Dáil Éireann - Volume 436 - 08 December, 1993

Private Members' Business. - Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill, 1993: Second Stage.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Is mór agam an deis seo a fháil chun [2063] an díospóireacht ar an mBille um Bord Scannán na hÉireann (Leasú), 1993, a oscailt go hoifigiúil anseo i nDáil Éireann. Tá mé sásta go dtabharfaidh an Bille seo deis chuí do Theachtaí Dála staid ár dtionscail scannáin agus éist-fís a phlé go cuimsitheach. Tá mé ag súil le díospóireacht bhríomhar ar an téama seo.

Níl ach aidhm amháin ag an mBille seo atá ós comhair na Dála inniú. Is í an aidhm sin ná méadú a dhéanamh ar an méid airgid — idir infheistíochtaí, iasachtaí, deontais, nó aon fhreagrachtaí eile— gur féidir le Bord Scannán na hÉireann a chaitheamh sna blianta atá romhainn. Is é an t-uasmhéid gur féidir leis an mBord a chaitheamh sa tslí seo faoi alt 10 den Acht um Bord Scannán na hÉireann, 1980, ná £4,100,000. Ós rud é go bhfuil an t-uasmhéid sin bainte amach anois i mbliana, tá mé ag moladh don Oireachtas sa Bhille seo go n-árdofaí an t-uasmhéid seo go dtí £15,000,000. Má ghlacann an tOireachtas leis an mBille seo, leanfar leis an gcóras faoina gcuirfear an ciste airgeadais do Bhord Scannán na hÉireann os comhair na Dála gach bliain faoi Vóta 42 de na Meastacháin don Roinn Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta.

Is ábhar mór sásaimh domsa, a Cheann Chomhairle, go bhfuil géarghá le reachtáil an Bhille seo anois toisc go bhfuil mé, la lán-tacaíocht ón Rialtas, tar éis polasaí cuimsitheach a chur i bhfeidhm i leith tionscal scannáin agus éist-fís na tíre seo cheana féin. Go dtí seo, tá trí pholasaí fé leith curtha i bhfeidhm agam, agus is iad sin ná: ath-bhunú Bhord Scannán na hÉireann, agus Meastachán Forlíontach a fháil don Bhord i rith na bliana seo a chuir £1,145,000 ar fáil dóibh i 1993; reachtáil an Achta um Údarás Craolacháin (Leasú), 1993, i Mí an Mheithimh seo caite; agus reachtáil an Achta Airgeadais, 1993, a chuir trí leasuithe tábhachtacha i bhfeidhm i gcorás cánach na tíre seo i leith an tionscail. Mar is eol do Theachtaí Dála cheana féin, tá mé ag plé fé láthair le céim pholasaí eile — bunú corás nua Theilefís na Gaeilge — agus tá mé sásta go mbeidh gach gné de héileamh [2064] an tionscail seo freagraithe agam nuair a chuirfidh mé an corás nua sin ar bun.

It gives me particular pleasure to open this debate on Second Stage of the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill 1993. The debate will afford Deputies the opportunity to outline their views on the measures which I, with the full support of the Government, have taken to promote the Irish film and audiovisual production industry in the short time since I was appointed Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. I look forward to hearing the views of the House on the future priorities and needs of the industry. I would like to say from the outset that, in so far as future policy orientations for the Irish film and audiovisual production industry are concerned, I would welcome and I am prepared to seriously consider any constructive suggestions which might emanate from this debate.

The purpose of the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill, 1993, is to increase the limit of the total amount of funds which can be expended, by way of investments, loans, grants or other liabilities, by Bord Scannán an hÉireann—the Irish Film Board — under section 10 of the Irish Film Board Act, 1980, from the present limit of £4.1 million to £15 million. In raising this limit on the amount of funds which the board can spend, the provisions of section 5 of the 1980 Act still remain in force. Section 5 provides that “the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may from time to time make, out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, grants to the board to enable it to perform its functions and to meet its administrative and general expenses”. If Oireachtas approval is given to this Bill, the effect of raising the limit of the amount to be spent by the board to £15 million will be that, through the annual Estimates process, Dáil Éireann can vote moneys to the board annually through the Vote for An Roinn Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta up to this new limit. Therefore, I must emphasise to Deputies that the Bill is essentially enabling legislation which does not automatically give rise to Exchequr costs. However, the position is that the £4.1 [2065] million limit under section 10 of the 1980 Act has now been exhausted and it will not be possible for the House to vote funds for the Irish Film Board in 1994 or subsequent years unless this limit is increased as envisaged in the Bill.

In recommending the Bill to Deputies, I believe it would be worthwhile to place the measure in the context of the history of the rather fragmented efforts which successive Governments have taken to promote a film and audiovisual industry in this country. The history of film making in Ireland has been one of many brave beginnings, some dispiriting episodes and, above all, ongoing debate about whether film is a commercial enterprise on the one hand or a cultural activity on the other.

Many attempts have been made to create an Irish film industry, which began with the first indigenous Irish films — Denis Johnston's Guest of the Nation, from the Frank O'Connor story, made in 1935, and Tom Cooper's The Dawn, which was made in Kerry the following year. There were interventions by American film companies making films on Irish subjects; there was the establishment of Irish cinema newsreels and support by Government for documentary films. In this connection I should record my personal admiration of the efforts of Gael Linn in this process — it produced a weekly newsreel in Irish for many years as well as the highly acclaimed films “Mise Éire” agus “Saoirse”. There was also a growing consciousness that our rich theatre and story telling tradition, our narrative ability, and our acting talent would provide the basic resources to attract international production companies here — with a concomitant financial return to the Irish economy — and, very importantly, the opportunity to build up a pool of skills and expertise in Ireland to form a future core of native film workers, writers, actors, directors and producers, all the skills involved in the production of films.

These were some of the concerns that led to the founding in 1958 of Ardmore Studios, a private enterprise that had the backing of the State-owned Industrial [2066] Credit Company Limited. Two years later, in 1960, the Irish Film Finance Corporation — a subsidiary of the Industrial Credit Company — began to offer loans to foreign producers using Ardmore. However, it quickly became evident that visiting production companies were importing most of their own expertise and that the networks for the distribution of film were owned and operated by American studios, thus diminishing the opportunity for Irish film makers to reach markets and audiences. Within a period of two years, the Irish Film Finance Corporation had ceased to operate.

The establishment of Telefís Éireann on New Year's Eve 1961 began a process of film and television broadcasting that reinforced interest from Irish viewers, and decisively engaged in the training of technical and production sectors. While the vast majority of drama and documentary work was handled by RTE's own staff, the late 1960s saw the first green shoots of independent film work coming from a variety of Irish sources, both documentary and fiction, together with growing activity in the making of advertisements and commercials. At the same time it must be said that the arrival of television in Ireland, in line with experience elsewhere, led to a decline in cinemagoing. Indeed, the decline in cinema attendance worldwide led to a serious decline in the quality of film, which I am glad to say has been redressed in recent years.

To return to the long history of events leading to the enactment of the Film Board Act, 1980, an invitation by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, to the film director John Huston to chair a commission on the Irish film industry led to the Huston report in 1968, one of the most important documents in Irish film history. As a consequence of this report a Film Industry Bill was presented to the Oireachtas in 1970 by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce. Unhappily, the Bill lapsed due, in some part, to the trauma of political events around that time.

The next decade saw some, albeit modest, developments. The enactment [2067] of the Arts Act, 1972, empowered An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the Arts Council, to promote low-budget film-making as well as some training, and also to provide support for film festivals and the work of the Irish Film Institute. The fortunes of Ardmore Studios waxed and waned. In 1978 the Government again intervened, this time commissioning a British-based firm, A.D. Little, to survey the scene and to propose a stategy. Following its report, and wide-ranging representations from the film community, the Film Industry Bill was revised. The Bill informed the basis of the Irish Film Board Act, 1980, and the board met for the first time on 24 August 1981. Six years later, on 25 June 1987, the then Taoiseach announced the winding down of the board and its replacement by a tax-based incentive for corporate investment in Irish film projects.

In retrospect — and I acknowledge that it is easy for us all to be wise after the event — perhaps expectations for the first Film Board were unrealistic. There had been talk of a revolving fund, reinvesting returns from commercially profitable films to top up the board's modest resources; and expectations that these returns would follow in a relatively short space of time — perhaps this calculation was unrealistic — and a perception of film which laid greater emphasis on its character within a manufacturing and business ethos than as cultural enterprise providing Irish employment and a return to the economy within an immense and complex industry.

I believe the work of the Film Board has been underestimated. I should like to pay tribute this evening to the range of work it undertook and to the successes it achieved. Apart from supporting screen plays and film and television projects, the board also ran notable training courses, especially for producers — which proved very valuable later on — helped in the establishment of a national film archive, provided a presence for Ireland at markets and festivals abroad, assisted Irish film festivals and events and formed co-production partnerships and [2068] vital contacts with the international film sector. The board was also involved in the early negotiations for Ireland's participation in the very successful MEDIA programme of the EC, now the European Union.

In the course of its life, the first board supported over 25 shorts and documentaries and enabled more than a dozen feature length films to reach cinema and television screens at home and around the world. It achieved an approximate 10 per cent return on its investment, raised the level of skills and employment, enabled new facility houses to contribute to the economy and gave a start to many careers — some of whom, like Neil Jordan, have now become international household names — as well as encouraging talent still in Ireland.

The demise of the first board was greeted with widespread dismay by the industry. In the period from 1987 it was only those with the power to secure international funding who found it possible to exploit the Irish tax incentives which replaced the Film Board. Although there were significant successes—such as “My Left Foot” — in this period, the scene for medium and low budget indigenous projects to achieve production was now bleak indeed. This period lasted until the opening of the new Irish Film Centre in September 1992, and the initiative of the Taoiseach in establishing the Special Working Group on the Film Production Industry, which promptly reported to him on Christmas Eve 1992. Subsequently the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-1997 committed the new Government to three specific measures — the preparation of a White Paper on the film industry; the creation of a new regulatory framework for broadcasting and the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge as a third channel with limited broadcasting hours. The Programme for Government also indicated that consideration would be given to the reintroduction of the Film Board and to increasing and extending tax incentives for the film industry.

Any objective assessment of the events [2069] in the relatively short period since my appointment as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will conclude that this Government has already gone well beyond its commitments in the Programme for Government. When one recalls that those commitments were in respect of the lifetime of this Government, rather than simply its first year of operation, the significance of the measures which I have taken to promote the industry is all the more apparent.

Taking the Programme for Government and the report of the Special Working Group on the Film Production Industry as my starting reference documents, Deputies will by now be aware that I have taken the following measures to promote the Irish film and audiovisual industry. First, I moved promptly to re-establish the Irish Film Board last April, thus avoiding what I believe would have been a time-consuming exercise in preparing a White Paper for the industry. A Supplementary Estimate to enable the board to function was passed by this House last July, this enabled me to provide £200,000 for the administrative costs of the board in 1993 and £945,000 for capital expenditure, thus exhausting the limit of £4.1 million under section 10 of the 1980 Act and creating the need for the Bill now before the House.

