Committee Reports::Report No. 18 - Radio Telefís Éireann::07 May, 1981::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Dé Máirt, 3 Feabhra, 1981

Tuesday, 3 February, 1981

Members Present:

SENATOR EOIN RYAN in the chair


Barry Desmond,


Liam Lawlor,

James N. Fitzsimons,


Patrick M. Cooney,

William Kenneally,

Brian Hillery.


Mr. Vincent Gallagher, Deputy Supreme Knight; Mr. Seán Bedford, former Supreme Knight and Mr. Diarmuid Moore, Supreme Secretary, of Knights of St. Columbanus, called and examined.

470. Chairman.—Do you wish to make a statement?

Mr. Gallagher.—You have our submission which was lodged by Council 99 in August 1980. The four-fold objects of our organisation are first, to promote by personal or group action the extension of practical Christianity in all phases of life; second, to maintain a fraternal order for Catholic lay leadership; third, to honour the faith and fourth, to prepare members for the apostolate.

As an organisation with these objectives we wish to bring to the notice of the Committee Document of Vatican II, enclosed herewith, with particular reference to the sections dealing with communications. A brief summary of the articles in this section is as follows:

Article 3:… interests of the whole human family are at stake; the need to have the media animated by a truly humane and Christian spirit.

Articles 4, 5 and 9: Lay out in a precise manner the duties of users of the media.

Articles 6 and 7: Art and the rights and norms of the moral law. Moral norms must prevail if harm rather than spiritual profit is not to ensue.

Article 11: The chief moral duties and responsibilities and how to uphold them.

Article 12: The special duties of the civil authority in terms of the common good.

The need to erect and energetically enforce laws to ensure that the media are not perversely used: the freedom of individuals and groups is not infringed by such watchful action, which is absolutely essential if those with primary responsibilities have failed to observe sensible precautions.

Having drawn the Committee’s attention to the above document, we would like to congratulate the Oireachtas on the establishment of this body, representing as they do the highest elected representatives of the people. We would also like to congratulate RTE on the excellence of their programmes, the majority of which are beyond criticism, for example, sports programmes.

In formulating our thoughts and observations we are addressing our remarks towards the future. We are not interested in recriminations. As RTE were established by an Act of the Oireachtas it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the protection of the majority, as well as the minority, in our country. We consider RTE to be a community resource, and as such must have a high level of accountability.

Mr. Bedford.—This aspect of the matter deals with the broad implications of the provisions of section 18 (1) of the Broadcasting Act and the manner in which RTE implement and are seen to implement this. RTE are a unique form of communications media in this country inasmuch as they are a State-sponsored body operating under specific legislation. They have a high level of public accountability. It is, therefore, essential that not only should they fully and effectively implement the provisions of section 18 (1), but they should also be seen to do so. The importance of instilling public confidence in RTE as an objective and impartial State institution should not be underestimated. This could be part of the underlying criticism of RTE one hears from time to time.

RTE have responsibility for maintaining objectivity and impartiality generally. There are also, in particular, certain areas where the very powerful influence of the broadcasting media on the moulding of public attitudes, particularly in regard to youth, impose a specific responsibility on RTE to integrate into their organisation special administrative mechanisms for the purpose of ensuring a balanced and objective development of public attitudes on matters relating to the common good.

471. Chairman.—If this is in your submission, perhaps you will touch on the more important points. This submission is filling in some of the areas not covered in your original submission. More than anything else we would be interested to know how you think RTE should go about dealing with the problem you say exists? The problem is that very often what are regarded as objectionable programmes have been shown and nothing can be done about them.

Mr. Bedford.—The point we want to make is this: there is no evidence that there is such a mechanism in RTE. We feel there should be an effective and visible watchdog on these very important and intrinsic values. In our opinion, at the very least, there should be a specific high ranking officer in RTE whose responsibility is to monitor the implications of section 18 (1). This will be his or her specific duty, not alone to monitor it, but to take whatever measures are necessary to see they are doing this. It is not as simple as it seems. Last week, in the New Statesman, there was an article by a member of the left alleging bias on the part of the BBC in their presentation of programmes. One of the mechanisms they used, purporting to show this, was a comprehensive survey of programmes by Glasgow University over a period, not alone the quantity but the inferences and emphasis, particularly in the news.

If an officer is to carry out his work effectively, he should be free to do this kind of thing, inside or outside, or a combination of both, because every shade of opinion feels it is not getting a fair crack of the whip. Because of the status of RTE and its special position in the media of being State-supported — newspapers are not so supported — there is an extra dimension to its responsibility.

The officer should report to the RTE Authority at regular intervals on the result of his activities. He should present an annual report to the Oireachtas and lay it on the table of the House, so that justice will be seen to be done, as well as being done. It is possible to do this, everyone would approve of it and it is in the interest of everyone to see it is done.

472. Senator Cooney.—RTE suggest that what you are seeking from the new officer is already provided by means of their own internal editorial and administrative controls, supplemented by the Complaints Commission. It could be inferred from what you say that you do not regard the present control system as adequate.

Mr. Bedford.—No, Senator, we do not feel the present Complaints Commission is adequate. First of all, it is dealing post factum with complaints and with a series of incidents. It is not broad, continuous or general in its operation. The time lag is such that it is ineffective for its limited purpose and we feel it could be more streamlined. It is not constructed or organised to carry out the function of being a general and broad watchdog. I am not saying that internal mechanisms may, as far as RTE are concerned, not give them what they regard as being a proper standard. Do we, the people and the Oireachtas, know what that standard should be measured against? We do not know much about the internal mechanisms but, I emphasise again, they must be seen to be there and seen to operate. The Oireachtas should be in a position to get a report on this specific area and to judge, on behalf of the people, if justice is being done.

473. Deputy B. Desmond.—Who should appoint this high ranking administrative officer in RTE?

Mr. Bedford.—We have a suggestion in the second paragraph of the submission in relation to appointments in RTE.

474. Deputy B. Desmond.—You are asking, specifically, for a particular person, appointed either by the State or the RTE Authority, to overview section 18 and to report to the RTE Authority. Who do you think should appoint this person?

Mr. Bedford.—RTE.

475. Deputy B. Desmond.—The RTE Authority?

Mr. Bedford.—Yes, because it is their responsibility to administer section 18 (1) and, if the person appointed does not deliver the goods, it will become quite apparent. If it means an extra, specific post for that purpose, so be it. But everybody should be conscious of the fact that a certain person in RTE has this specific function and that there will be publication of the results of his labours.

476. Deputy B. Desmond.—Would you not feel, bearing in mind the structure of RTE itself, the Authority, the members, the Director-General, the various heads of divisions, that all of them have a responsibility devolving on themselves to implement section 18 and ensure that its provisions are met? How do you envisage that one person taking upon himself that responsibility would be in a position to discharge it effectively?

Mr. Bedford.—In no way would I envisage him curtailing or superimposing himself on the responsibilities and duties of the other officers. He would be there to monitor what goes on. There is no reason why he could not, on a very objective basis, look at the broad spectrum of programmes relating to public affairs and, if you like, in a very cold-blooded fashion, assess them for objectivity and impartiality. He need not interfere with the ordinary activities of RTE but rather carry out this clinical function. We get consultants, accountants, financial people to carry out such analyses of various parts of an organisation. Why should we not do the same in respect of what is probably the most fundamental, far-reaching and influential activity of RTE?

477. Chairman.—Is he going to report merely on what one might call trends, or is he going to go in, in the middle of a programme, while it is being made, and say: I think this programme is not in accordance with the provisions of section 18?

Mr. Bedford.—No, I would not envisage him interrupting but, at the end of six months, he should be able to say: for the past six months the intrinsic value of the whole lot was such-and-such and here are the statistics or analyses to prove it. He will be unable to do anything about the past six months but certainly he should be able to do something about the future. At least it should work to the advantage of RTE — here is an honest broker who is able to say: this is what happened. I would envisage such a person also utilising outside surveys and so on. One could not expect him to take a whole six months right across the entire ambit of RTE, but there are people who will do this for one.

478. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is it not a difficult situation, that one could conceivably find such a unique individual who might in no way reflect the kind of moral outlook which you feel he might and should take cognisance of, and then you would be worse off than when you started, taking it in the context of the suggestion you are making?

Mr. Bedford.—I would not say so. All of these things can be dealt with on their merits. We have no desire — nor has anybody else — to shut out views we do not like, minority views or whatever, but what we want to ensure is that they are impartial and balanced. In fact such a person does not have to share our views or the views of the majority.

479. Deputy B. Desmond.—What I am trying to sift out — in the context of Irish society — is whether it is the concept of the censor that you are getting at?

Mr. Bedford.—In no way. It is not a question of censorship. Rather is it a factual analysis, on a broad and general basis, of how RTE deal with the broad scope mentioned in section 18 (1). I would regard it in the same way as accountability and analysis, in the same way as financial accounts and everything else. We are getting to that stage in energy, the environment and so on. This morning we had the Minister for Energy advising people to set up some kind of watch-dog function in their businesses in respect of the conservation of energy. Here we are merely seeking a safeguarding, and what is seen to be a safeguarding, of this most important influence of RTE. It is something that cannot merely be attached piecemeal to various officers, or others, in an organisation.

480. Deputy Kenneally.—Do you believe that RTE are deviating from their specified role?

Mr. Bedford.—There is no evidence as to whether or not they are deviating from their role. As we all know, there is a large volume of criticism of lack of balance and everything else which may or may not be true. But we feel there is nobody who could be regarded as an honest broker or without a vested interest who could assess whether or not they are deviating.

481. Deputy L. Lawlor.—On page 1 there is the comment that the importance of instilling public confidence in RTE as an objective and impartial State institution should not be under-estimated. Do you feel that does not exist at present?

Mr. Bedford.—I do not know whether it is true, but I feel there is a certain feeling that in relation to current matters of controversy — not all necessarily on the moral side — there is a great deal of bias and lack of balance. There is certainly a lot of criticism of that, which may not always emanate from the majority side; some of the minority people may feel they are being hard done-by too. But undoubtedly it exists. It is the most important communications media in the country, all pervading, supported by the State. We feel that all of us who contribute to the running of the State — and certainly our legislators who are responsible for all of this — at least should have a very clear channel of accountability in this area.

482. Deputy L. Lawlor.—I assume that if we, as a Committee, decide, in preparing our report, to make the recommendation that RTE should have a high-ranking official employed by them fulltime — I am assuming that is the function you envisage — we are then in a different situation. Would you not interpret it that the Minister responsible, or the independently-appointed Chairman of RTE are not, as you say, honest brokers? Have you exhausted the existing mechanisms, with specific suggestions and criticism to date? While you point out the inadequacies of the Complaints Commission it is our information that they have not been burdened with any great deal of work. If they have not been tried and tested possibly that is an arrangement that should be put into effect.

In your submission you make some major, general comments in this respect which it is very difficult to justify when the Minister, the Chairman and the Complaints Commission, as far as we are aware as a Committee, have not really had many representations along the lines at which you are hinting but about which you are not being specific.

Mr. Bedford.—In no way would I envisage an officer like this cutting across a Minister, the Chairman and so on. If he is to do his job properly, if anybody in RTE is to do his job properly — to demonstrate that it is all right — a person will have to be saddled with the job whether or not it be an existing officer. Even though the Chairman, the Director-General and all the officials have functions to perform, who will collate the lot? Who will collect the factual evidence? It is purely an organisational administrative matter. I do not envisage it in any way cutting across anybody. One could contend, for instance, that the whole function is shared by the Minister, the Authority, the Chairman of the Authority, the Director-General and so on; no one person has the whole task. Nobody has the whole action so why not slot another piece in? It would do away with many of the criticisms and assure people that things are being done in the right way. It is the responsibility of our legislators to provide some mechanism for seeing that this is so. I am not saying that anybody could stand up and swear that things are being done correctly. I do not think any individual burdened with his present responsibilities could delve into it to such an extent as to be able to do so objectively.

483. Deputy L. Lawlor.—It is not clear why in the past you have been totally dissatisfied with the trend of RTE programmes particularly having regard to certain areas where the broadcasting media have a very powerful influence in the moulding of the attitudes of the public, particularly young people. Do you, at the moment, see trends in RTE that would justify the appointment of somebody as a watchdog?

Mr. Bedford.—Yes. There are two points. We do not want to go into the nitty-gritty. We have demonstrated our attitude on many occasions to many things which we think should never have been broadcast. We recognise that everyone has a right to his own opinion on this kind of thing. But in the present situation where we are all trying to look after employment and keep up the morale of the youth and so on there are many innuendoes in programmes and even in advertising. I would not like to see such an appointee acting in any way as a censor. But it might be the situation that after a period of six months there might be a certain imbalance not deliberately caused, therefore it might be thought we should not be having this broad emphasis because of the possible effects on youth. We would not like to go into it in detail. One has only to look at any of the papers any day of the week. It is a question of reassurance and protection. There is one thing that we are very well endowed with in this country and that is administrative and bureaucratic flexibility, to use the word “bureaucratic” in the best sense. There is no great difficulty about slotting something into an organisation. I feel that the Minister, the Authority, and the Director-General would probably welcome something like this.

Chairman.—I think we have discussed that fairly well.

484. Deputy B. Desmond.—The other question raised is where RTE are making permanent appointments. You propose that a member of the Authority should act as a chairperson in the making of such appointments. Alternatively you suggest that a member of the Programme Advisory Council should act as chairperson on such interview boards. Could you elaborate on that?

Mr. Gallagher.—The suggestion here is that in every other semi-State body there is a representative there. For example in relation to the Vocational Education Committees there is a representative of the Department there. We feel that such a person, representative of the Authority, sitting on the appointments board for a particular department, would be beneficial.

485. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is it not a fact that when senior appointments are made in RTE, all appointments effectively, that the Authority as such receive reports of inquiry boards and decides on the appointments and that it is a collective appointment mechanism with the whole of the Authority sitting down? In some instances I understand either the Chairman of the Authority or individual members of the Authority are acting on the boards where major senior appointments are made. Are you suggesting something outside, a Government department or something like that?

Mr. Gallagher.—I am giving an example of what happens elsewhere. I do not see it happening here. As Deputy Desmond says, for major appointments the Authority sit down and consider recommendations but there are many more appointments down the line where we understand this does not happen and this is our suggestion here.

486. Senator Cooney.—What you are asking for is an outside influence on certain appointments, not the very top ones but ones that could be critical opinion-forming ones?

Mr. Gallagher.—Yes.

487. Deputy L. Lawlor.—You are obviously greatly concerned about the trends in RTE programmes. Could you mention particular programmes that we could look at, that would give us an indication of the trends you are talking about? It is very hard for us to be convinced of these trends when you are generalising so much and will not be specific. This is a time when we are concerned about RTE’s overspending and such a high ranking appointment would necessarily cost more money. Also I cannot see how somebody in this position could carry out surveys and monitoring of programmes without a lot of back-up staff and it could end up as another layer of bureaucracy. Could you pinpoint something in RTE’s programmes to illustrate your case?

Mr. Gallagher.—I did say we were not interested in recrimination. In our final submission we suggest an advisory council.

Deputy L. Lawlor.—I have read that section. None of us is interested in looking back except to the extent that we can find things that would justify such an appointment and if you could be more specific it would help.

488. Senator Cooney.—As I understand the position, we do not know because there has not been such an appointment to indicate whether there have been any unbalanced trends. As I understand your submission there have been criticisms but nobody has been able to say whether they are valid because there has not been a monitoring system.

Mr. Bedford.—If the Minister for posts and Telegraphs and the RTE Authority and the Director-General stand up and say it is completely impartial and objective in relation to section 18 they may be right but there is no evidence of it. We are in an area of communications media which can be highly emotive. People can be prejudiced or otherwise and all this is very essential and in relation to the amount of money being spent, the amount of overall good that would come out of it would justify this. Perhaps not having to rehash these matters in future will save your valuable time.

