Call for restoration of €6m TG4 funds to address Irish broadcast crisis

Oireachtas sub-committee highly critical of the very low output of Irish on RTÉ

Committee chair Catherine Connolly said that not all the recommendations involved spending money but that the €6 million for TG4 was necessary.  Photo : Lorraine O’Sullivan

Committee chair Catherine Connolly said that not all the recommendations involved spending money but that the €6 million for TG4 was necessary. Photo : Lorraine O’Sullivan

 

An all-party parliamentary committee has called on the Government to restore €6 million in funding to TG4 to address a substantial crisis facing Irish-language broadcasting in Ireland.

In a report published on Tuesday, the Oireachtas sub-committee on Irish was also highly critical of the very low output of Irish on RTÉ’s television and radio stations, and the almost complete lack of Irish on independent and local radio stations.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) also came in for sharp criticism, both for its lack of Irish language policies and for not ensuring that legislative obligations on Irish language-broadcasting were being met.

The call to restore funding of €6 million, which was withdrawn from TG4 during the recession, is one of 18 recommendations made by the Committee in the report.

The report also calls on legislative change to ensure that Irish language broadcasting is recognised as a primary obligation in any definition of public service broadcasting.

It also calls on the BAI to form an Irish advisory committee and to reinstate the position of Irish-language development officer.

Another key recommendation is that RTÉ re-establishes its Irish language programmes division, and also recommends a 24-hour music radio service in Irish to be directed at a youth audience.

The committee’s reports echoes findings from An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill which found a dearth of Irish programming on RTÉ, and of NUIG academics Dr John Walsh and Rosemary Day that disclosed that eight independent local radio stations broadcast little or nothing in Irish in 2017 with sparse Irish language contributions in other stations.

Committee chair Catherine Connolly, an independent TD for Galway West, said that not all the recommendations involved spending money but that the €6 million for TG4 was necessary.

“It will be difficult but you cannot escape the crisis or the denial the broadcasters are in with regard to their Irish language (obligations),” she said.

“The thing that jumped out at me was the lack of Irish on stations other than TG4 or Raidió na Gaeltacht, or the (voluntary Irish-language stations such as Raidió na Life and Raidió Rí-Rá).

Committee member Eamon Ó Cuív (Fianna Fáil) said the committee’s finding were unanimous and all 18 recommendations could be implemented, one after another.

He said the report was short and concise and its aims were achievable.

Niall Ó Donghaile of Sinn Féin said Irish-language media worked on an all-island basis and that focus should not be lost. His party colleague said the report provided a good yardstick on where Irish-language broadcasting was at present, and where it needed to go.

The launch in Leinster House was attended by representatives from Irish language organisations.

The director of Conradh na Gaeilge Julian de Spáinn said the output of TG4 was remarkable given it had only half the budget of the Welsh-language broadcaster, S4C.

Alan Esslemont, the director general of TG4 said his strong belief was that the media, especially visual media, had a central role to preserve the Irish language.

“We could do far more for the language with more resources,” he said. He said without resources, producers would not be able to work on the scale that is necessary these days, in what has become a global business.