Second, I promoted the enactment last June of the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1993, which obliges Radio Telefís Éireann to make specific amounts available for programmes commissioned from the independent television production sector every year. The amount to be set aside for this purpose will be £5 million in 1994, rising in stages to £10 million in 1998 and 20 per cent of television expenditure in 1999 and thereafter, or £12.5 million, whichever is the greater. The amount of £12.5 million will be adjusted annually in line with changes in the consumer price index.

Third, following strong representations which I made to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, the Finance Act, 1993 included three major tax concessions for the industry. These included the raising of the limit for section 35 relief [2070] from £200,000 to £350,000 per annum or from a total of £600,000 to £1,050,000 over a three year period; the extension of section 35 relief to individuals who will now be able to invest up to £25,000 in a section 35 film investment each year; and the waiving of the 75 per cent Irish production test for qualifying films under section 35, provided the film in question is a co-production with other countries and at least 10 per cent of the production work is carried out in the State.

The fourth and final measure which I am now about to embark upon is the establishment of the new Teilifís na Gaeilge service as a separate channel. Deputies opposite will agree that the establishment of this service represents the most important initiative by a Government in relation to our national language since the establishment of Raidió na Gaeltachta some 21 years ago.

Léiríonn an céim tábhachtach nua seo go bhfuil mé fhéin agus an Rialtas dáirire ó thaobh ár dteanga dúchais a chaomhnú agus a neartú don todhchaí. Le cabhair ó Theilifís na Gaeilge, beidh ar chumas tuismitheoirí a thaispeáint dá bpáistí gur rud beo, bríomhar, nua-aoiseach í an Ghaeilge, agus gur cuid dá saol laethúil í freisin. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil tionchar thar a bheith tábhachtach ag meán na teilifíse ar ár saol agus ar ár n-iompar, agus le bunú Theilifís na Gaeilge beidh deis againn anois leas a bhaint as an méan an-chumhachtach seo chun ár gcultúr agus ár n-oidhreacht féin a shaibhriú, agus lámh a bheith againn in ár gcinniúint féin mar phobal.

The new Teilifís na Gaeilge service will also have an important impact on the development of the Irish audiovisual industry. The intention is that programmes will be commissioned from the independent sector, with Radio Telefís Éireann contributing approximately an hour of programming per day. It is estimated that the new service will create 230 jobs directly — 200 of these in the independent sector. The new television service, together with the measures arising from the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1993, will mean that our independent production sector will [2071] now experience significant new opportunities for development and expansion. They will have two important platforms for launching their products. This, I believe, is as it should be, because this sector has already proved itself to be capable of producing a range of high quality programming. The sector has a strong export orientation and, to realise its full potential of creating significant employment and value added to the economy, it requires a guaranteed domestic base. I am now ensuring such a guaranteed base by the broadcasting measures already enacted and by the new Teilifís na Gaeilge service. These measures should unleash the great reservoir of talent which exists in the independent production sector — talent which has been demonstrated already by a series of Irish films and films made in Ireland in recent years which have received wide popular acclaim, both nationally and internationally. The unique feature of talent is, of course, that it cannot be measured in terms of population size or geography, nor is its potential dependent on market share. Talent provides the potential for wealth creation and jobs if it is developed properly and sensitively. All the measures have now been put in place by this Government to develop Ireland's considerable talent to the full in the years ahead.

I would also like to advise Deputies that I have taken steps to ensure that the considerable investment which the State is now putting into the Irish film and audiovisual industry — directly by way of seed funding, and indirectly by way of tax concessions and programme commissioning in the Irish and English languages — will be complemented by the activities of the semi-State sector. It is enormously important that all remaining obstacles to the full flowering of this industry be tackled over time. Among those remaining obstacles I cite the absence of a film commission to facilitate offshore and indigenous production companies by the semi-State sector; the need for new training strategies to ensure [2072] that the uptake of activity in the industry will be matched by the coming on stream of new skilled practitioners; the whole question of distribution of Irish films for Irish audiences, including metropolitan/ regional imbalances, the promotion of Irish films abroad and the question of the Irish language and film.

It is an earnest of my determination not to be complacent about the future requirements of the industry, not-withstanding the significant measures already taken by me, that I have secured nominations from the relevant Ministers of senior officials of the semi-State sector who will participate in a new committee established by the Irish Film Board under section 16 of the Irish Film Board Act, 1980. This committee will address the issues I have just listed, as well as others, over time. The committee is being chaired by the Irish Film Board and comprises senior representatives of Radio Telefís Éireann, Údarás na Gaeltachta, An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the Industrial Development Authority, FÁS, An Bord Tráchtála and Bórd Fáilte. My Department is also represented on the committee. I am confident that this committee will ensure that the concerted efforts by the semi-State sector will remove any remaining obstacles to the development of the industry. However, in the event that wider issues may arise which cannot be addressed by this committee, I intend to take such matters up directly with the relevant Ministers.

The success of the Irish Film Board will be measured by employment and value-added to the Irish economy which can be achieved over time by virtue of its existence. A report by Messrs. Coopers and Lybrand last year indicated that, for every £1 million spent on feature film or television programming, the equivalent of some 48-50 full-time jobs are created for one year. The significance of Film Board activities is that, by providing seed funding of around 10 per cent of the cost of a project, it has a significant multiplier effect on activity in the sector. Thus, if the Film Board was to spend, say, £2 million on production finance for films with a large commercial potential in a [2073] given year, this could generate up to £20 million of production activity and the equivalent of some 1,000 full-time jobs for one year would be created. When one considers that, in some cases, as much as 80 per cent of the budgets for feature film and television film and drama is sourced from abroad by way of pre-sales and distribution deals, the foreign investment which this level of activity would generate represents a most important level of value-added to the economy.

However, while what I quoted is helpful as an indication of the impact of my measures on the film and audiovisual sector, it is important that my Department and, indeed, the Irish taxpayer should have access to some effective monitoring. I might add that a monitoring system is being established to gauge the real impact of these measures over time. Therefore, I am pleased to inform the House that the industry, through the Audiovisual Production Federation of IBEC, has already adopted a very responsible position in this regard. In full consultation with my Department and with the Irish Film Board, the federation has devised a draft economic data base form which it is intended will be completed by all practitioners in receipt of State support for their projects, whether in the form of direct Film Board assistance, section 35 finance, or programme commissioning from either Radio Telefís Éireann or Teilifís na Gaeilge. Procedures will also have to be put in place to ensure that there will be no duplication of information contained in the data base in respect of projects which would be in receipt of more than one source of assistance, for example, from the Irish Film Board and from section 35 allowances.

I wish to warmly congratulate the Irish film and audiovisual industry, through the Irish Film Board and the Audiovisual Production Federation, on their foresight in proceeding with the establishment of this economic data base. Indeed, the measure could be construed as a form of monitoring by the industry. This is a very true indicator of the commitment now existing within the film community. I am [2074] pleased that the federation will provide the resources for the ongoing running of the data base. In this connection I should mention to Deputies that, when I launched the report of the Special Working Group on the Film Production Industry last July in the company of a wide cross section of industry representatives, I made it clear that, while I am of course anxious that the measures I have taken will benefit those industry practitioners who have operated under very difficult conditions for many years — I was anxious to remove the atmosphere of gloom that had descended on the film community — I am equally anxious that the measures will also benefit the many talented and committed women and men who are graduating from our dedicated educational institutions each year. I stated then that these measures must serve to bring along a new generation of film and television practitioners who will produce projects of quality and of interest to the cinema-going and television-viewing public both at home and abroad.

I further pointed out to the industry representatives on that occasion that I believe that the main obstacles which hindered the growth of the film and audio-visual industry here have now been removed. I stated that it was now the responsibility of the industry to respond to these favourable conditions and, indeed, to deliver on the promises — in terms of job creation and value-added to the economy — which they had made in their submission to the special working group. The industry decision to establish this new economic data base is an indication of how seriously they have taken my remarks on that occasion and, much more important, of how serious they intend to address the issue of delivering on the promises they made. For my part, I am confident that these measures will bring the anticipated results. I welcome the responsible stance of the industry in endeavouring, from the outset, to establish objective machinery to gauge the impact of these and other measures over time.

I would like to refer to the current Irish [2075] Film Board under its very able chairperson, Lelia Doolan. I wish to thank those who have agreed to serve on the board at this important time in the history of the film industry. I should also like to explain why the Bill is confined to just one measure.

I am pleased to inform the House that, since its re-establishment last April, the new board has decided to concentrate its activities on the provision of development loans and production loans in the form of investment in production. The board does not propose at this stage, therefore, to avail of its powers under the 1980 Act to provide grants or guarantees.

The development loans which the board offers are up to a maximum of £25,000 and will be repayable on the first day of principal photography. These will be essentially research and development/feasibility loans, and no interest rates will be charged on them. However, if the loan is not repaid on the first day of principal photography, it will be rolled up in the production budget and an interest rate of 10 per cent will be charged from that day. No charge will be taken by the board on copyright as this would inhibit the producer's options in gaining co-financiers and would therefore, defeat the purpose of the development loan function.

In the case of production loans, the criteria adopted by the board, with a keen awareness of accountability and transparency, relate to the artistic quality of the product; previous production track record; the Irish employment content at all grades and the expected spend in Ireland on ancillary services and facilities; distribution-sale deals, and the potential for equity recoupment. The form of assistance given is investment in the production and its sales for cinema, television, video and ancillary markets— cable, satellite, box office etc. — both in Ireland and worldwide. The investment will not entail an interest charge, but will be subject to rigorous measures for recoupment and subject to contract. The economic data base to which I referred, and which is designed to identify performance [2076] in employment and value-added, will be applied by the board in the monitoring of projects.

There are already encouraging signs that the Irish film community is gearing up to meet all of the new opportunities and challenges provided by the Film Board. The Film Board has reported an enthusiastic response to the first and second rounds of submissions which it invited since its establishment last April. In the first round last July, there were 67 applications for development loans and 26 for feature length fiction; there was, as it were, a pent up demand. Seventeen development and five production loans were approved. In the current round — lest one might think it was pent up demand alone — there were almost 100 applications for both fiction and documentary assistance. The board is now in the process of offering 13 development, eight production and five documentary development loans.

In terms of quality, Deputies will be particularly pleased to learn of the board's perception that this is exceptionally high. It is the board's intention to balance economic and cultural factors, mixing their selection between medium to high budget films aimed at commercial markets and larger popular audiences, with lower budget cultural work that may play successfully at festivals and art house cinemas, as well as on television.

In this connection, I look to the board to find a wise equilibrium between the cultural and commercial aspects of Irish cinema — to which I referred — and so create a fresh and vibrant synthesis in this long-standing discourse. It is a matter of national urgency that this talented and productive national asset should find outlets and audiences at home and abroad. The diversity of Irish culture and the dynamic of our multi-faceted debates demands no less. For, in the end, cultural pluralism, not cultural domination is our destiny.