489. Chairman.—Any other questions? Is there anything further you want to say?

Mr. Moore.—Are you satisfied with the final document dealing with advisory councils and staff recruitment procedures?

Deputy B. Desmond.—Irrespective of whether we are satisfied with it, we are aware of it.

Mr. Moore.—Are you happy with it?

Chairman.—We may write asking you to elaborate on some points.

Mr. Gallagher.—We would be very glad to do so.

The witnesses withdrew.

Ms. Anne O’Donnell, Administrator, Ms. Aisling O’Reilly, Counsellor and Ms. Geraldine Luddy, Counsellor of Rape Crisis Centre, called and examined.

490. Chairman.—We have read your submission and I would like to make an observation with which you can agree or disagree. A great deal in your submission is similar to what Senator Hussey said last week when talking about women in broadcasting. You say the tendency in the broadcasting service leads to a natural conclusion that rape would appear to be almost a logical conclusion to this propaganda. Would you like to elaborate on any point in your submission? If not, the members of the Committee might like to ask some questions.

Ms. O’Donnell.—While obviously much of what was said by Senator Hussey is similar to what we are saying, we feel there is a need to stress a fact which is not currently accepted in society, that is, that rape is not the act of an isolated individual man who is either overcome by some sexual urge or by some psychological or psychotic disturbance. Rape is the result of the way men relate to women and the way women are placed in a subservient role in society. There is a tendency to think that if you can draw out the bad strand in society — the rape mentality — and destroy it by imprisoning or reforming or rehabilitating these people, everything will be fine, but we do not see it that way. In our view, if society continues as at present, where men and women are in an unequal relationship to each other, rape will continue. Essentially rape is a crime not of sex but of violence. Behind the desire to rape is the desire to humiliate, overpower and degrade a woman.

These aspects are very prevalent in programming and advertising throughout the media. Many people might think there is a tenuous link between rape and the portrayal of women, but we do not. Our main reason for being here is to point out that the subservient role given to women in the media reinforces and continues the trend in society whereby men will, and do, rape women.

491. Deputy L. Lawlor.—A great deal of the valid criticisms you make refers to advertisements. Have you had discussions with the umbrella advertising organisations? Are you getting a hearing? Is there a trend that women should not be used in advertising as they were used in the past? This is not really an RTE function, although they can set down guidelines as to what advertisements they will accept. Influence must be brought to bear on the advertisers.

Ms. O’Donnell.—Recently, there was a furore over a particular semi-medical magazine. There were protests from various politicians about it because it contained reference to abortion. RTE upheld their decision to carry the advertisements. This means RTE have control over what they show. What RTE show on television is their business and they must make their own decisions, but the advertising world is far less open to being influenced by people like us. Certain advertisements will have to be changed if RTE refuse to accept them. We have never formally approached advertising agencies, although at a conference some time ago I spoke to a couple of people involved in advertising. They were totally, utterly and completely not prepared to listen. Their attitude was that these advertisements —like the advertisement for Cadbury’s Flake, where there is definitely a semi-sexual connotation — were to sell products. People like to see women’s semi-naked bodies on cars because they help to sell cars. They said it was their business to produce advertisements which would sell products. It is only when agencies like RTE, the newspapers and magazines refuse to take such advertisements that this type of thing will stop. They are not going to listen to people like us, because we do not deal in advertising.

Ms. Luddy.—RTE have guidelines, they do not offend people’s religion, race or political persuasion. There is nothing in it about not offending women.

492. Deputy Kenneally.—Or men?

Ms. Luddy.—Or men. If there is a guideline for these other things I do not see why men or women are excluded.

493. Chairman.—You think the guideline to radio and TV advertising should deal with the way women are portrayed?

Ms. O’Donnell.—They have done it under the Employment Equality legislation. It is illegal to print advertisements for waitresses or foremen. There is no reason why it cannot be done in other areas of the media.

494. Senator Cooney.—Is that what you mean when you say women are given a subservient role in television?

Ms. Luddy.—Do you mean specific incidents in programmes?

Senator Cooney.—No. You say the subservient role women are given contributes to the incidence of rape and you say they are given this role in television. Why do you say that?

Ms. O’Reilly.—If an advertiser is trying to sell a car, he puts a blonde woman in it, implying she is part of the bargain he will get with the car. Women are there for men to buy.

Ms. Luddy.—When a washing powder or Pampers nappies are advertised, a male voice says it is the right product and it is the woman who cannot make up her mind which one to use. It is also a male voice which says the woman has chosen the right product.

495. Senator Cooney.—That puts a woman in a subservient position?

Ms. O’Donnell.—Television is probably more influential than the radio, because of the visual content. Women generally are very rarely seen as fully rounded personalities. In most programmes they are portrayed as women either to marry or to lust after. There is very rarely anything in between. A silly woman in an advertisement says “Look at the state of the baby’s happy”. One would think women spent hours discussing whether or not Bold would take out a stain. It is pathetic, because most women do not have time for that sort of thing. These women are always attractively attired, hair sprayed, perfectly groomed and gleaming long nails without a chip on them. What women washing nappies by the ton looks as if she had stepped out of a beauty parlour? According to these advertisements, you are not a successful woman, wife or mother unless you use these products and look beautiful at the same time. You are to be the object of a man’s desire when he comes in from work. It is more than likely that husbands say to their wives “Why do you not look like that in the kitchen, she looks lovely”. Basically, women on television are objects, they are not real people. I doubt if one would ever see a woman working in her kitchen who looks like they do. As someone pointed out yesterday, when Bold is advertised, the only dirty thing in the kitchen is a pair of shorts. Everything else is spotless. When washing-up liquid is advertised everything, except the dishes, is spotless. A message is being put across that women must be perfect. They must take men’s advice—“Buy Bold”—the man gives the final advice.

The other portrayal is where men lust after women. The most obvious example is in “Dallas”, where women do nothing except drape themselves around swimming pools, cars and men. They never do anything practical. They occasionally get drunk. Apart from that, they do nothing. They are purely sex objects.

496. Senator Hillery.—But the men in “Dallas” do not cover themselves in glory either.

Ms. O’Donnell.—No, but at least they do something. J.R.rips off everyone he can. Poor Sue-Ellen cannot do anything right.

497. Chairman.—It is possible, although it would be difficult, to draft something to be included in the guidelines for advertising which would minimise the situation you complain of. When one gets to programmes, it would be very difficult because many portray certain aspects of life which are alleged to be true and so on. In some programmes a woman is portrayed in the way you say. In other programmes she may be portrayed in a much more worthy or worthwhile way. It would be very difficult to lay down guidelines for programmes. Have you any comment?

Ms. O’Reilly.—It is very hard to find programmes where women are portrayed in any relevant way. It is either the dumb blonde or the irresponsible wife. Women are stereotyped. Men are protagonists, they are fully rounded characters.

498. Deputy L. Lawlor.—I want to compliment you on being so specific. You have put your finger on some real anomalies in the advertising world. We will give very serious consideration to the points you made.

The two major programmes on RTE during the last twelve months were “Strumpet City” and “Sean”. In those series, women are portrayed in a very important key role. Would you be complimentary to women’s role in those programmes? We do not have influence over American programmes. We would either have to ban them, which is not within our power, or change the American television world, which is not possible.

Ms. O’Reilly.—Surely there should be guidelines given to RTE as to what programmes they should be buying?

Ms. Luddy.—An awful lot of programmes shown are imported. The programmes mentioned were just two Irish productions.

499. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Are you complimentary to some aspects of those programmes?

Ms. O’Donnell.—Because they relate to the past, they will not have the same influence on people as “Dallas” which is set in the present. People do not identify with the dress, style or language of programmes which are set in the past. They are of a much higher calibre than programmes like “Dallas”, but “Strumpet City” and “Seán” are about men. One is written by a man and the other is about a man’s life. There are many women writers, like Kate O’Brien, whose work is rarely on RTE.

I am particularly critical of Robert Kee’s programme, which is totally devoid of any portrayal of the role of women in the social history of Ireland. The only relevant thing in that programme is something that smells directly of nationalism or non-nationalism. There were many other things happening which he did not mention, particularly the importance of social history.

