is your panels and their construction is on a voluntary basis. Did the Broadcasting Review Committee recommend that these panels should be on the basis of representatives, rather than have just volunteers?
Mr. Gahan.—That was so when we were using separate panels for television and radio, basically for qualitative rather than quantitative data. That has not been used for the last few years. In fact, research has been carried out through the normal quantitative measurement, TAM, in the case of television and the Joint National Media Research in the case of radio, with additional research on an ad hoc basis carried out on our behalf by research companies using standard panel activities, but not in the form of volunteer panels. That has been dropped for some years.
393. Senator Cooney.—How is your qualitative research being done?
Mr. Gahan.—Where we are seeking information on qualitative data, it is being done on the basis of using a research company using quota samples of households.
394. Senator Cooney.—Section 34 of the Offences Against the State Act put certain constraints on who may be employed in RTE. Are you aware of these constraints and are steps taken to ensure that they are obeyed?
Mr. Waters.—Yes, to both questions.
395. Senator Cooney.—Perhaps I may touch on one matter with which we finished the last day, the question of the use of the new ENG/EFP news gathering device. I understood that there were two obstacles in the way of that, one that you had to clear technical problems with the Department and the second that you had personnel problems. You hoped that the personnel problems would be solved, but could you give us the state of play in regard to that?
Mr. Waters.—We are in negotiation with the relevant trade union at present. I could not tell the Committee when we will get a solution. The bigger problem is really the one of circuits from the country. That is really the constraint on us at present.
396. Senator Cooney.—You are optimistic about a settlement with the trade union people?
Mr. Waters.—I think so, yes.
Mr. Moriarty.—And indeed the circuits position is improving as well.
Mr. Waters.—Yes, slowly.
Chairman.—That appears to be all, gentlemen. Arising from the evidence we may write to you about a few points.
Mr. Moriarty.—We promised the Committee a number of memoranda. These are in course of preparation and will be sent to the Committee. At the same time we might let the Committee have a very short memorandum summarising the various points brought out on our side and which might be of assistance.
The witnesses withdrew.