I have informed the House that the last Film Board secured a return of some 10 per cent on its investments. The current board proposes to pursue outstanding repayments vigorously. To this end, I [2077] hope to see the establishment of a production collection agency in Ireland to police production loans rather than relying, as at present, on the British Film Trustee Company, a subsidiary of British Screen, which handles such agreements internationally.

I engaged in extensive consultation with a wide range of industry interests, as well as the relevant Government Departments, in addressing the question of the amendment of the 1980 Act. In the many responses which I received in the matter, I was heartened by the fact that the industry seems to accept that the 1980 Act is generally well drafted and still remains pertinent to the needs of the industry in the 1990s. As I already explained to Deputies, my overriding priority is to secure Oireachtas approval to raise the currently exhausted limit under section 10 of the 1980 Act, which will have the effect of enabling the House to vote funds to the Irish Film Board from 1994 onwards. In the time available, it was not open to me to sponsor any other amendments. However, I want to say to those who made submissions and to Members who may have further suggestions to make that I am committed to undertaking an interim assessment of the Irish Film Board's performance after its first two years of operation. I concluded it was wise to give it two years to operate and see what the experience was. This review will be in mid-1995. I assure the House that in the light of that assessment, the submissions I received from the industry and the thoughtful contributions of Deputies this evening, I will consider any amendments of the 1980 Act which are warranted at that stage.

A Cheann Comhairle, molaim an Bille seo don Dáil. I confidently recommend this Bill to the House.

Ms F. Fitzgerald: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. As the Minister said, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on this industry and plans for the future. I wish the Minister luck in his meetings with the Minister for Finance, given the budgetary implications in the Bill for Teilifís na Gaeilge.

[2078] Can the Minister give any indication of the amount which the Irish Film Board considers necessary in 1994 to satisfy the pace of investment it would like to make in relation to film? Clearly the £15 million is the top amount and, as the Minister said, this is enabling legislation. In relation to Teilifís na Gaeilge I press the Minister to publish the technical report on the station. In the interests of transparency that should be available while the decision is being discussed. Perhaps the Minister would be able to give some more detail to the House in relation to funding of Teilifís na Gaeilge. I would be particularly interested in whether any European funding is available for the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge.

Tonight the Minister took an historic approach to this discussions in relation to the film industry. I will do likewise to a degree. I compliment the Minister on the detail in his speech and on some of his initiatives, to which I will refer later. When we look at the current position of the film industry and speculate about the future possibilities for that industry it is important to do our thinking in the right context.

Film is arguably the most potent art form the world has known with its capacity to imprint images, crystallise attitudes, record history and, indeed, influence the way we see the world. The nature of the way we encounter film has changed dramatically during the past 20 years. Prior to television the cinema was a place to be visited frequently to enjoy newly issued movies. You might go back to see a film which had made a particular impact but for the most part it was a once off experience.

The arrival of television changed all that. It made the films of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s strangely current, so that we have grown used to seeing different decades of the same face appearing on our small screens over a period of a week, whether that face belongs to Paul Newman, Marlon Brando or whoever.

In addition to keeping film history current, television, allied to video sales and video rentals, means that films, once watched on a vast screen, can be taken [2079] home and viewed again and again. It is no accident that so many of the lines from films are quoted often enough to become common currency. Film is much more than an art form or an entertainment medium.

Historians would argue that there are essentially three kinds of power: financial, military and intellectual. During the dark ages, Ireland owned one of those forms of power. Intellectually, the Irish scholars had a lead over the rest of Europe. The manuscripts they carried across Europe were the conduits of the truths they sought to impart, and they themselves had a driven certainty that motivated their work and made their impact immeasurable.

The arrival of print changed the mindset of the world, and the intellectual powerbase broadened. Nonetheless, through our writers, we continued to have a substantial presence in the world of letters and, through our painters, a presence in the world of the visual arts.

It is very significant, however, that at the turn of the century, at a time when Ireland was reasserting her nationhood, the multifaceted talent in the country was finding expression in the theatre. The Abbey Theatre pulled together the poets and the dreamers, the writers and the actors, the artists and the artisans in a unique way.

The Abbey allowed poets to explore a quite different medium from the white page in front of them. It was a profoundly pluralist force. I fully agree with the Minister's comments about the aim being to have a pluralist culture.

Long before the world became a global village the Abbey allowed people from all parts of Dublin to sit in a darkened auditorium and share the agony of a woman whose children, one by one, had been lost at sea as they tried to eke a living as fishermen off the western seaboard. At a time when most of Dublin could convince itself that prostitution was something that happened in other countries, the Abbey was the place where a young O'Casey character told Dublin a different and true story.

[2080] Also, just before the arrival of the mass media, the Abbey was the place where Augusta Gregory, fascinated by the myths and legends of the west of Ireland recorded them in small dramas.

The reason I mentioned this is that the Abbey Theatre, in its early days, presented a model which should not be overlooked when we examine the potential of the film industry in Ireland. It shows us what can happen when the creative tensions of various writers like Yeats, Synge and O'Casey are brought together. The individual talents become surer and more individual. The tensions are productive. The early days of the Abbey also gave our actors a very special outlet. It was much more than employment. It was a context within which an understanding of theatre and a specifically Irish style developed. The Irish style of acting was sure-footed, understated and well illustrated by Barry Fitzgerald.

The point I want to make about the early days of the Abbey Theatre as a model for today's film industry is that the Abbey became internationally influential because it was rooted in the regional realities of Irish life. It never copied theatrical conventions from other countries; it was constantly seeking to break through to a simplicity and a reality which was wholly Irish. Not only was it rooted in Irish realities, it was rooted in the complexity of those realities. Above all, it knew what it wanted to achieve long before it had the money to achieve it. The great benefactor of the Abbey, Miss Horniman, whose inheritance from her family tea business did so much to sustain Irish theatre at a vulnerable point in its development, was not a significant directional influence.

When we look at the film industry at present what we see is a context which parallels, on a different scale, the context out of which the early Abbey Theatre grew. If the Ireland of the early days of this century was an Ireland eager to assert itself at home and shake off a memory of repression, I believe the Ireland at the latter days of this century is an Ireland eager to assert itself at home and abroad, confident of its own ideas and increasingly [2081] unthreatened by the exploration of its changing values.

Against that contextual background we can place many of the same assets which were at the disposal of the Abbey — actors, writers, designers and directors. If we do it right, in ten years' time Ireland should be regarded as a source of entertaining, thought-provoking high quality films and as a location uniquely attractive to overseas film makers.

The Bill is a vital building block in all of this. We in Fine Gael welcome the Bill and the increase in funding provided. We welcome very much the reintroduction of the Irish Film Board and I wish its chair and members success in their work in the years ahead. I see it as a very positive indicator about the future of the indigenous film industry.

The Irish Film Board's essential task is to support and develop indigenous production. This is an apparently narrow task, but it is as narrow or as broad as the task that faced the Abbey Theatre. When we talk about an indigenous film industry it is possible I suppose, to associate the phrase, pejoratively with what is small, with what is local, with what is inconsequential. But, obviously, that is a totally false association. Great art is always local. Great films, like great novels, take what is local, what is small and specific to a neighbourhood and a period in time, and make that understandable to a wider world and a wider audience. I think that is what happened with the film “My Left Foot”. What could be smaller in scale than the story of a young man experiencing handicap and living in a home hampered by poverty? And yet Christy Browne emerged triumphantly accessible to filmgoers who had never set foot in Ireland or in Dublin. “My Left Foot” made a massive impression, not in spite of the unique and local background but because of it.

We must hope therefore that the Irish Film Board, in supporting and developing indigenous production, helps to develop confidence among Irish film makers in the themes, the language — I think that is very important — and the images which are distinctively Irish.

[2082] I suppose when we talk about supporting and developing it, that may not sound very dynamic. But, dynamism is what is called for at this stage of the industry's story. Many would say that at this stage, in terms of the potential of the industry, we are really only at about 5 per cent of what is achieveable. We have had success, but as the Minister has said it has been sporadic. What we need, of course, is the more broadly based confidence and competence that we are seeing in Irish literature at the moment, with the wide range of Irish writers gaining international success. Thankfully, this time they do not have to leave the country. In the past we censored them and exiled the best we produced, but hopefully they can now produce work at home and yet enjoy international success.

We need to achieve the same kind of break through in the area of film. We must encourage major film making here. I think we have to start to encourage it as early as possible. That can best be done by reaching young people so that their understanding of film is not passive and spongelike but active and participatory. I feel very strongly that an awareness of film culture in primary and secondary schools is a prerequisite to developing what might be called an enterprise culture in film. It is very important in the current climate that good quality films are made accessible to all, especially children. Children need education in film appreciation in order to learn how to judge quality films. I believe it is critical that media studies should be developed and encouraged during the junior cycle in school. I know that the Minister was disappointed with the approach to arts and culture in the Green Paper on Education. I know the Minister has had discussions with the Minister for Education and I hope they have been fruitful; in fact, I would like to hear if they have been fruitful. I hope that this point I am making on media studies will be taken up. I think it is important also that Irish children see Irish films which represent their culture and their way of life. If we can create the sort of enterprise culture that is needed, and to which the Minister [2083] referred, we can create jobs in filming, and not just seasonal jobs or jobs depending on the visitations of foreign directors. Such visits have become legends — for example, the wonderfully long contracts so many actors and film makers got during the making of “Ryan's Daughter”. We also need an enterprise culture that empowers people to embrace the freelance nature of film making and to make the very best of what the business offers. I am not talking here about developing flexibility among individual film makers but about developing collective corporate flexibility in the State agencies. I note the Minister has established a committee to look at this further. I think the State agencies have not always been good at coping with and facilitating the type of employment practices one may need in the film making industry.

Another area that needs greater emphasis is the question of film education and training. This brings me to one of the worries I have about the plan. I accept the Minister's point that he is not doing an overview of the whole film sector but looking at the particular area of funding. But I wonder if we have the overall planning that we need to develop a policy at national level for film. The Minister referred to the question of film commissions. Do we need regional film commissions, for example, to encourage local participation and to develop skills based on emerging technologies? I think we need to see the expansion of post-production facilities such as editing, dubbing and sound track recording, much of which now goes to the UK. There is no earthly reason that Ireland should not become the post production focus of Europe, if there was a vision and an overall strategy. Do we have a national plan for production development and film culture? I think the Minister will have to develop that national plan. What is needed in this particular area of the arts is a clear directional plan which takes account of the huge potential this area offers for enrichment in culture and in employment. Film archives should be developed and seen as an important part [2084] of our cultural heritage; obviously, both historical and contemporary films should be conserved. I would be interested to hear the Minister's views on how he sees this developing. I think it is important to develop this area further.

The success of the Irish Film Centre, which recently celebrated its first birthday, and the Irish Film Institute is indicative of the public's appetite for the type of films which are being shown there. An organisation like the Irish Film Institute, which gets 9.2 per cent of its funding from the Arts Council — quite low when you compare it with what other national institutions get — could do a lot more work in this area and in the area of education and regional linkages.