Ms. Luddy.—There seems to be a tendency in RTE to slot half an hour for women. The rest is for the other 50 per cent, which seems to take up 95 per cent of viewing time. Programmes like “Women Today” are allotted half an hour a day. Gay Byrne makes a big joke of the fact that Marion Finucane does get sitting in on the “Late Late Show”.

500. Chairman.—Is it like a women’s page in the paper?

Ms. O’Reilly.—If one takes a paper like The Irish Times they deal a lot of the time with issues that are very important to women. I am not going to slate that because obviously it is serious journalism. But there is the idea abroad that, well, women do have their programme; they have their half-an-hour a day when we talk seriously about them. For the remainder of the time there are programmes possibly made for women but depicted from a male point of view and presented by men.

501. Deputy L. Lawlor.—On that point, I would have thought that in the morning time on RTE I there are guidelines given and discussions on consumer affairs which are, again, of great interest to women and are presented by a young lady — I cannot recall her name just now — who gives a lot of very valuable information. Therefore, could one not contend that both morning and afternoon there is a slot catering for the female listener as such?

Ms. Luddy.—With regard to morning time radio listening, five mornings a week now we have Valerie McGovern, before that Una Moore. When we were doing this it was Mike Murphy at the time. There is one morning a week with Freda McGough — is that the programme about which the Deputy is talking?

Deputy L. Lawlor.—Yes.

Ms. Luddy.—That is on Tuesday mornings. There is Gay Byrne for an hour, the next hour’s programme is introduced by a male, John Bowman——

Deputy L. Lawlor.—John Bowman, with the able help of Hilary Orpen, I think, who seems to conduct a lot of key interviews, in my opinion, just listening to the programme.

Ms. Luddy.—The main voice coming over is that of John Bowman. Then it goes on to Liam Nolan. There is then a break for the news, followed by “Women Today”. There is one morning a week only when there is a girl introducing a folk music programme, an Irish programme, which is very good. On the other four days of the week that 9.15 a.m. to 9.55 a.m. slot is introduced by a man. Very little female voice is heard, it is mainly male.

502. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Do you feel there are adequate numbers of girls leaving schools, colleges and so on who are interested in that type of career?

Ms. O’Donnell.—Oh, yes, absolutely.

503. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Would you not agree that RTE has made a very determined effort. A lot of young ladies seem to have done very well in RTE in the past five to ten years, particularly in the past two to three years, in the presentation of programmes and seem to be gaining a very decisive foothold.

Ms. O’Donnell.—If one looks at the numbers in Gemma Hussey’s survey——

504. Deputy L. Lawlor.—Radio starts at 6.30 a.m. now with Valerie McGovern and women go right through then, so you are definitely making progress. Whether or not you are satisfied I should have thought that, within reason, progress is being made?

Ms. O’Donnell.—Yes, but the progress is not sufficiently fast for us. I mean, women have waited too long. We are really not prepared to wait very much longer. We are not prepared to be told: you are getting a little piece of cake, be happy, because we are not happy. That is what discussions like this are all about — if women were happy with the slow progress they would not be making the noise they are making.

Chairman.—I think you are moving into Gemma Hussey’s area now. You are dealing with a specific aspect of——

Ms. O’Donnell.—Yes, right, but we have been asked about that area so we must answer. There are a couple of other things it is important for us to mention.

Ms. O’Reilly.—If one looks at children’s programmes, a lot of them have to do with space-age times, when everything has come forward: one eats a pill; our whole society seems to have changed, everything except the role of women. Women are still presented in slinky gowns in a very suggestive way. Materially we progress but——

505. Chairman.—Were there some other points you wished to make because we are running behind time somewhat? Was there any other specific point you wanted to make?

Ms. O’Donnell.—Yes, there is one very important point, that is, that the portrayal of women is very divisive, divides women from each other. That is certainly the way in which older women are portrayed. Generally, older women are either objects of amusement or derision. This is very common in advertising, you know, the mother-in-law type of thing, which I think is very dangerous. It implies that once a woman is no longer overtly sexually attractive, she has no further use, other than being a source of amusement. This, of course, is very bad because it puts women in competition with each other. If you are past it, you envy the women who are not past it, or if you are not the right weight, size or build you envy the women who are. What happens with that type of thing is that women are actually in some way disliking each other. They are saying: I wish I was like her, or her, that is what women should look like and I do not look like that.

There is an advertisement being run at present for one of these magazines which appear to be coming out by the ton, advising people medically, on their health or whatever. It is something about keeping fit. The advertisement shows two women jogging. They are jogging in a way that nobody could jog for more than five seconds, because it is highly uncomfortable looking. There are guys running past them, ogling them. Of course the camera is zooming in on their breasts and other sexual areas of their bodies, making sure that that is the part of the body seen in the advertisement. It implies, in this advertisement, that women should keep fit so that they will look right, not because they should be healthy, but so that will look right. The advertisement ends with one of these women who has been jogging coming through an office door when a guy goes “whoo”.

Basically the message there is: look, if you do what we tell you to do and look after your body, this is the response you will get from men. That is very dangerous because what it is saying to women is that this is how you should look; if you do not look like that you are not going to get that response from men. And women genuinely believe these things. It is quite common for women who are overweight to have photographs in their kitchens of thin women in bikinis, all over the cupboards and fridge so that they can remind themselves constantly that they should not eat a slice of bread or a cake. It is extremely degrading that people should be comparing themselves with photographs all the time and trying to look a certain way.

Chairman.—I think we have really——

506. Deputy Kenneally.—Can you blame the media for all of that?

Ms. O’Donnell.—Oh, yes, you can.

Ms. Luddy.—They should be educating people as well, not just accepting trends as they are now. They should be helping to change these trends, they are not, they are just reinforcing them.

507. Senator Cooney.—But surely a woman of commonsense looking at one of these programmes is not going to end up with a mental attitude such as you have described?

Ms. O’Donnell.—The fact of the matter is that if they were not the advertisements would not continue the way they are. One only has to open any woman’s magazine and see the letters people write in. One has only to listen to people on the radio and hear the tragedy some women consider their lives to be, because they are overweight, because of this or that; because they cannot handle their lives. There are an awful lot of suburban housewives living on valium and the like because they feel they cannot handle the kind of lifestyle they are expected to lead. And this lifestyle is being constantly reinforced. They are made to feel that there is something wrong with them if they cannot handle that lifestyle because all of these women on television can handle it. Women on television are all busily running around their kitchens with beautiful nails while this real woman is in her kitchen at home in pieces, because the boredom is driving her to distraction. That is very dangerous. It is telling women: you are odd if you do not live the way the advertisements or people on television tell you you should live. I do think it is a very powerful medium and should be seen as such.

Chairman.—I think we will have to finish now because we have another group waiting to come in and we are a bit behind time. I think you have made your point very effectively. We will certainly bear your submission in mind when our report is being drawn up. Thank you very much.

The witnesses withdrew.

Mr. William Kinsella, Hon. President and Mr. Brendan Fitzgerald, Committee Member, of the Saint Thomas More Society, called and examined.

Mr. Kinsella.—I would like to say that our research on television appearance technique wholly affirms that anyone appearing on television brandishing authority does so by preparing what I might call a brief on the subject being discussed. It would appear from our examination of the matter that the briefs were not always done in the manner perhaps that the subject might require. In other words, in regard to very formidable subjects such as divorce, euthanasia, contraception, abortion and other controversial subjects, have they been given true, adequate coverage to the many facets which such subjects propose? Do they take into account the most recent research of the subjects to cover the Christian as well as the non-Christian viewpoint? Inadequate research, in our opinion, implies imbalance and paves the way for pressure groups, many of which may not be fully informed, to press public representatives for legislation which, though apparently superficially attractive, in the long term might be to the detriment of society as a whole.

