FF to oppose commission proposal


PROPOSALS for legislation to establish a commission to oversee all broadcasting in the State will be opposed by Fianna Fail.

The party's spokeswoman, Ms Sile De Valera, said the "super-authority" would confuse the demarcation between public service and independent commercial broadcasting.

Proposals by the Minister, Mr Higgins, would not be debated before an election, she said. In publishing the heads of the Bill, Mr Higgins was trying to shape the political agenda without actually bringing forward legislation.

"This is a cynical manoeuvre by the Minister," Ms De Valera said. "Mr Higgins is giving the impression of action without actually doing anything."

Fianna Fail wanted a statement on broadcasting immediately, as well as Government support for its Private Member's Bill to protect national sporting events from satellite television providers.

The chairman of the RTE Authority, Dr Farrel Corcoran, said he was concerned that tensions between consumer-driven commercial broadcasting and public service broadcasting within one commission might lead to problems for public service broadcasting, leading to its under development. He said the RTE Authority would have to study the document before making detailed comments.

The Association of Independent Radio Stations said it has long argued that the licence fee should be shared, or that funding be made available to assist independent radio to further its public service requirements.

"The Minister's proposals only recognise RTE's public service broadcasting output and this is grossly unfair to the independent local radio sector, which is anxious to develop this aspect of its services to its listeners," the association said in a statement.

The proposals were broadly welcomed by the chairman of the Independent Radio and Television Commission, Mr Niall Stokes.

The IRTC's submission to the Green Paper had supported a super-authority, he said. It has sought ways for quality programming to be supported. That could still be addressed, he said.

The deputy chairman of the Irish Executive of the National Union of Journalists, Mr Seamus Dooley, was concerned at the "centralist" thrust of the document. Vast power was vested in the commission, he said. He regretted the IRTC was to be abolished, and he would be seeking clarification of the exact role of the RTE Authority under the legislation.