I welcome also the success of film festivals around the country which are yet another indicator of the wide accessibility of this art form. There is no doubt that film is moving from the margins to the centre of Irish culture, as the Minister remarked in his speech. The initiatives under section 35 have been very helpful and I think the industry will use them well. Many aspects come together in order to create that lively centre, and obviously the energy between different organisations and activities will ensure that the industry develops and grows in the next few years. The Maastricht Treaty will ensure also that culture and cultural activities play a more central role in our lives and the European Union will do much to encourage this as well. This obviously makes it an exciting time for developments in this area. We can discuss further the role of RTE, for example, in showing Irish made films and having special events in relation to Irish film making. That has been underdeveloped to a degree and we need a wider debate on it.

The points I have mentioned augur well for the development of the industry in the immediate future. The report of the special working group on the film production industry mentions that the Community's audiovisual production will grow by 40 per cent overall, including a growth of 50 per cent in television broadcast volumes by the end of this decade.

[2085] The report projected that in the mid-nineties demand would be far in excess of the European industry's existing production capacity. I would like to think that the Irish film industry will be in a position to satisfy much of the demand.

Obviously the State has a role to play, particularly in the area of seed money for projects, but this must also be seen as an industry which is attractive to the private sector despite the risks. It is interesting that we are discussing this Bill at a time when the whole question of protecting European film and television is current in the GATT negotiations. Many of the European initiatives have originated in positive action within the European industry to help them deal with US competition which can make life very difficult for film makers in Europe.

Obviously, national initiatives are very important in developing the film industry not just because of the employment and income created but because of the absolute necessity for us to portray our culture in our own way through our film industry. It is not an easy time for the industry because of the international economic recession. It is to the credit of Irish film makers that we have had the sort of success we have had with films over the last number of years. It augurs well for the industry that we have had these successes at a difficult time.

I welcome the Minister's announcement about the economic database and in relation to monitoring. It is important to have those criteria in place. I also welcome the news from the Irish Film Board regarding the number of applications which have been made. They will be looking for money to support them and that may give rise to difficulty. I welcome the response they are getting at this stage from film makers. I hope that over the coming year we will see many of our young film makers getting opportunities to develop and exploit their talents through training, skills development and the sort of seed funding which they need for film making.

Miss Quill: As we are moving towards 10 p.m. if this debate was being held in a [2086] cinema it would be called the late showing. Like Deputy Fitzgerald I welcome this Bill.

Ag an tosach dúirt an tAire go raibh sé ag súil le díospóireacht shuimiúil ar an mBille seo. Tá ábhar díospóireachta sa Bhille go deimhin ach is beag ábhar conspóideach atá ann. Thug an tAire cur síos suimiúil ar bhunús an tionscail scannáin agus éist/fís sa tír seo ina óráid.

My contribution will be a more philosophic discourse than Deputy Fitzgerald's, and infinitely more prosaic. This Bill extends the budget of the newly constituted Irish Film Board. As such, it is to be welcomed and supported in the House. Over the years our film industry has earned a fine reputation at home and abroad and it has a capacity to grow, to generate jobs in a wide variety of disciplines, to enhance the image of Ireland abroad, to attract inward investment and energise whole communities. In that respect, I will briefly recall the sense of excitement in west Cork during the summer around the making of “The War of the Buttons”, particularly the excitement in classrooms in Cork city when auditions were being held for young actors to play a role in that film. Young people's imaginations were lit up by the film and that will have a lasting impact in the area long after the production unit has been dismantled. That film will have a positive impact in creating a critical audience for films in the year ahead.

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of film making and the film industry. It can be justifiably argued that the industry deserves a level of State investment. There is good economic justification for State investment. We need look no further than the Coopers & Lybrand report which was quoted in detail by the Minister. The report told us that for every £1 million spent on feature film or television programming the equivalent of some 48 to 50 full time jobs for one year is created. That is impressive. The report also says that every £2 million invested by the film board will generate the spending of another £18 million, and that too is impressive. The film board must go on to develop good policy priorities [2087] as to how this money is to be spent. Essentially this money must go in the first instance to promote good script writing and to fund production development. Good producers are the key to making things happen. It is crucially important that producers be given seed funding at an early stage of the development of the project. Timing is as important as the granting of the money. It is important that this seed money can then be used to generate further finance.

We must be honest in saying that Ireland will never be a major producer of full length feature movies but it has the capacity to generate a substantial number of good quality feature films. To enable it to do that, it will never be possible to provide 100 per cent indigenous investment on the scale required. For that reason I was particularly pleased with the finance measures introduced in the budget last year.

The Minister has outlined the three key measures, three major tax concessions for the industry which are crucially important. One was the raising of the limit for section 35 relief from £200,000 to £350,000 per annum, or from a total of £600,000 to £1,050,000 over a three-year period. That is fundamental and should act as an incentive for domestic and overseas investment in the private sector. It is a move which, in conjunction with the other three measures outlined by the Minister, is welcome. It is encouraging to note that the Minister successfully carried through the proposals made at budget time last year. Nevertheless, the impact of the measures should be monitored. The Minister should tell us if they are achieving the desired result and if we have the necessary money and incentives to generate further moneys; in other words, is the combination correct? I would welcome an occasional report from the Minister in that regard. It is important that the mix and formula is right because, given the level of financing from various sources, there is considerable potential in that area. We have the writing and acting skills and proven capacity at the level of [2088] directing films. We also have the technical resources, although not always in full measure, to originate first class feature films — our track record proves that. The Minister and Deputy Fitzgerald mentioned some of the great films made here in the past.

Primarily, film is an art form but it is a type of hybrid because it is also an industry and must be viewed from both angles. It is the most spectacular and potent art form on the 20th century. In its dayto-day operations the film board should concern itself primarily with the art of film making because that is the bedrock of the business. Good films must be marketed aggressively at home and abroad. Accordingly, the Minister should seek to put in place a special section within existing State marketing bodies, such as CTT and the overseas division of the IDA, with a specific commitment to marketing films abroad. Very often good film makers do not have the skills or expertise to market their films and require assistance from such State bodies. If the film industry is to be put on a par with other industries in terms of its importance to the Irish economy, should we not expect CTT and the overseas division of the IDA to pay due attention to the marketing of Irish films abroad? We should also seek to build into the film industry a marketing expertise so that there would be in-house skills within the industry to complement the efforts put into marketing by the State bodies to which I referred. Marketing and distribution are important factors in the promotion of the film industry.

Feature films should be marketed first in Ireland and then abroad. There are two principal markets, namely, commercial and art house, and the film board should direct its attention equally to the various requirements of those two markets. Access to international films in Ireland generally is poor at present. While the Irish film centre provides an excellent service it is almost impossible, except during film festival time, for audiences outside Dublin to have access to a wide range of world films and that concerns me. How will we cultivate a critical audience if film boards in the provinces [2089] are fed constantly on mass productions from the United States? If the young generation is fed consistently on a diet of junk food they are unlikely to adapt overnight to nouvelle cuisine. If Irish film goers in rural areas are fed a diet of American films they will not make good audiences for art films made at home.

The Minister outlined his achievements to date and I accept they are impressive. Nevertheless, he could introduce many other measures. For example, he should consider creating a mechanism that would establish a network of film exhibitions for the regions so that the quality and nature of films seen by Dublin film goers at the Irish Film Centre are more accessible in provincipal towns and villages.

The film board must also concern itself with short films such as fiction and documentaries, the medium by which young Irish film makers ply their trade and learn their craft. It is the cradle of the industry of tomorrow. The Minister attended the Cork Film Festival at which many exceptionally good short films by a number of Irish film makers were shown. Those films were intrinsically good in their own right and give me confidence that in time and with experience those young film makers will improve their short films and, perhaps, become part of the making of feature films. The short film is a very important art form in the same way as the short story. With people such as O'Connor and O'Faoláin we have seen the strong development of the short story in Irish literature. Some of the best short stories in modern European literature originated here and there is equal potential for the making of good short fiction films and documentaries.

I would like to see RTE and the Irish Film Board encouraging the making, exhibition and marketing of short films and documentaries. There is potential for the production by the independent sector of a series of documentaries for transmission on RTE and we referred to that some months ago in the context of the broadcasting Bill. There is great potential also for co-production between RTE and BBC Northern Ireland. I would like to see [2090] that area explored and exploited more fully.

We have a wealth of good script writers, but by their very nature writers tend to operate in isolation. We need to develop a mechanism that would create a culture of collaboration among writers to underpin the film industry and it would be easier to do that with the young generation. There is a pyramid of good writers here at the top of which are people such as Séamus Heaney and Eavan Boland, if I may draw an analogy with poetry in this context. There is a layer of good middle-aged poets — if I may use that phrase — and a further layer of young and promising poets——

Mr. E. Ryan: Like the Minister.

Miss Quill: It would be grossly unfair to put him in that category; I would put him alongside Heaney and Boland.

Mr. M. Higgins: Thank you, Deputy.

Miss Quill: In any event, the point I am trying to make is that it may be easier to promote this culture of collaboration among young writers given that a number of our very good writers wrote at a time when there was less emphasis on the potential of scriptwriting for films and fewer opportunities for scriptwriters to underpin the film industry. Therefore, the culture of collaboration is not as strong among some of our older writers. However, it should be easy to cultivate it now that there is potential, opportunities and a challenge. This is important because the good script and story is the key or cornerstone of the good film. It is important, therefore, that we should pay some attention to this matter also.

Deputy Fitzgerald referred to the GATT negotiations, now drawing to a close. This has been the great epic of our time. We do not know what the outcome will be or if the French film industry will be affected, but I very much hope that it will not be injured unduly when the final agreement is signed on Friday or Saturday. We are living in the age of the [2091] open market and — this is a paradox— of conflicting forces; in many ways we are breaking down barriers. It is important at the same time that we cultivate, as Deputy Fitzgerald said, “the local” because this is the key to a good story. The great stories of the world centre on a small incident, not in terms of its impact but of its geographical location.

My memory is not as good as it was but in one of his great poems Patrick Kavanagh wrote about the little field where the most important things in the world happen, where the most important emotions are unleashed and where the most important relationships are built up or dismantled. I very much hope that the French film industry will be allowed to retain the advantage it has on the world stage.

On the question of funding, the idea of imposing a small levy on a cinema seat was mooted in this country on a number of occasions, — it was abandoned in England — and it is worth considering. This would be a good idea and filmgoers and the film industry could sustain it. It could be used to create a fighting fund for the fledgling Irish film industry——

Proinsias De Rossa: Gay Byrne will be after the Deputy.

Miss Quill: I have no doubt that he will. I put it forward as an idea worthy of consideration. While there is a limit to what the State can provide directly — money is not flaithiúlach — there is much potential and an extraordinary amount of young talent. We must revise our ideas as to where jobs can be created. In Germany today there are more jobs available in the arts-media-film-entertainment-broadcasting industry than in the motor car manufacturing industry. This is an extraordinary development in a country such as Germany which is the home of the great Volkswagen. The same can happen here. We must look to the industry to provide a number of the jobs we so badly need; it has the capacity to do this but we have to provide funding. I think we can justify generating this funding by way of [2092] the seat levy. I do not know if the Minister will have the capacity to introduce such a levy under these extraordinary regulations that are being foisted upon us from all sources but, if so, it would be worth his while carrying out some market research to see if it would be feasible and to assess the spin-off effects.