Our Society thinks that if the briefs were prepared more adequately than they now appear to be it would enhance enormously the reputation of RTE and would protect the management of RTE should legal proceedings be initiated at any time against them. Finally, on that matter it could perhaps assist the Comptroller and Auditor General, who has to ensure that RTE complies with its legal requirements. I believe that, having regard to the Constitution and the provisions of the statutory authority by which RTE is governed, a strong case could be made on that aspect of the matter and we believe that the Authority should take steps to get the fullest professional advice on this matter.

Very briefly, we do not want to be cast in the role of telling RTE how to run itself. Many people would like to do that. That is not our duty. I merely refer to these facts and the question of the briefs, having regard to the provisions of the Constitution and the statutory authority, having been adequately prepared. On that case I refer to the submissions and hope that they have been understood from the point of view of constructive criticism. It is not to tell anybody how to run the thing. It is not to place any blame on any person but to place the blame on what I might term the overall institution. We referred to the Broadcasting Review Committee and thought, perhaps, that might be the answer to it but we put that forward in our submission. I have nothing further to add except to point to the submission, unless my own colleague on my left wants to add anything further.

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Thank you again for having us before you. I just want to repeat very briefly the various conclusions we came to in our submission. In the appendices you will see we have, from Nos. 1 to 5, set out the various extracts in the Constitution, the basis of the authority, judicial comments which we came across on the interpretation of the Constitution. There is a table to the appendices. At the end of the paper we have set out the basis of this authority, more extracts from the Constitution and the various articles in relation to judicial comments and the legislation concerning RTE, the relevant Broadcasting Acts up to the 1976 Amendment Act. Then we refer to the Broadcasting Committee report of 1974 which we think is a very fine document. Again we went over the RTE guidelines to staff which are to be found in the RTE handbook. Nos. 1 to 5 set out the statutory base of it and we can see indeed that the Constitutional and legal enactments in Ireland require that the Christian moral standards be upheld. So, looking at the actual legal base of the statutory corporation which RTE is, it is based on the Christian ethic as is the law of our land. Let me refer to the appendix on page 4 which gives general comments on the statutory provisions there.

508. Chairman.—Is it in the main submission?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—No. It is not in the main submission. I am very sorry.

509. Chairman.—Could you refer us to something in the main submission?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Yes.

510. Senator Cooney.—Perhaps we could be circulated with copies of it?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Yes.

511. Senator Cooney.—I gather from your submission that you feel there has not been a fulfilment by RTE of some of the matters under the Broadcasting Review Committee and that there has been a lack of balance in some areas. Assuming that that is so, what mechanism or structures would you suggest to rectify that situation?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—The main one in our recommendation is here at No. 17 on page 5 and is as follows:

In order to safeguard the taxpayer’s money and to ensure that RTE, which is a monopoly concern, is made adequately accountable to the public for its performance, the Society feels that urgent action is necessary and it suggests the following:

(a) That the recommendations of the Broadcasting Review Committee (1974) be implemented, particularly with regard to setting up of a Broadcasting Commission (cf. paras. 4.11, 4.15 and 21.9) or

(b) that the scope of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission be extended so that it could examine all complaints by letter or telephone and also have general responsibility for monitoring the moral standards of programmes.

At present the very existence of the Complaints Commission is not known to listeners/viewers and its procedures are so restricted that few citizens use the Commission (cf. R.T.E. Handbook 1978, p. 79). Given the very large number of complaints being received daily by RTE at present, 200, the Society feels that in the interests of public accountability the responsibilities of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission should be given a much wider public projection, so that viewers/listeners would be educated into a much fuller awareness of their rights in this regard.

512. Chairman.—We asked the people from RTE who appeared before us about the Complaints Commission. As I understand it, their attitude is that they normally answer the complaints themselves. If the complainant is not satisfied, he is then referred to the Complaints Commission. Do you think all complaints should go to the Complaints Commission?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Not necessarily. The present procedure is all right, but we say the public are not sufficiently aware that this procedure exists. In our appendices we have included a large number of press cuttings — complaints made by the public — published over the last two years. We have not monitored programmes; we are ordinary citizens, family men and have not carried out any audience research in this area. We gathered that over the past two years the Authority received approximately 200 complaints a day. From this, it does not appear that the present complaints procedure is effective. The only fact published in the handbook was that over a two year period only four complaints were made and two were substantiated.

I saw from an article in The Listener, January, 1981 that a similar Complaints Commission has now been set up in Britain. It seemed there was a general feeling that this was an opportune time to introduce this muchneeded commission.

513. Deputy Kenneally.—May I refer to the point made in the submission about the time provided for Protestant services? Have the Catholic population objected to Protestant services being broadcast?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—No. I have personal experience of this matter. I know a great number of very old people who are retired, confined to their houses and so on, who told me they get Mass on TV only every second Sunday. The 1974 Broadcasting Review Committee made the point which is referred to at paragraph 18 of our submission:

There is another aspect of the operation of R.T.E. which the Society would like to draw attention to. According to the Broadcasting Review Committee Report 1974 (p. 112) “RTE informed the Committee that the Protestant churches had parity of services with the Catholic Church and that in this respect population proportions were not respected.” Given that Catholics constitute 94 per cent of the population (1971 Census), that 2½ million people took the trouble to attend in person the papal ceremonies in 1979, the decision to equate the time for Catholic services with that of the remaining 6 per cent of the population amounts to serious sectarian discrimination against the vast majority of the citizens of this country.

We do not make this statement in a derogatory way as to our fellow Christians and brothers but the point was actually raised by the Broadcasting Review Committee. The Jews only get two hours broadcasting a year, which is minimal. In this Year of the Disabled we would recommend that consideration be given to this point because this is very important to the old and people who are institutionalised throughout the country. With two channels this should be much easier to do. We say this in no way meaning to be disrespectful to our fellow Christians. On proportion of the population, the parity of services is not properly allocated.

514. Deputy Kenneally.—Do you have any information that the Catholic population consider they are being discriminated against?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—We are saying that that is a logical conclusion. There is no complaint but I think this needs to be looked at. Televising religious services is a wonderful consolation to our old people who worshipped all their lives, who attended services, and the Mass in particular. We consider our national television station should provide visual religious services every Sunday — for Catholics, the Mass.

515. Deputy Fitzsimons.—I am glad you clarified that point because it could be misconstrued, especially where you say in your submission that Christian ethics are the basis of our laws. Naturally we consider the Protestant and Catholic populations to be Christians. We politicians are very loath to use the words “Catholic” and “Protestant”. We prefer to use the word “Christian”. What you say in your submission could be construed by the Protestant population as being somewhat bigoted, but you have clarified that point. Going back to the Complaints Commission, perhaps you would fully outline what precise improvements you would like to see there?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—At the end of our submission we have attached a large number of press cuttings which show very wide concern among the people around the country. The Authority admit they receive 200 letters a day. There is widespread concern about the lowering of standards in many programmes. We have not monitored particular programmes but we are making these comments in a general context. The complaints procedure provided by section 4 of the 1976 Act does not appear to be availed of, or perhaps people are not sufficiently aware of it.

516. Deputy Fitzsimons.—Would you say the existing machinery is adequate?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—I think so, but we consider that what the Broadcasting Review Committee recommended in their 1974 report should also be implemented. The 1974 report was implemented in part by the 1976 Act which set up the Complaints Commission and included a section dealing with impartiality and objectivity. It did not implement much more than that. There were a lot of other recommendations and we felt it was an excellent report. It recommends that a Broadcasting Commission be set up as an independent review body. It would not be a punitive body but would work in conjunction with the Authority. The Authority are engaged every day on ordinary matters and it is difficult for them to keep an eye on their constitutional and legal obligations all the time. It is a very large organisation, employing 2,300 people. A broadcasting commission, as well as the existing Complaints Commission, should be set up. It would separate the public control functions from the operating service. The review committee recommends a broadcasting commission to review the activities of the Authority. The operating end of the Authority would be the management board carrying on the day-to-day operations.

517. Deputy Kenneally.—You said earlier that people are not aware of the existence of the Complaints Commission. Do you think periodic announcements should be made?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Yes, to give the public information about it would be a good thing or you, as our representatives, would help the public also because from the researches we made. there is very widespread concern and little noticeable improvement. One other body which expressed concern is the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. They are a body of about 26,000 people. They were so concerned they convened a large meeting in 1976. We have an account of it in our appendices.

