Examination of Witnesses (Questions 720
WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2005
Mr Allan Bremner, Ms Patricia Galvin and Mr Pa«dhraic
Q720 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Ms Galvin: Yes. I think more back office, technical
sharing and circuits and things like that, especially rather than
duplicating if there was coverage of a live event or something
like that. Then there would be an opportunity to share on a quid
pro quo basis.
Q721 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
You would pool?
Ms Galvin: Exactly, yes.
Mr O« Ciardha: We have some co-productions
that we have made with BBC Northern Ireland, but we probably have
as many, if not more, that we have done with BBC Scotland because
of the Gaelic-Irish connection, and S4C, obviously. I think going
forward though the specific context of Irish language in Northern
Ireland and this new mechanism called the Irish Language Broadcast
Fund does provide a basis for cooperation. I should also say that
co-production is a wonderful thing at a late night dinner, to
say, "Why do we not make a drama together?" which is
all very well, but when you come to make the drama you have to
see whether it services the schedule needs of both partners and
whether the action is going to take place in the west of Ireland
or the west of Scotland, and sometimes co-production can actually
be trickier than corporate co-production and sharing facilities.
So we are all in favour of that and I think, as I say, as we go
forward because of the digital possibilities, because there is
an opportunity, in my own personal view, to create an all Ireland
digital platform for all the traditional broadcasters that operate,
it could actually find a common platform. But there are legal
and rights issues there. There is a huge level of cooperation
and a genuine spirit of cooperation between all the broadcasters,
north and south, including the BBC.
Q722 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Do you think that the BBC produces enough for Northern Ireland?
Is there a big enough production basis?
Mr O« Ciardha: I am very loath to enter
into any personal view. I do not pay a BBC licence fee; I am not
a citizen of the UK. I enjoy greatly having the reception of BBC
Northern Ireland and all the BBCs that are available to me in
my home in Dublin on NTL Digital. I can only reflect to you that
in the context of the Irish languageand you will hear it,
I suspect, more as the day goes onthere is a real expectation
from the Irish language community here for increased content creation.
How that gets delivered is, I think, a major challenge for the
Q723 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
What do you think, Mr Bremner? Do you think that the BBC has a
big enough production base here?
Mr Bremner: I think that is patently the case
and I think you can see that both in the commitment to the quality
of programmes that they have and the spread of programmes that
they have at the moment. We are a little bit anxious that when
it actually comes to tallying how many hours we each do that there
are different forms of counting, and Ofcom are going to have a
look at that again. But I doubt if anybody could dissent from
the view that this is an ambitious broadcaster, yes.
Q724 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
What about the independent sector? Do you think that is sufficiently
Mr Bremner: I agree with what Anna Carragher
said about the independent sector. We also exceed the quota of
independent programmes that we have amongst our regional programmes.
We have about ten companies working for us presently, and two
of those are from the Republic. Interestingly enough, not all
the ITV companies have an obligation to do 25 per cent of the
regional programmes; some of them stick to the notion that it
is 25 per cent of the total schedule, and therefore they do not
get that commitment within the regional programmes. We have no
formal commitment to do that but we have never ever gone below
the quota; this year it is about 28 per cent and next year it
is 30 per cent of our qualifying programmes will be made by independents.
Just a question in passing. Because you are owned by your own
shareholders and a mixture of them, you could be taken over at
Mr Bremner: That is exactly the case, yes.
Are there any restrictions on who could take you over?
Mr Bremner: None.
So, for example, an American company could take you over?
Mr Bremner: Absolutely, yes. We have a situation
in Ireland where a year ago CanWest, a Canadian company, had a
30 per cent share in UTV and in TV3, the commercial channel in
the south, CanWest had 45 per cent. Granada also had 45 per cent
in ITV3 and then ten per cent of other shareholders. CanWest exited
from UTV last year, that is why I say we have no significant corporate
shareholder. But we still have Granada and CanWest substantially
based in the south. Speaking frankly, the ITV network is always
going to be at the mercy of Granada because of its strength. What
we want to be known as is that we are the company who can manage
best in Ireland, and not Granada.
But it could be beyond Granada?
Mr Bremner: Exactly. As with Channel 5 there
is no geographical restriction and they do not even ask people
to be fit and proper people to own an ITV company, which they
Lord Maxton: Whatever that might mean.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Lord Peston.