I foresee a great future for the film industry and I commend the Minister for reconstituting the Irish Film Board, appointing as its head the dynamic Ms Lelia Doolan and introducing all the measures outlined in his speech this evening. Films such as “The Crying Game” and “My Left Foot”, to mention but two, have gained for this country an enviable reputation on the world stage at a time when other aspects of Irish life are doing little to enhance it abroad. I refer specifically to the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Films like “Into the West”, Pat Murphy's “Anne Devlin” and Cathal Black's “Pigs” are of the highest quality which could have made a stronger mark in the international art house market if they had been better marketed. I discussed this matter recently with someone who feels strongly that there is a need to market our films better abroad. We have learned many lessons during the past ten years. We now know what films are worth investing in and that it is necessary to market and distribute them if the industry is to thrive. It is well positioned to expand.

I commend the Minister for paying attention to these matters. I am glad that he has said the operations of the Irish Film Board will be addressed in 1995. This is important because if a more detailed assessment of the progress made by the Irish Film Board prior to 1987 had been carried out and if there had been a more open debate, it might not have been abolished. It is important to discuss at intervals what progress has been made. Film making has enormous potential. However, it can fail occasionally and we must acknowledge that and be prepared for it. It is in the nature of the business that not every film will succeed. We must not be disheartened if occasionally we [2093] have a failure. I have no doubt that any failure will attract a huge level of public comment. We should anticipate that and, if necessary, come in and discuss it logically in the House in the context of the ambitions for the film industry in the next five years. I think five years is a reasonable time, but I would be very appreciative if the Minister would come in, put his cards on the table and tell us how the industry is doing, what measures are succeeding and which need to be topped up and which scaled down. That would be a sensible, constructive and creative way to approach the whole business.

Ní dúirt mé faic mar gheall ar Raidió na Gaeltachta. Tá sé i bhfad ró-dhéanach san oíche agus ní féidir liom teacht ar an nGaeilge ná níl smaoineamh fágtha agam ach beidh cuid le rá agam ar atá ráite ag an Aire ám éigean eile amach anseo. Molaim an Bille seo agus is maith liom an méid atá déanta go dtí seo. Go raibh maith agat.

Proinsias De Rossa: On behalf of Democratic Left I want to welcome the Bill the Minister is introducing here tonight. It is a very welcome development which is long overdue. The reactivation of the film board will be remembered of this Minister and of this Government, because the abolition of that board in the first instance was as much a reflection of the attitude to film and to culture as it was of the balanced books and perhaps it was the attitude towards balancing books which dictated the attitude to culture as well.

I am one of that generation that spent their childhood in the cinema, as it is called nowadays — when I was a child we went to the pictures. The new younger generation are going back to the cinema. They are going back for a variety of reasons but particularly because now, more and more these days, it reflects what are perhaps universal values, messages and stories about human life.

When looking again at the pictures we [2094] saw as children, as we often do when looking at television, I realise how much World War II propaganda I imbibed at the time without realising it. They were at the time exciting adventure stories. It took the best part of 40 years to realise that what was produced, certainly from the American Industry, was very much propaganda in support of the war aims of the Allies of that time. I make that point because, clearly, cinema is not objective in terms of what it produces. Many factors go into making a film. The script that the scriptwriter produces is then given to a producer, who, it is hoped, will get the finance for the film. The finance, no doubt, will have an influence on the script as well and the director will have an influence on how that is subsequently defined and put on the screen. At the end of the day the way the film is cut will have an impact on what the message is. There are many different elements that go into making a film and many different attitudes and views. Perhaps the most powerful influence is exercised by the institutions or individuals who actually provide the finance because they can pull the plug or let the film live as they choose. It is important to bear that in mind when we talk about film and the way it can be developed in Ireland.

When I knew the question of the film board was to be debated this week, it struck me to wonder to what extent if any we would touch on the video industry. I have not had the time to do the research I would like to do on that area, but in the last number of weeks the papers have been full of stories of how it was claimed videos effected the actions of two ten year old boys in Britain who murdered an unfortunate little baby. It is an area that I am not in any sense an expert on and I do not pretend to be. However, if we are developing a film industry we must be conscious that the film industry will inevitably be a video industry and we must be aware that this, in its own way and in its own time, will create dilemmas for us about the kind of film industry [2095] we want, the kind of material that is produced and the kind of market that it is directed towards.

I do not know the answer to these questions. I simply put the marker down that we are essentially entering into an era where we must all be much more conscious of the effects of cinema and television, either benign or malign. I am not completely convinced that television or cinema have the power that people claim they have. I spent most of my youth in the cinema and I do not believe that I took away from the cinema views or attitudes about violence, death or crime and, in the nature of things, most of the films I saw were about war, bank robberies, etc. It is an issue that we need to be aware of. We need to incorporate this question of how one reads a film into our education system in some way. I do not know how the education system can do everything it is expected to do, but a lifeskills programme in our schools could touch on that area. It seems that it would be of value. A person sitting looking at a television or cinema screen will not have to have a PhD in cinema in order to be able to understand what the messages are and that the message, whether it be a bloody one or otherwise, is not simply that which flashes on the screen.

The reactivation of the Irish Film Board goes a long way towards repairing the damage caused by the axing of the original board in 1987. The Minister has also let it be known that the new film board should be seen in the context of the overall strategy for the audio-visual industry, which includes the lifting of the advertising cap on RTE, the establishment of a fund for independent film makers in the station's budget and the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge, all of which I support and welcome. The reactivation of the film board has been widely welcomed and has added to the mood of optimism in the film industry created by the success of films such as “My Left Foot”, “The Commitments”, [2096] “The Crying Game” and indeed, “The Snapper”. It is significant that all of those pictures avoided, and deliberately avoided, seeking to portray the stereotypical Irishman or women or situation. Their success on that basis alone has importance for the development of an Irish film industry. The basis for future success exists. The talent is here in terms of writing, directing, acting and in regard to the other aspects that constitute the film making process. However, there has been a reluctance on the part of the investors to play their part in the success story of the Irish film industry. While “The Crying Game” yielded profits of £55 million, the director Neil Jordan could not raise the £800,000 necessary to make the film here and it was mostly made in England, thus depriving Ireland of both jobs and profits. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. It will not be resolved simply by the amendment to section 35 of the Finance Act, 1987, welcome as that is. As a result of this amendment investors can now claim tax allowances of up to £400,000 on a maximum investment of £1.05 million.

Banks do not understand the business and are generally wary of what they regard as a notoriously risky sector. In the words of one banker: “it is regarded as fairly exotic, particularly by lenders”. This wariness may be overcome if full advantage is taken of the facilities offered by the film financing body Euro Media Garanties (EMG) which operates within the framework of the EC Media 95 Programme and Eureke Audiovisual. EMG offers to guarantee loans advanced to EC producers for film and television co-productions involving partners from two other member countries of the Council of Europe. EMG will underwrite 70 per cent of a bank's investment in a film project. That should help the banks to overcome their fear of the exotic and commit some of their substantial profits to realising the great potential of the Irish film industry.

Cash is needed for more than actors, [2097] sets and straightforward filming. Pre-production costs for a medium budget Irish film can be up to £100,000. Given the advances made in establishing new sources of development finance and distribution and marketing initiatives, there is a case for the film board to operate solely as a development and production fund which promotes and generates employment within the film industry in Ireland. With this in mind Irish projects should be looked on more favourably than co-productions that emphasise non-Irish talent. Projects involving Irish scriptwriters, producers, directors, lighting-camera people, art directors, costume designers and editors should be strongly supported by the board.

In relation to training and skills development, the film board should grant aid the production of short films, which provide invaluable hands on experience at all levels and should liaise with producers and the unions to establish a structured goal orientated trainee apprenticeship system on all film board funded projects. Bureaucracy should be kept to a minimum and the film board's annual budget should be aimed at genuine production rather than administration or organisation.

I referred to the values inherent in film making. There is no film made that does not convey a message, no matter how banal. While we have argued for a long time over money and the lack of available funds, as a result of the Minister's initiative we have to some degree moved forward from that argument. We must find the will to develop the industry. It should be aimed at supporting projects which have a cultural meaning and for which we can seek co-producers abroad. We should seek to generate Irish projects and seek foreign co-producers as opposed to engaging in projects similar to those already being generated abroad in which we would become co-producers.

No one will buy an Irish film simply because it is Irish. It must have a value in itself and sell itself to audiences. The [2098] stereotypical Irish film has sold in the past and will continue to sell for as long as ignorance about Ireland prevails. The Irish image on the commercial screen is still conditioned by the propaganda of the late 19th century. It could be changed by a clear-sighted policy towards making Irish films in Ireland. The world finds it difficult to take us seriously and that is partly our fault. To some extent we tend to play up to our stereotypical image. In Ireland in the second part of the 19th century the patriotic melodrama was invented for the popular audience. Those plays presented a mythical land of blarney and blather people by patriotic heroes of exclusively aristocratic descent, betrayed by villians and informers and mourned by impossibly innocent maidens.

By adopting that type of approach we will not build an Irish film industry that will have any possibility of being a vibrant one, vibrant in terms of the numbers employed in the industry and the improvement of our self image as a result of the image we present, warts and all. I am not talking about producing films which present Ireland or the Irish as pure as the driven snow, but an industry which presents us as we are. We must decide to accept ourselves as serious drama producers in the real sense and to avoid endorsing the Irish stereotype in deference to what we are told the world wants. It is not enough to want high quality films, because a great deal of high quality trash is produced. We can see it every day on our television screens. There must also be high quality content. I am talking about content and not about presenting glowing pictures. We need to be conscious of scriptwriters as they form the basis of a good, strong film industry.

We should also consider the European market as an area on which we should concentrate. The stereotypical Irish film will sell in the United States, although the success of “My Left Foot” and other Irish films in America gives one hope that that image may be to some extent [2099] changing. The possibility of building a strong industry purely on the American market is likely to fail. If we aim to build our reputation on good quality films for the European market, the Americans will inevitably accept them, as they usually follow the example of the Europeans.

I want to make a few points in relation to GATT to which reference was made earlier. One of the reasons the GATT negotiations have been held, particularly by the United States, is as a result of its film lobby, who claim that the European Union is unfairly subsidising its audio-visual industry. The idea that US films are being undermined by European subsidies is simply laughable. The US film industry is probably one of the most successful film industries in the world. The American share of the European cinema market is now estimated at 75 per cent compared with 60 per cent eight years ago. Last year US audio-visual exports to Europe were worth a staggering $3.7 billion whereas audio-visual exports from Europe to the United States were worth only $288 million. It can be argued that, because efforts have been concentrated on artistic themes which do not have a mass audience appeal, European subsidies have probably facilitated inroads into Europe of American films for mass audiences.