Chairman.—Yes, we have a copy.

Mr. Fitzgerald.—They invited some of the programme controllers to that meeting——

518. Deputy Kenneally.—Has the Authority any control over the Complaints Commission?

519. Deputy Fitzsimons.—What about the 1976 Act, are you aware the Authority has no control over the Complaints Commission?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—I am not aware of the entire machinery of it. The 1976 Act brought it in as a very worthwhile and laudable institution. The programme controllers at that meeting with the ICA said they were very concerned at the views expressed by such a large body of women. The excuses put forward for the poor moral quality of some of their programmes sounded hollow and unconvincing. The controllers said the various problems that have come up, which were exhibited and maybe overemphasised, were there long before television was invented. They also said it was their business to present life as it is — not as we would like it to be. We fully appreciate their dilemma. We have been reading “The Irish Broadcasting Review” which contains many intersting articles. One of them is by Muiris MacConghail, head of features division, entitled “The dilemma of the broadcaster in a two-standard society”. His views are understandable, from the point of view of a broadcaster, but we think a national service is bound by the parameters of its legal base. RTE, as a statutory corporation, is subject to definite social democratic control. It is limited and restricted.

There was another very interesting article by Professor John Kelly, who is an authority on constitutional law and a member of a former government. He wrote an article in the Summer 1978 edition of “Irish Broadcasting Review”. He referred to Article 40 of the Constitution, which lays down the right of freedom of expression. He summarised it as follows:

“The wording of this section discloses certain values which the Constitution recognises and which it requires the State to uphold. These could be condensed into (a) liberty of expression; (b) public order; (c) the authority of the State;(d) public morality; and (e) the education of public opinion.”

These are the parameters within which RTE, as a statutory national broadcasting service, must endeavour to balance its programmes and programme policies. Freedom of expression must, of necessity, be limited. It is not an absolute right, it is limited by Article 40. Similar limitation of the right of freedom of expression is to be found in Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, which states—

Everyone has the right of freedom of expression but specified reasons why such freedom can be subject to conditions, inter alia, for the protection of health and morals. We also quoted from Lord Devlin in “The Enforcement of Morals”—

“The law exists for the protection of society. It does not discharge its function by protecting the individual from injury, annoyance, corruption and exploitation. The law must protect also the institutions and the community of ideals, political and moral, without which people cannot live.” In an analogous way, the duties articulated by Lord Devlin can also be applied to individuals and organisations, like RTE.

In clubs, members make the laws, rules and regulations and, if they are disregarded, the club falls to pieces. In the tennis club to which I belong, we have a committee which strictly enforces the rules. I am making the point that, if the statutory basis of an organisation like RTE is ignored, or if there is irresponsibility, the organisation will fall apart.

520. Chairman.—In page 2, paragraphs 6 and 7, you quote with approval, two guidelines, but they are slightly inconsistent. In paragraph 6 you say—

Broadcasting must generally reflect the morals and respect the values of the society in which it operates, acknowledging its standards of taste, decency and justice.

That seems to be a positive objective, merely to accept what is there, but in paragraph 7 you say—

Foremost among the aims of broadcasting is that of inculcating an appreciation of the basic values of the social and political order and a respect for the institutions on which this order is based. The responsible broad caster must always endeavour to lead, not follow.

That seems to be slightly inconsistent. Do you think RTE should accept morals and so on as they stand or has it a mission to lead public taste?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—It has three functions as a broadcasting authority — to educate, inform and entertain. It is statutorily based on the Constitution, as a national service. A balance must be maintained under the various heads of Article 40, public order, public morality and so on. I agree with RTE’s perception of its own objectives, its appreciation of basic values and its respect for the institutions on which this order is based. They can perform a great service to our youth and have an impact on their personalities.

521. Chairman.—It plays a positive rather than a passive role?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Yes.

Chairman.—Any questions?

522. Deputy Fitzsimons.—In relation to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, in respect of which you are unhappy, you may or may not be aware, Mr. Fitzgerald, that under the 1976 Act RTE cannot publicise the existence of even a Complaints Commission. That Commission was set up completely independent of RTE and RTE may not even interfere to the extent of publicising it. RTE have often suggested to people that they take up any controversial issues with the Commission. What I am saying to you is this: perhaps you are somewhat nebulous about it, or people are not clear about it, but RTE get all the backfire. Perhaps the existing machinery is not being used fully because clearly under the Act the Commission is absolutely independent of RTE. Any comment?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—I would say it is a good thing that it is. I find it difficult to say whose responsibility it is to make people more aware of its existence. The machinery is there by way of protection of the public, as such.

Mr. Kinsella.—That opinion is always being advanced — that when one complains to RTE one gets nowhere.

523. Deputy Fitzsimons.—The position is that RTE cannot interfere with the rights of the Complaints Commission — they are totally independent. The Commission is there for people to complain to about RTE. Therefore RTE, under the Act, cannot act but can refer one back to the Commission. It is up to the individual citizen to direct any complaint to the Commission. Have you any suggestions as to how the present situation could be improved?

Mr. Kinsella.—We contend, in that respect, that at present the very existence of the Commission is not known to listeners and viewers and its procedures are so restricted that few citizens use the Commission. I might refer to the RTE Handbook 1978, page 79 — in other words it would appear that it is there but that nobody knows about it.

524. Deputy Fitzsimons.—Do you not agree that the irony of the situation is that, under the Act, RTE cannot actually publish that.

Mr. Kinsella.—Quite, the Deputy was saying that but, then, what is the answer?

Deputy Fitzsimons.—I would say it is up to people like your good selves — if people are writing in to you — to do something about it, when RTE cannot do it, and perhaps other bodies who may not be happy with RTE should make it known to people generally that this Commission exists.

Chairman.—We are running somewhat behind time, so if there is no other question——

Mr. Fitzgerald.—Perhaps I might be allowed make another point. In regard to our submission we feel, from our inquiries, the correspondence in the daily newspapers and the number of complaints that there is widespread concern. I think there must be a certain amount of widespread frustration also among parents in particular that the family is being attacked internally very severely, certainly over the past few years. We make the point in our conclusions that it could well be that the cost of programmes which offend against traditional moral values and against the constitutional and legal requirements of RTE would not appear to be legitimate charges against the income of RTE. We would nearly go as far as that. There is evidence to show that that widespread concern exists. Secondly, in regard to the courts, we have quoted various judgments of Mr. Justice Costello, Mr. Justice Brian Walshe and Mr. Justice Kenny in our appendices. We contend that the courts could well construe that programmes which are harmful to family life, or undermining the family as such, which the Constitution guarantees, or which were undermining the common good, that the courts could regard their action as unconstitutional.

Another point is that section 3 (b) of the 1976 Act, on the impartiality and objectivity of news and of discussion of current affairs, from what we have seen from the evidence before us, from people generally — needless to say we are not the representatives of the people — but from what correspondence in the newspapers shows us and the concern that we as normal parents hear, the words “objective”, “impartial” and “without bias” are construed not quite correctly by the Authority in this respect. We think they construe section 3 (b) of the 1976 Act as a neutrality section, as it were, that it is a free-for-all and that they completely disregard the Christian basis on which the law and Constitution of the country are set up, the general constitutional base of our laws. We feel the implication of that section is not that it is a neutral section. It says that a broadcaster should not express his or her subjective views. But that does not mean that it does not also give them authority to treat it as being completely neutral and give a completely free rein to any body or organisation.

Chairman.—You dealt with that matter very well in your submission.

