RTÉ urged to promote Irish music and artists

Labour TD Willie Penrose calls for return of sponsored programmes while moving Bill

Labour TD Willie Penrose has urged RTÉ Radio to bring back its commercially sponsored programmes to promote Irish music and singers.

The programmes were a daily feature of RTÉ Radio for decades until they were dropped in 1980.

Mr Penrose recalled in the Dáil on Wednesday night the “halcyon’’ radio days of the 1960s and 1970s, when the sponsored programmes were at their height.

"Val Joyce, Brendan Balfe, Harry Thullier, the Waltons, the Top 10 Show . . . all of our music on national radio,'' he said.

“Why do we not bring back those sponsored programmes on Radio 1?’’

He said the programmes had promoted Irish artists such as "Joe Dolan and the Drifters, Brendan Bowyer, the Dixies, Big Tom Foster and Allen, Margo . . . ''

Mr Penrose recalled his mother learning the lines of Big Tom’s Gentle Mother from the radio and teaching it to her children.

Mr Penrose was speaking as he moved his private member’s Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, which proposed the introduction of a 40 per cent quota for Irish music on Irish radio stations.

The Bill was rejected by Minister for Communications Denis Naughten.

Mr Penrose said politicians had let down the artistic community and Irish music of all genres was no longer deemed worthy of being played on Irish radio during daylight hours.

Irish music should have a place on primetime radio, he added.


Mr Naughten said there had been a number of attempts to allow for the introduction of an Irish music quota.

“Previous ministers and my department have met with a number of groups and tried to formulate a definition,’’ Mr Naughten said.

“However, it has not been possible to come up with a satisfactory or workable definition.’’

He said Mr Penrose’s Bill was extremely vague and he did not believe it would assist the Irish music industry if it was introduced.

“Rather, because of its vagueness, I believe it is likely to exclude a range of types of music written by Irish musicians,’’ he said.

“It will also be unworkable from a practical regulatory point of view.’’

He said that, at his request, the Oireachtas communications committee was currently carrying out a broad review of the funding of public service broadcasting in Ireland, including a public consultation and engagement with relevant stakeholders.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times