In these circumstances there is a very strong case for mounting a challenge to America's divine right to make world-scale movies before that country gets a total monopoly simly by default. The draft European Union White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment has specifically mentioned the audio-visual industry as a potential for huge growth. It will take more than a few subsidies to develop a European film Industry capable of taking on the United States. What is needed is a coherent strategy and a new approach to film finance. It is time to construct a second force in the film industry and, depending on the policies pursued, the willingness of investors [2100] and so on, Ireland could play a significant role in such a development.

My final point relates to Ardmore Studios. The Minister said he intends to set up a film school, and that is welcome. Ardmore Studios is a ready-made location for such a school. I do not know whether the Minister has other ideas — I hope he does not — but Ardmore Studios is the only such film studio on this island which continues to operate as a studio. It had a chequered history but it is still functioning and has a store of local expertise in the making of films. With its facilities it is an ideal location for a film school.

Those are my ideas on this important area of Irish life. It is not just an economic issue or an issue of jobs; it is very much an issue of culture, of how we see ourselves and present ourselves to the world, warts and all.

Mr. Kavanagh: I congratulate the Minister on introducing this legislation. I warmly welcome the Bill in that it proposes to establish on a sound financial basis a film and audio-visual industry. The Minister has outlined the chequered history of the industry. I recall, as I am sure does the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the close association our constituency has had with this industry. I hope the film industry will be established on such a firm footing that it will not experience the difficulties experienced in the past.

The Minister may recall the establishment of Ardmore Studios many years ago by his former colleague in the Labour Party, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Just in Keating. I recall as a young TD attending the opening of that establishment about which there was much controversy. Some of the people who attended the opening believed that the Minister should have established an indigenous Irish-speaking film industry while others believed he should attract big productions from abroad. It was very difficult to get consensus on the matter and there was tension in that regard from [2101] the start. I do not believe the Minister will be faced with these problems today because since that time we have gained great experience in marrying the two types of production, in producing highly successful indigenous films and also attracting big productions from abroad.

Wicklow was the location for many very successful films, the earliest of which I can remember was “The List of Adrian Messenger” in which Frank Sinatra starred. Others included, “Shake Hands With The Devil”, “Zardos”, John Boorman's film — Mr. Boorman still resides in the constituency — “Purple Taxi” starring Fred Astaire and “The Blue Max” starring George Peppard, during filming of which an unfortunate accident occurred over Wicklow Harbour. All these films were made in and around County Wicklow. The film industry brought considerable employment to County Wicklow and other areas. With the decline in film production the county suffered a great loss. Many films were staged in Ardmore Studios which was owned by several concerns in the past including MTM. I hope the Minister will realise that there is a great amount of expertise in this area which could be used in the event of his proposals coming to fruition.

The Irish film and audio-visual industry has received a great boost from the Minister's persistence in ensuring that it formed part of the Programme for Government. After his appointment as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht he quickly set about establishing the industry and bringing his proposals to Government for acceptance. The Minister has approached this matter from the best possible base, ensuring that the proper financial arrangements are in place so as to attract money not only locally but also from abroad. If the proposals as outlined by the Minister come to fruition a great deal of foreign investment will be attracted to this country. It is important that there be a very strong film board and [2102] the Minister has succeeded in attracting people with expertise to the board.

As the Minister said, the Irish film and audiovisual industry has been established with four main objectives, namely, the re-establishment of the film board; RTE to make a financial contribution to independent television production; tax concessions to be given to attract funding for the industry and the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge. While these elements are important to the success of the industry, they have not met with universal approval from various quarters. As regards financial contributions from RTE, there seems to be a lobby in RTE who believe that nobody except RTE should spend its money. I would remind that lobby that RTE is financed by the taxpayer through the licence fee and advertising and it is not its money. The Government runs the country and I hope it still runs RTE in terms of its finance. RTE is very fortunate to have these two strands of finance. It obviously has a commitment to ensure that the film and audiovisual industries are assisted by what I would call this captive finance.

I am amazed that, having demanded a second television channel, some RTE employees seem to be opposed to the setting up of Teilifís na Gaeilge. I listened to Gay Byrne on his morning radio programme and he does not seem to be in favour of an Irish language television station. He even went so far as to conduct a telepoll in the expectation that there would be widespread opposition to Teilifís na Gaeilge. I think he was shocked to find that the general public is more in favour of an Irish language television station than he had thought. I do not agree with telepolls, which are confined to people who have telephones——

Mr. Nealon: They are outrageous.

Mr. Kavanagh: They exclude many of the people who vote for me who do not have telephones but who have opinions.

[2103] Such polls should never be regarded as giving a balanced view of any argument and I hope they will be discouraged——

Mr. Nealon: Their purpose is to make money for RTE or Telecom Éireann. They are outrageous and should be banned.

Mr. Kavanagh: That is an interruption which I welcome and with which I agree. I am not in favour of banning these polls but their results should be discredited. I think the radio programme which conducted this telepoll was surprised at the result.

There seems to be an idea that the moneys to be provided by the Minister for the wider audiovisual industry will be set against the expenditure on Teilifís na Gaeilge. There is a need for the Minister to explain to the public why we need an Irish language television station. Those of us living on the east coast and who are interested in Irish have had to watch the Welsh television stations which transmit two programmes in the Welsh language. This must be of great benefit to young people in Wales who are not very conversant with the Welsh language. An Irish language station would be of great benefit to those of us who have never had any great Irish language tradition in our areas and to students who have to sit examinations. The Minister has to promote the need for an Irish language television station. I hope he can persuade people that this station is not simply for people living in Gaeltacht areas but that it will be of benefit to everyone.

I wish to refer to the committee to be set up under section 16 of the Irish Film Board Act, 1980. The Minister set out the obstacles which remain in the way of full development of the film industry. He stated:

Among these remaining obstacles I would cite the absence of a film commission to facilitate offshore and indigenous production companies by [2104] the semi-State sector; the need for new training strategies to ensure that the uptake of activity in the industry will be matched by the coming on stream of new skilled practitioners; the whole question of distribution of Irish films for Irish audiences, including metropolitan-regional imbalances; the promotion of Irish films abroad; and the question of the Irish language and film.

Obviously it is necessary for a film commission or a committee to be established in conjunction with the board. The Minister said the committee would comprise senior representatives of Radio Telefís Éireann — I should say that I am not totally against this organisation which has done a wonderful job but which sometimes seems to be totally independent of the rest of us — Údarás na Gaeltachta, An Comhairle Ealaíon, the Industrial Development Authority, FÁS, An Bord Tráchtála and Bord Fáilte. I believe there is a place for local authority representation on that committee. I know the extent to which local authorities have gone to promote the arts and our heritage. When the Minister visited my constituency he saw the work being done by the local authority in the area of the arts, for example, the renaissance gallery set up in the county council offices where young artists can display their sculptures and painting. There are promotional activities in that gallery every week. It has also set up a new heritage centre and developed on old jail which will be of great advantage in showing off the history of this part of Wicklow.

It is also important that local authorities be represented on this committee for the very good reason that film makers will have to get the approval of local authorities to open or close roads or have areas made available for filming. A person who wants to make a film in New York can simply walk into a separate department which issues licences and ask for a licence to film on a particular street. I think I have made the case for local [2105] authority representation on the committee.

I wanted to contribute to the debate as I represent a constituency which has a long and honourable tradition in this industry. I hope this point will not be forgotten if, as suggested by Deputy De Rossa, consideration is being given in the future to the setting up a film school. Indeed, Wicklow is ideally suited as a location for the headquarters of the board — it is close to Dublin and has some of the most attractive scenery in the country. I wish the Minister well with the Bill, for which there is general welcome. I hope the Bill will be passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before the Christmas recess so that the work can proceed as quickly as possible.

Mr. Nealon: I will be as brief as possible so that Deputy Ryan who, like me, has been waiting a long time, will have an opportunity to contribute. We are all very grateful to the Minister for the detailed history he gave us of the Irish film industry and, in passing, a little history of his deeds as Minister with responsibility for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. I am sure this history will be very useful to researchers in years to come.

I welcome this Bill which will increase the limit of the amount which can be spent by the Irish Film Board from £4.1 million to £15 million. As the Minister explained, this is enabling legislation. Therefore, there is no obligation on him to say how much more money will be available. Arising out of this debate it will be generally perceived that the Irish Film Board will receive £15 million, thus leading to more kudos for the Minister. However, the Bill will do nothing of the sort. I should like the Minister in his reply to say whether any extra money and, if so, how much, has been promised at this stage by the Minister for Finance for the board. I should also like him to say if the projects run by the Irish Film Board receive any European funding.

[2106] Let us not be petty about this. I welcome the enabling legislation, it is quite a contrast to the action of the Fianna Fáil Government of 1987 which effectively scrapped Bord Scannán na hÉireann. That was a disaster for the Irish film industry but the Minister did not refer to it in his speech. He said that the Taoiseach announced the winding down of the board and its replacement by a tax based incentive for corporate investment in Irish film projects. That is a very timid way of describing a disaster and what, in another mood, the Minister opposite me might have described as cultural vandalism. I am delighted with the Minister's action which will be belated compensation for the previous action.

The last film board, on a very modest budget, between 1981 and 1987 was responsible for a dozen feature films, which is not remarkable until we consider that from the foundation of the State until 1981, as the Minister stated, only one major feature film was made, an amateur film of Tom Cooper's “The Dawn” in 1936. We do not want to disparage many of the films made here and I know the Minister appreciates their value. “The Quiet Man”, “Ryan's Daughter”, “The Blue Max” and “Excalibur” were all made in Ireland, they had the effect of making audiences all over the world aware of Ireland and its attractions and continue to attract tourists. On an Irish film the creative talents include writers, directors, cameramen, producers, art editors and art directors and this is what creates an understanding of Ireland and its culture.

During the period when it was in operation, Bord Scannán na hÉireann did a very good job, its first production was “Angel”, a Neil Jordan film. For a modest investment of £100,000 — the remainder of the money, £500,000 was put up by Channel 4 — we produced a vehicle for the talent of Neil Jordan, a Sligo man incidentally. Would his Oscar-winning talent have flourished worldwide if that investment had not been made?

[2107] Due tribute must be paid to Bord Scannán na hÉireann as it operated in the previous period and the Minister should always realise that the key aspect of this industry is the seed money. Without that investment screenplays cannot be written, budgets cannot be prepared and packages cannot be put together. Of course, development finance is also the most speculative of all finance. People will invest in films but not in the pre-filming work. This is the key area and we must always ensure it is the one on which the new Irish Film Board concentrates.

I was disappointed to hear the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, who never lacked courage, say that the expectations of the previous film board were unrealistic. Of course, it was ambitious, it tried to break new frontiers and push out the parameters a little but it should not be criticised for that. On a very modest expenditure, on which the Minister is now claiming he received a 10 per cent income as far as I understand, the board carried out tremendous work.