Mr. Fitzgerald.—The final point I wanted to make is that there is in Western Europe — I think we are all aware of this in the environment in which we live — a general decadence in the last decade, and I hope I am not pontificating in saying this, but we got a chart of EEC statistics which highlights a few matters which confirm the view that there is a lot of decadence about in Western European civilisation, and in the American context. In regard to the attack on life and marriage if we look at the number of divorces and abortions, looking right across the chart annexed to the appendices we see that in the period 1960 to 1977, to which these statistics relate, in Western Germany the increase in the incidence of divorce has been 125 per cent, in France it has been 110 per cent, in the Netherlands 320 per cent, in Belgium 225 per cent, in Luxembourg 166 per cent, the United Kingdom 440 per cent and in Denmark 117 per cent. Those are frightening figures because they represent the breakdown of marriage all over Western Europe. They are indeed frightening figures for us in Ireland, to whom the family and stability of marriage mean so much.

525. Chairman.—Are you suggesting that this is being caused by broadcasting in these countries or are you suggesting that this kind of situation will happen here if broadcasting continues in its present form?

Mr. Fitzgerald.—I am making it merely as an additional point, that the environment in which people live and their attitudes in Western Europe have changed so radically and that liberalised laws have caused this general decadence in the environment in which we have been living for the past decade and in which our children are living. It is a rather frightening prospect.

If I might be permitted to quote some figures for legal abortions over that same period. In Western Germany it was 9 per cent, in France 18 per cent, the United Kingdom 16 per cent and in Denmark 41 per cent. Of course, the American scene is really shattering I have not got the figures here but they were issued recently. It illustrates that the loss of respect for human life is something that constitutes a very serious problem among Western European nations and that they have demographic problems. I gather that in Western Germany they are somewhat nervous about the situation. Therefore, the figures I have given are important to that extent. They reflect the downward trend in western attitudes caused by over liberal legislation and illustrate that the general views and attitudes of people have changed radically in that one decade in our lifetime. We, as parents, should be concerned that these very vital factors do imperceptibly creep through in attitudes purveyed to us through our broadcasting media.

Chairman.—We will circulate those figures.

Mr. Fitzgerald.—In the context of these Eurostat figures it has affected the attitudes of all the western nations.

Chairman.—Thank you very much. You have been very helpful.

The witnesses withdrew.

Mrs. Mary Kennedy, Secretary, Miss Máire Breathnach, Committee Member and Mr. Arthur McDermott, Executive Member of the Irish Family League, called and examined.

526. Chairman.—We have read your very comprehensive submission and this is merely an opportunity for us to ask questions and for you to elaborate if there is any point in particular that you wish to make. But certainly the submission deals with the matter very fully. Is there any point you would like to emphasise at this stage?

Mr. McDermott.—At this stage we would like to thank the Committee for receiving us not only on our own behalf but on behalf of our members. Much of the evidence we will deal with is in respect of RTE and we would like to point out that we have very little experience of giving oral evidence so we would ask the Committee to understand any shortcomings in giving it.

Miss Breathnach.—The question raised is one which you will probably be coming across in all your dealings with all the semi-State bodies and that is the question of control. When they were set up the idea was that they should be exempted from day-to-day control and that looked very nice; they were put on the same footing as commercials and the Minister would not have responsibility for answering for their operations in Parliament and to the voters. This arrangement suited the trade unions very nicely because most of them were providing essential services; they would not close down; they were a perfect field for building up the pay and conditions of service that would be pressed on the private sector and ultimately on the public sector.

Actually what is happening is that the semi-State bodies are setting the pace for pay and conditions for the public sector now. But they have become a law unto themselves. They are not obliged to heed criticisms of shareholders. Many of them are monopolies not subject to the checks of ordinary market competition. We will leave you this supplementary memorandum which goes into these things in detail.

In Britain the House of Commons never forgets that its primary purpose is to look after taxpayer’s money. That was the point in cutting off the head of King Charles I and throwing out James II. Now they are moving in on what they call quangos, the quasi-autonomous government organisations like RTE and they have decided that it is time they were brought under some kind of control.

Of all the quangos that need control, RTE is the main one. We must remember that our country is in a unique position. It has 95 per cent Catholics in the Republic, most of whom are practising, most of whom accept the teaching of the Church. So we have no divorce; we have no legalised abortion and in practice we reject contraception as is evidenced by our rise in birth rate which went up by 11 per cent between 1968 and 1976 when, in the Six Counties the birth rate dropped by 20 per cent. The number of children in State schools there which are mostly Protestant dropped by 35 per cent and the number of children in Catholic schools dropped by 16 per cent in the period 1968 to 1976. They have a higher illegitimacy rate; they have a high abortion rate. So we might remember these things when The Irish Times tells us that these practices have no effect in the Six Counties.

We submit that our people here want things to stay like they are and it is also our contention that RTE has been using its enormous power day in, day out to suggest that Irish people should abandon their unique way of life and adopt the contraceptives, divorce, abortion, pornographic, homosexual dominated way of life that has made western society intolerable for any believing Catholic or even for any believing Christian. In fact it is regressing to the pagan society from which Christianity delivered us and from which people were so glad to be delivered that they were prepared to be martyred for Christianity.

You might think we are exaggerating but you can just turn on “The Gay Byrne Hour” in the morning, turn on “Day by Day” and see what you get. “Day by Day” spent a programme last week leaning on pharmacists. I hardly ever listen to them because I cannot stand them but I just put on the car radio and the main concern was to make sure that contraceptives were available. You had Dr. Rynne talking about the medical profession having to take decisions on things that they should not be involved in, such as eligibility for contraceptives and authorising non-medical procedures, doctors should not have to be sending people to the family planning clinics because contraceptives were not sold by chemists; he and other doctors are going to distribute contraceptives to any sexually active couple and it is a dreadful thing that people cannot have contraceptives and so on and generally pushing the pharmacists, who have a perfect right under the statute not to stock contraceptives, but all the time the pressure is on. Gay Byrne is reading letter after letter about divorce. There was a letter opposing divorce and urging that all marriages have problems and it is a question of finding solutions. He makes much play with that morning’s news about the Kennedy divorce as evidence against the concept of finding solutions. Then he gets a letter asking him if he is a practising Catholic and sacramentally married and did he believe that it was “till death do us part”. Yes, but he recognised the right of those who have not the Catholic religion to have divorce, and says that we fought for 700 years for people to be free to choose whether or not to accept the teaching of Fr. Simon O’Byrne who had been mentioned in one of the letters. He ended with heavy emphasis on a suggestion that they should write to the Kennedys and put the theory of “a solution to every problem” and see what kind of answer they got. The Kennedy divorce was dragged in hot from the headlines without any indication that it might be availing of the legal procedure of divorce, without any intention of remarrying, but only for the purpose of settling up property and so on, or that if it were a divorce for remarriage it would be considered deplorable and sinful by Catholics.

527. Chairman.—Are you leaving that memo with us?

Miss Breathnach.—Yes.

528. Chairman.—Please do not read from it because we will study it later. Perhaps you would emphasise any point not covered in it?

Miss Breathnach.—There was a long letter from the Divorce Action Group. On 27 January there was a letter from a lady who had married at 17 and now wants a divorce. Having finished that and made some not unsympathetic remarks he said he had a lot of letters against divorce but he had not time to read them that day.

529. Senator Cooney.—From what you say I gather you are critical of RTE’s approach to these subjects. Could you summarise your criticisms and your recommendations?

Miss Breathnach.—They, RTE, are 99 per cent weighted in favour of contraceptives, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, etc. It is all very well saying RTE must not express their own views. But it does not matter whether it is RTE expressing their own views, or whether they line up a panel of people who will express views in favour of say, divorce, with weak speakers or no speaker to oppose divorce, or RTE can deny us access to the media, as they have been doing. In any event what the viewers are getting is uncountered divorce propaganda.

Mrs. Kennedy.—We have complained frequently over the years. Since the Irish Family League was founded practically all our complaints were rejected. The most recent was made last year on the “Frontline” programme on abortion, an obvious commercial for abortion as somebody else complained. RTE’s reply was that it was not a debate and that the opening statement of Ms. McAleese set the tone of the programme, which was that something needed to be done. Who did she get in to say what should be done but, among others, a lady who runs an abortion advisory service in Liverpool, Dr. Abdullah, and Professor Peter Huntingford who pioneered the abortion law in England. We will not get anything from people like that except that abortion is the obvious answer. All our complaints were rejected by the Complaints Commission and by RTE. We have got to a situation now where it is almost pointless making complaints because they are not investigated in an impartial manner.