Q729 Lord Peston:
At least one of you heard us talking to the BBC this morning about
languages. I am still a little lost. RTÉ has the specific
language responsibility, that is right, is it not?
Ms Galvin: That is right, yes.
Q730 Lord Peston:
But TG4 does not have the specific language responsibility?
Mr O« Ciardha: TG4 is the Irish language
Q731 Lord Peston:
Do I deduce by that it means the Irish language?
Mr O« Ciardha: Yes. We do broadcast English
language material but the station was established and is enshrined
in legislation as being to provide primarily a service in the
Q732 Lord Peston:
What we need is a little perspective on scale, if you like. What
numbers are we talking about?
Mr O« Ciardha: To put it into context,
we will put to air today and tomorrow more Irish language programming
than BBC Northern Ireland will make for the year. We are putting
to air about ten hours of Irish language programmes, five hours
a day of new material, more or less. Our schedule is 19 hours
a day, of which seven hours is Irish language programming, of
which approximately half is original, new to air. That figure
can vary obviously, depending on seasons. So ours, just like S4C,
primarily a Celtic language service with material in other languages
to support it. RTÉ would probably output an hour a day
across the seasons in addition to the hour a day that they supply
to us. As with the BBC and BBC Wales it is obliged by statute
to provide S4C with 550 hours a year of Welsh language programming,
and the statutory obligation on RTÉ is to provide us with
365 hours a year of Irish language programming.
Ms Galvin: Since 1961 we have been producing
programmes in the Irish language. For our own services and television
it is about an hour a day, as Pa«dhraic says, as well as
the hour a day to TG Ceathair. Then we have a dedicated Irish
language radio channel, Raidió an Gaeltachta.
So you are doing one hour a day, and you are doing how many hours
Mr O« Ciardha: About four or five hours
a day. Most of ours comes from the independent production sector.
As I say, ours is very much modelled on the S4C model.
How much would the BBC be doing?
Mr O« Ciardha: I think the figure is something
like 10 hours this year.
So that would be a few minutes a daily rate.
Mr O« Ciardha: On television.
Q736 Lord Peston:
To take it into an economic domain, does it make sense that all
of this is happening separately or should it not all be done jointly
in some way? The Ofcom view seems to be that there should be a
much closer relationship. I am not clear what Ofcom really had
Mr O« Ciardha: I am a native speaker of
Irish; it is my native language. I should also point our, perhaps,
in passing that it is the native language of, I suspect, more
than 20,000 people currently resident in the UK. Somebody pointed
out to me once that the greatest urban concentration of Irish
language speakers was either in Kilburn or in Govan. I just mention
that in passing. The expectation I think is that a public service
broadcaster will provide service in the indigenous languages of
the community which it is servicing. In the case of the Republic
and in the case of Northern Ireland that includes the Irish language,
clearly. Whether it is more proper to do that on one dedicated/marginalized
service, or whether the public service broadcaster should raise
the profile of the language by including it in its own network
channels is a debating point. In the case of RTÉ, I think
RTÉ has always said, even after the establishment of our
channel, that it would wish to include Irish language material
in a high scheduling position on its own channels as well as contributing
programming to us, and I think that probably would be the shared
view in the Republic, that it should not be consigned to one channel.
Q737 Lord Peston:
Patricia, do you agree with that?
Ms Galvin: I do.
Q738 Lord Peston:
So you are not against cooperation?
Ms Galvin: No, absolutely. I suppose the spirit
is reflected in the Belfast Agreement to foster linguistic diversity
and to promote it through whatever means possible. If we have
a broad remit and a duty to reflect as much as possible the interests
of our society then Irish language has to be a key part of that.
So, absolutely, anything that can be done to foster that.
Mr O« Ciardha: Can I add one small thing?
It is important as we go forward and as technology develops and
as the huge increase of channels available to us magnifies, providing
a service does not necessarily mean providing all programming
and television form on one channel. There are many ways of skinning
this particular televisual cat.
Q739 Lord Peston:
One question I forgot to ask the BBC. Do the Higher Education
institutions in Northern Ireland and in Ireland as a whole have
any involvement in what you do? To reveal my ignorance, I do not
even have the faintest idea whether, say, in the south they teach
Mr O« Ciardha: Irish is a mandatory subject.