The Minister paid a great tribute to the new chairperson of the film board, Ms Lelia Doolan, a person with whom I worked and for whom I have the greatest admiration. She is an extremely dedicated person who will make a success of that position but I would also like to pay a tribute to Muiris Mac Conghail, the chairman of Bord Scannán na hÉireann, who carried out the work I outlined and who deserves great credit.

Development loans, modest as they are, must be repaid on the first day of shooting. What if the film, as very often happens, never gets to the shooting stage? That does not mean all the preliminary development work should not have been done or that it was not a wise invesment which should have been pursued. I would like the Minister to outline what will happen in that situation.

Will production loans be given on merit as determined by the film board taking the various risks into account or [2108] on collateral? What happens if a return cannot be made?

I see the Minister is providing for a production collection agency. I am aware of the present intricate system but the establishment of a production collection agency, which is really a debt collection agency, is going a little overboard. As far as the films are concerned, we do not want a sheriff in the industry, only the sheriff who appears in the films.

Mr. M. Higgins: It is replacing the British system with an Irish system. If the Deputy reads the script he will see that.

Mr. Nealon: It looks ominous but I am happy to accept the Minister's reassurance in that regard. I would be surprised if he took that action.

Mr. M. Higgins: It is in the script. The Deputy need not rely on my assurance.

Mr. Nealon: We have heard much in recent days about the dominance of the US in the audio-visual area and indeed Deputy De Rossa referred to this. Will the Minister elaborate the effect this might have on the measures he is taking in this Bill? I am glad that in regard to Teilifís na Gaeilge he will be commissioning approximately two thirds of its requirements to the independent production agencies in Dublin and the rest of the country, as well as in the Gaeltacht area, where I hope many of them will be based. I believe that will have a very beneficial effect.

In regard to the point raised by Deputy Kavanagh earlier, the Minister should examine the situation where Radio Telefís Éireann and, indeed, the newspapers, run competitions, without alerting the public, for “Match of the Day” or some other major area in which they have an interest with the main objective of raising money for themselves and for Telecom Éireann. They should be obliged to divulge the amount of money they make [2109] out of these activities on the backs of innocent punters.

Finally, I wish the Minister well, I believe the film industry is an extremely resilient one although it has faced an enormous number of setbacks. The people involved are dedicated and enthusiastic and are often foolishly more interested in the end product than in the lifestyle it can offer. I know the Minister and Ms Lelia Doolan will seek to preside over the development of a distinct Irish film industry that reflects Irish culture and our way of life. We have unique qualities of storytelling and writing that will enable us to have that and I sincerely hope this is not yet another false take.

Mr. E. Ryan: I also welcome this Bill and congratulate the Minister on his various initiatives in regard to developing the audo-visual industry. I also congratulate the Taoiseach on setting up a working party to report back on how to develop that industry, many of the initiatives the Minister has taken come from that report.

All the major proposals contained in that report have been tackled. For example, the provisions of section 35 of the Finance Act, 1989, have been improved significantly and are functioning well. RTE's recent appointment of Clare Duignan as commissioning editor for independent programming has been widely welcomed. Continued commitment to international initiatives — such as those of the Council of Europe, Eurimages, Co-production Fund, the EC's media programme — are all very welcome, as is the intention to improve our international commitments through co-operation by way of co-production treaties with other countries.

The Minister's main achievement has been the reinstatement of the Irish Film Board. I should like to welcome the appointment of Lelia Doolan as its chairperson, a very imaginative appointment. I have no doubt but that she will do an excellent job in the coming years. Within [2110] a very short period the board has been established and is actively supporting the development of projects and the making of films. One film — Joe Comerford's “High Boot Benny” — has been released with the board's participation being acknowledged in the credits. Hopefully, many others are either in production or on the way.

The Minister consulted the industry widely regarding changes in the 1980 Act. However, there are two elements of that Act which have not been changed and which I consider warrant some comment. First, section 8 gives the board specific responsibility in the matter of training. A committee of State agencies, who might have a useful role to play in respect of film and television, has recently been established on the Minister's initiative which includes FÁS among its members. That committee may play a useful role in initiating essential research into the training requirements of the film industry but the Irish Film Board does not have the necessary resources to tackle the problem of fundamental training. The Minister is aware of this and, hopefully, will take some action in that regard because such training within the film industry is vital and has been neglected over the years.

Section 4 of that Act refers to a National Film Archive. It should be pointed out that 23 April 1996 will be the centenary of the arrival of cinema in Ireland. The Minister and the Government should have put in place all the necessary infrastructure for the film industry and film culture by that date. A key element of this is the preservation of our film heritage in an appropriate institution. Ireland's history as an independent country is recorded on film but, as a society, we have treated this heritage extraordinarily badly. As a former member of the Irish Film Institute I know the extraordinary amount of film that exists. Unfortunately, much of it is not in Ireland. Full credit must be given to the Irish Film Institute for retrieving so much film from abroad, much of which is of great interest and should be preserved. However, a great deal of film has been [2111] lost irretrievably. Since the enactment of the Irish Film Board Act, 1980, the Irish Film Institute, of which I was a member, established such an archive in a new Irish Film Centre located in Temple Bar which is considerably underfunded. As the Irish Film Board has statutory responsibility in this area the requisite funds for this archive are vital to the preservation of and accessibility to Ireland's audiovisual heritage. The Irish Film Institute has run many exhibitions of old Irish films in the new Irish Film Centre, much of enormous interest. They were well attended by schoolchildren and students generally. This archive could be developed to a much greater extent if the Irish Film Centre were allocated more funds.

I congratulate the Irish Film Institute and the Irish Film Centre on the establishment of this centre which is a very fine venue having been beautifully restored. Indeed it is probably the first really good building to be refurbished in the Temple Bar area. I have no doubt but that it will go from strength to strength even though such places always suffer from a lack of funding.

Our film industry could be one of the most exciting growth sectors here but, if we are to produce more Jim Sheridans and Brenda Frickers we need to protect our film industry from ruthless and unfair competition. We should be clear about one thing, the United States dominates the film and television industries of the world. The American audio-visual sector has become the second largest export earner of United States' industry. Indeed, the United States has now set its sights on a full scale assault on European markets in which it has already made huge inroads. Television programmes from the United States or Japan are flooding the European market broadcast from regulation-free “shelters”, carried by digital technology, picked up by satellite dishes.

The ardour with which the European Commission will defend the interests of the European audio-visual sector must match the Americans' relentless pressure [2112] to prevent a European cultural derogation from the GATT agreement. The following figures prove that, for Europe, the stake is economic and commercial. Since the audio-visual programme is not a product like others it is important that the European Union bear in mind one of the objectives of the founding fathers of Europe, that being a European cultural identity.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the balance of trade in programmes has deteriorated from a £25 million surplus in 1985 to a £100 million deficit in 1991. Indeed some people expect that the deficit there by the turn of the century will be of the order of £600 million. In France, practically one out of every two hours of drama — that is, serials, TV films, series and cartoons — is imported from America, which proportion increased between 1989 and 1992 from 43 per cent to 45 per cent of programmes broadcast by their national channels, that in a country which fought relentlessly to maintain its own independent film industry. Deputy De Rossa gave a wider view of the amount of film being imported into Europe from America. The figures are staggering.

The American audio-visual programme industry has become the second export earner of United States' industry and a source of massive profits. Furthermore, it faces good prospects in Europe. Why is this American determination to export without barriers not taken as evidence of the strategic importance of our sector by the negotiators in Brussels?

Let us examine the relevant facts. Over the next five years most economists forecast a decline in industrial output in the main sectors in France. There is a consensus that the sectors that will best cope will be computer services, semi-conductors, telecommunications services, telecommunications hardware and audio-visual services, in other words, all the elements of the image chain — television sets, cable, satellite, programmes [2113] involving audio-visual and computing interaction — are tipped to grow at between 5 to 10 per cent over the next five years. I heard the Minister speak on “Morning Ireland” this morning and the figure he mentioned was that 940,000 jobs would be created in this sector, some of which will be in Ireland.

If we on this side of the Atlantic remain in doubt about the strategic nature of these activities the Americans stopped wondering long ago and are willing to take advantage of this European growth potential since there is sharp competition on their own saturated market between themselves and Japan. Audio-visual versus sea transport is the bartering deal the Commission is tempted to strike. We had better have a more dynamic view of our markets in order to encourage future industrial expansion at home. The requirements of the European audio-visual sector are based on the concept of a level playing field in trade and the following principles: the European audio-visual sector must obtain unequivocable access to the American market; the American market is at present completely locked to EC product and on the programme level, no United States broadcaster is prepared to broadcast a dubbed European programme since the Americans are the only people worldwide who reject such programmes. In broadcasting no American broadcaster is controlled by a European broadcaster; indeed such would not be allowed.

Before the American market becomes genuinely open for business we must protect our audio-visual sector by obtaining acknowledgement of the cultural derogation for Europe. Let us be clear about the notion of cultural exemption. It is not a matter of incorporating a vague notion in the GATT agreement stipulating that audio-visual programmes should not be treated like any other goods or commodities but rather to negotiate exemption from the most favoured nation principle. If audio-visual services cannot be excluded from the GATT agreement [2114] then the Television Without Frontier Directive must be maintained along the lines of the network of financial mechanisms created for the support of a European cultural industry.

The United States must be made to agree to the same type of cultural specificity agreed in bilateral treaties which they have negotiated with Australia and Canada. The Canadians and Australians demanded, and won, the right to control the level of support for and protection of their national film and broadcasting sectors. We must demand no less. The Government, in particular the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, must do their utmost to protect our film industry since it has too much to offer this nation to allow it be smothered by the one-sided interests of the United States.

I know the Minister is well aware of these problems. I listened to him with interest on the radio this morning. He is doing great work and sees the huge opportunities from our film industry. The potential for development is enormous. The world is our oyster in this regard. As an English speaking country we could build up a huge base for film making and a core of film workers who would attract more and more filming in the future. Our location is ideal. We should be going out seeking not only small films, as some people have said, but also the major films. I have spoken to a number of people, some of whom are not Irish, who have said that one of our problems in this area is that our costs are too high. The Minister should examine this area because the making of sets is very expensive here in comparison with other countries. In major films the making of sets is a huge part of the cost.

Many people have commented on the interest shown by the general public when a film is being made. For example, when a film was being made in Cork during the year there was enormous interest by the local people, many of whom were employed on it for a time.

As a former member of the IFI, I can [2115] say that the mood then in the film industry was not good, but now the mood is extremely buoyant and positive. People feel there is a future for the film industry. Only last week I attended a media desk breakfast in Bewleys where people in the industry gathered. I had not been with members of the IFI for a long time and I have to say the atmosphere was completely different. They were all gungho and out to do business. I believe we will see a number of films both large and small in Ireland in the future.

Finally, I congratulate the Minister on his initiative regarding Teilifís na Gaeilge. In this day and age we must protect our culture and our language. Things are changing so fast that we could be smothered culturally if we are not careful. The Government and the people must provide Teilifís na Gaeilge. Nobody else will do it for us.