530. Chairman.—Have you written to the Complaints Commission?

Mrs. Kennedy.—This last submission was rejected by the Complaints Commission with the statement that it was not a debate on the rightness or wrongness of abortion. It was a factual discussion and we had not claimed any facts were incorrect. They said Ms. McAleese set the tone of the programme — but she knew who to invite. As a result, the programme was weighted in favour of abortion and contraceptives. RTE have constantly pressed for changes in the law. Mr. McGonigle of RTE claimed that they managed to have the law changed in certain areas, and certainly in the area of contraceptives. This is our principal complaint and we hope this Joint Committee will be able to institute a measure of control.

531. Chairman.—You are complaining about a lack of impartiality?

Mrs. Kennedy.—A total lack.

Miss Breathnach.—We complain to RTE about a programme and it is rejected. We then send it to the Complaints Commission who send it to RTE. They send their observations to us, we contradict them and send them back to the Commission who side with RTE. By the time all this has happened eight or nine months may have elapsed. RTE can put on any programmes they like and it is 100 to one that the Commission will find against them. If I was asked to do a programme about what can be done about abortion, the first thing would be to advise parents that young girls must be looked after more than they were years ago because there is so much sex and violence shown on RTE and it is not safe to go out as we could when I was young. There must be a clear statement that the Church’s teaching is that abortion is murder, which the Pope said repeatedly, but you will not hear that on RTE, and you must present sympathetically the only alternative to abortion, which is to have the baby and have it adopted. RTE got poor Fr. Colleran, who only said a few words. They had a “shot” of the office of the British Pregnancy Advisory Services, a well known abortion referral agency, but they had not a “shot” of a happy family — a mother and her adopted children — which would make people feel good. Having the baby and giving it for adoption could be an ordeal but you would get over it and you would not be killing the baby.

532. Senator Cooney.—Have you asked to get on any of these programmes?

533. Deputy Kenneally.—You spoke about Ms. McAleese’s programme. Were there only pro-abortionists on that panel?

Mrs. Kennedy.—Dr. O’Sullivan from England was not totally against it. He said it was obscene and always bad but apparently he would carry out an abortion if the lady decided to have one. On the panel were Deputy Michael Keating, Dr. Abdullah from England, Professor Peter Huntingford and Doris O’Regan who runs an abortion clinic in London. As I said, Dr. O’Sullivan was not totally against it. Professor Huntingford pioneered the British Bill on abortion. If you ask such people what is to be done, they will not tell you to have the baby and have it adopted. They will plug for abortion. We had a number of complaints like this.

Early in 1979 we wrote to various programme controllers saying we wished to be included in any discussions in current affairs programmes with reference to the Contraceptives Bill. We had acknowledgements from several programmes controllers but that was all. We wrote and phoned and in May 1979 we had an interview with Mr. McGonigle, Controller of TVI. He was to get in touch with us exactly a fortnight later to arrange something with the editors of some of the programmes but he did not phone us. Despite innumerable phone calls we did not have any further contact with him. We were completely shut out during that period. Strangely enough, in the past year the Irish Family League were represented more on BBC than on RTE.

Miss Breathnach.—We were refused seats on the panel of a show debating divorce and nullity. The panel was three to one in favour. We joined the audience on that occasion. Before we took our seats we were told only one of us would be allowed to speak. We were offered two seats in the audience on the “Late Late Show”, which we refused, because we should have been on the panel. The panel consisted of two legal people who had been acting for the contraceptives clinics, plus an unfortunate priest who was sidetracked into a discussion as to what he would say in Confession, which had nothing at all to do with the legislation; and another man who put up no real opposition. That is the kind of treatment we get from RTE.

Mr. McDermott.—Deputy Richie Ryan recently made representations to RTE to stop advertising the glossy tabloid Doctor’s Answers. They treated him exactly as they treat us — in an arrogant manner. They said they were not in a position to find anything wrong with the magazine, had no function to suppress its publication and that Deputy Ryan should make a formal complaint at the highest level. They did not feel it was their function to act as censors of publications. In effect, they told Deputy Ryan to jump in the river. I regret to say this cavalier attitude is characteristic of the spokesmen in RTE. All Deputy Ryan said was that this magazine presented abortion as a means of getting rid of a child, was publicly advertising how to kill and would be unacceptable to the vast majority of people whom he represented. He was not suggesting they should ban it, he was saying they should not advertise its sale.

Miss Breathnach.—I should like to make another point about the Complaints Committee now the Complaints Commission. The original Broadcasting Act said there should be fair representation for all interests concerned, it should be objective and impartial and there should be no expression of RTE’s views. The first thing RTE said was that maybe they could not be fair to all interests concerned in one programme, but the statutory requirements of objectivity and impartiality would be discharged over two or more programmes within a reasonable period. The Committee, as it was then, accepted that. When the Language Freedom Movement complained that a meeting of their representatives with the Minister for Finance had been given no news coverage, they received the following reply—

R.T.E. is not a debating society. The Committee does not accept the suggestion (made to it on several occasions) that if it can be anticipated that the participants in any programme will probably unite in putting forward a particular viewpoint it is automatically necessary or even desirable to include in the programme a speaker or speakers of opposing views. Any such obligation might be calculated to produce a series of inconclusive, dull and often acrimonious debates. Such a framework may sometimes be advisable and sometimes not. A wide discretion must be allowed to programme producers whose business it is to present such news and features as in their judgment are of the greatest public significance and the widest public interest and to do so with due regard to accuracy, truth and informed comment.

The point is, they can produce a programme which is slanted and say they are covering some aspects of a subject. In reply to a complaint by the Natural Family Planning Organisation on the lack of coverage of natural methods in contrast to numerous programmes about contraceptives the Complaints Committee said they were not in a position to make an assessment of all aspects of programmes. It is their job to do so, they should ask RTE if and when a particular aspect of a subject has been covered.

Mrs. Mary Kennedy complained about The Riordans, that the Catholic priest in the series had given wrong advice about birth control. They said they had consulted high Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authority and were assured they were not misrepresenting Roman Catholic teaching. We promptly wrote asking for the name of the authority and a copy of the letter containing the advice which they had received. The Committee said they did not propose to enter into any further correspondence with us. As far as we are concerned, they may have got advice from the office cat. The main thing is there must be day-to-day control on RTE, just as in newspapers, which have an editor and sub-editor, who decide what to publish. If a salacious court case is reported, it can be blue pencilled out.

There was a programme showing a full frontal delivery of a baby. On the Gay Byrne Late Late Show programme, a woman examined herself for breast cancer. It is indecent. These are intimate things which, even in a hospital, are done privately. They should not be put on the TV screens in public houses, which is what is happening.

The most startling pronouncement of all by the Complaints Commission was made in relation to the programme on homosexuality, of which I complained. It said—

What may be called the traditional Judaeo-Christian view of homosexuality is so well known and widespread as not to require elaboration on the programme.

In other words anything, except Catholic teaching, can be put on the programme. People here accept Catholic standards.

We have a supplementary file of various reports on three programmes. One was on homosexuality, another was on contraception, on which no one appeared to put the anti-contraception view and the last was on handicapped babies. Speakers on the last programme made a terrible fuss about handicapped babies, how much they cost the taxpayer and it would be better to get rid of them. It mentioned sterilisation and abortion as acceptable means of doing this. It is all right for me, I know what they are up to, but think of ordinary, not too well-educated people, who were brought up in a decent, reticent way. These things are thrown at them and they end up thinking that maybe we should have divorce and so on. They are being indoctrinated by RTE.

534. Chairman.—Thank you very much, are you leaving us this file?

Miss Breathnach.—Yes. In connection with religious programmes, there has never been a proper explanation of Humanae Vitae. There has never been a proper explanation of Catholic marriage but there have been endless attacks on it. There have been attacks on censorship, with no adequate defence. There is a tendency to excuse all personal responsibility for wrongdoing.

Chairman.—Thank you.

The witnesses withdrew.