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí a labhair ar an mBille seo anocht as ucht a ndearcadh cineálta i leith athruithe atá beartaithe i dtionscal scannáin na hÉireann

I want to say how grateful I am to Deputies for the attitude and the spirit of their contributions this evening. It is very interesting for us to be able to say that across all parties and those who spoke this evening there is general recognition of the importance of the film initiatives being taken. There is also a great anxiety that everything should be done to ensure the industry is put on a firm footing. There is a general recognition of the commitment of the film industry, who have given a testament to their commitment by coming through the lean times when assistance may not have been available.

I would like to deal with a number of issues, but first I would like to deal with one which was touched on by a number of Deputies. That is the environment in which we find ourselves as people who [2116] are interested in film. Reference has been made to the GATT negotiations. I spoke about this, as many Members have said, earlier this morning on a programme. I have held those views for some time and they have not changed during the day. I should like to put it very simply. Speaking in Gdánsk on Tuesday, 21 September, when receiving an honorary doctorate, the President of France, Francois Mitterrand, said what was behind the French position:

Is it protectionist when two-thirds of its cinema box office receipts comes from American films? And what about collusion between distributors who occupy dominant positions in defiance of their own rules and ours? What about the refusal to dub European films in American whereas the American film industry earns its revenues in Europe from dubbed films?

President Mitterrand quoted as only he could a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Carríere, when he wrote:

Imagine if the Germans were to say to the Irish: you listen to Bach and Beethoven far more often than your own composers. So, it's quite simple, just stop making music. And if the French said to the Portuguese: you read Balzac and Proust more than your own authors, so you should stop writing.

President Mitterrand put it well when he said the issue is whether the making of images will come from a single source in the world. He was calling attention to the fact that what we were looking at was a crisis as between the integrity of cultural diversity and culture domination by regarding audio-visual products as simply commodities.

I want to assure all Deputies who contributed that right from the Danish Presidency these issues were raised by me with my colleagues on the Council of Ministers in Europe, but it was during the Belgium Presidency at a seminar in Mons that we [2117] were able to focus exactly on what was important. On that occasion we were able to brief Commissioner Pinheiro very thoroughly on what was available to us between the three stratgies in the GATT negotiations: exclusion, exemption and specificity — the latter would seek to preserve what was already in place.

I have been in touch with the committee in Geneva and have advised a very strong position on exemption while seeking to strengthen and develop an even stronger position between exemption and specificity. I am satisfied that every issue raised this evening is represented in the Commission offer. It has done so with the intention of not merely protecting what we have but also protecting the space of the future.

I speak very explicitly about future co-production and other arrangements in relation to broadcasting. I am grateful to Deputies for drawing attention to this important dimension. It is important too that I temper this, and many will say it is unusual coming from me. There is nothing anti American in all this. Frankly, some of the finest films we have seen have been made in the United States. In a curious way the benefits of cultural diversity, which we seek to protect will fall to the United States in the future where some of the finest films are made by young black film producers, film writers in New York and the Hispanic community, which has yet to flower in terms of its contribution to the American cinema.

The interests and concerns of Deputies have been well represented. The film industry is a matter of concern and I dwell on it only because we cannot realise how significant it is. What kind of a relationship is there between the images, ourselves and our world if over 90 per cent of the images we look at in films come from a single source? Those who may not have been enthusiastic in the past about those values which I have sought to defend in public service broadcasting, those who wanted deregulation and the [2118] laws of the marketplace in cultural products produced isolated, alienated, fragmented bits and pieces of market sectors instead of culturally active interactive citizens and so forth. As they now in their isolated and alienated position rent videos, we face the prospect of turning the citizens of Europe into mindless consumers of audio-visual products like those in a shop rather than citizens in a culture. If that happens we will simply also give away all the jobs of that sector in Europe to the places that are producing something over which we have no control. That is the terrible vista which is opened up by those who had low standards in relation to the application of competitive criteria in the cultural area.

A number of specific points have been raised and I will answer as many as possible. There are hopeful things to look forward to, for example, in 1996 a major exhibition L'Imaginaire Irlandais will be organised in Paris around St. Patrick's Day and will run for three months. This will be a wonderful opportunity for the film industry and the film community to exhibit its renaissance——

Proinsias De Rossa: Will the Minister organise a parliamentary delegation to visit it?

Miss Quill: Will the Minister take us to that?

Mr. E. Ryan: Only those who speak tonight——

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Cowen): For spokespersons only.

Mr. M. Higgins: Of course, it will include many disciplines including film. I am talking to a very small but select and sophisticated audience this evening who will appreciate the value of us showing our new products to a sophisticated French public. I am confident that the [2119] measures I have introduced will have progressed by 1996 to good products.

I have been asked about special funding by a number of people who always seek to bring matters down to the appropriate materialist base. The special working group on the film industry suggested a suitable profile of funding for the film industry over a period of years. I am aware that their figures support the figures suggested for next year. Indeed, I have recommended funding along these lines and I am quite confident that when Members get this information, on the publication of the Estimates——

Mr. Nealon: I did not catch the actual figure. Although I have been listening I did not catch the actual figure, Minister.

Mr. M. Higgins: Much as I am impressed by Deputy Nealon, I must ask him not to anticipate the publication of the Estimates, but let me add that he will not be disappointed in terms that my expectations, I hope, will not be disappointed.

Mr. Nealon: I will not be disappointed because I have low expectations.

Mr. M. Higgins: Try to do something, Deputy, for yourself to rise to the occasion. I am seeking funding at the level suggested in the working group.

The capital funding for Teilifís na Gaeilge will come from the accumulated moneys under the “cap”, as indicated in the Government programme. There will be sufficient capital moneys for the coming year and it is my hope that this important broadcasting initiative, which sadly did not recommend itself to that group of people known as young Fine Gael, whoever they may be, will have money to commission from January next. Let me respond in the same spirit as the contributions this evening because every Member who contributed this evening spoke in favour of Teilifís na Gaeilge— [2120] tá mé thar a bheith buíoch díobh as sin. I think that is a very reasonable response by the Legislature and I am very grateful to Members on all sides who welcomed this initiative. Deputy Frances Fitzgerald asked about the publication of the report and in principle I have no difficulty with publishing those reports, the report of the founding committee and the Coiste Teicniúil, but as a courtesy, I have to consult with those who served and discuss the matter with them but I have no problem about that. I have noted the points made about the Abbey Theatre.

Many Deputies spoke about media studies and film culture. I am very interested in that and I have had meetings with the Minister for Education. Members are right in noting my dissatisfaction with the Green Paper on Education but I believe I have made progress in relation to this which will be reflected in the White Paper.

There were many references to film archives and their future development. Section 4 outlines the functions of the board and states that it may engage in the establishment of a film archive and with the demise of the board, as it were, when it ceased to be funded in 1987, a national film archive was accommodated in a new Irish Film Centre so the film board role has effectively been overtaken by events. In recent weeks, however, the Film Institute of Ireland has submitted proposals to me in relation to archives for separate legislation for a national film archive. I have a totally open mind on this and I see the value of a film archive and I need to consider, not the principle of the suggestion, but the best way to go about it.

I have answered a number of the points raised by Deputy Quill and I have noted the points she made in relation to the question of the value of film made locally. She mentioned the “War of the Buttons” and its significance. She also made a number of points in relation to marketing. I fully share the Deputy's views on the need for a strong marketing role [2121] and An Bord Tráchtála is already assisting in this by hosting Ireland on screen presentations at major European festivals, such as that at Cannes. An Bord Tráchtála also participates fully in the marketing arm of the European Union media programme and the new State committee, which includes An Bord Tráchtála, and the committee will consider as a priority how the marketing function can be strengthened.

I hope the Deputy will be pleased to learn that the Estimates submitted to me for 1994 by the Irish Film Board, Board Scannán na hÉireann, has targeted the need for a special cinemas in the region initiative next year and what will be involved is the provision of finance for prints and advertising in addition to production finance. Let me tell Deputy Quill that I welcome this focus by the board so early in its lifetime and I hope to be able to accommodate it with some funding next year.

Deputy De Rossa mentioned the Euro Media Guarantee under the EU media programme and I take his point about the nervous banking sector that needs assurances beyond assurances. He will be glad to hear of the Euro Media Guarantee — EMG — and he will be able to reassure the banks as well that EMG was granted to a new Irish film “Words Upon the Window Pane”. It has been successful already and finished shooting on location in Dublin four weeks ago, it has now moved to a studio in Luxembourg. The significance of Euro Media Guarantee is that it is one of 19 projects under the European Union media programme and some £1.8 million came to Irish producers under this programme in 1991-92, before I made any changes. Members can also see the significance I attach to media in general and it is something from which we will benefit. Its activities must be protected in whatever arrangements come from the meeting in Geneva.

On future occasions I will dwell in more detail on the points made by Members. Ireland is a member of Euro [2122] Images since September 1992 and this demonstrates our European credentials. Deputy Kavanagh spoke about the advantages of the studio in Ardmore as indeed did Deputy De Rossa. I am well aware of the advantages of Ardmore. I visited them recently and I could feel all these ghosts speak to me, but much more importantly many of the people were very glad that there was a new atmosphere in the film industry and that there were jobs at home. There will be a future for Ardmore and certainly I will bear its resources in mind. I am trying to create an atmosphere in which things can happen.

There is a distinction between the State committee and the commission. The commission is certainly a body upon which local authorities, as was suggested, should be represented. I have noted Deputy Ryan's point which largely concentrated — and he was correct to do this — on the GATT. Deputy Nealon asked if the money for the film board will attract European money. The reply to that is simply that I have succeeded in securing a focused level of funding under the industrial operational programme for the period 1994-99 and the amount involved is £13 million towards the capital expenditure of the film board. There will be money and the film board will be funded. I was asked also about training——

Mr. Nealon: Does the Minister put up a corresponding amount of money pound for pound for the £13 million?

Mr. M. Higgins: I have also a commitment in relation to Exchequer funding to draw down funding of that level. In relation to the training fund the Irish Film Board should run dedicated courses and that is their role. I will make sure that provision is made by my colleagues and others in relation to the general provision of a training infrastructure but I will address this matter in some detail when I carry out the two-year review.

I want to thank all Deputies both for [2123] the positive spirit they have brought to the debate and for the welcome they have given to the proposed legislation.

A community that has stayed with the commitment to something which is the essence of the Irish personality has contributed to an excitement that is there now and will give a great yield in the future. That has obviously affected Deputies on all sides and I welcome it. In welcoming the different initiatives I have taken Deputies remarked that I said that the fourth leg of this was Teilifís na Gaeilge. I emphasise that nothing could be further from the truth than the depiction in a cartoon in a paper recently of Teilifís na Gaeilge as a carrier of every old piece of baggage coming from the past.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is now time to put the question.

Mr. M. Higgins: What is envisaged in this station is that it will be modern, exciting and a crucial buncloch or foundation stone of the future of the audio-visual industry.

An Ceann Comhairle: As it is now 11.30 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: “That the Bill is hereby read a Second Time, that Sections 1 and 2 and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee and the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment; that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed”.

Question put and agreed to.