3 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
Minister DeValera Addresses Delegates at the European TV Conference
08 Nov 2001 :
Minister Sile DeValera Addressed delegates at the European Television and Film Forum of the European Institute for the Media, in Dublin on Thursday 8 November.
Her full speech is below:

"President, Director-General, Delegates

It is a pleasure to welcome you all here to Ireland, and especially to Dublin, on the occasion of the 13th European Television and Film Forum of the European Institute for the Media.

I wish to thank President Balsemao, and Director–General Groebel, for the opportunity of addressing this conference, which will, over the coming days, consider and discuss some very important issues.

I am delighted that our national public service broadcaster Radio Telefís Éireann, a corporate member of this Institute, was able to arrange to have your annual plenary session held here in our capital city.

I hope that you will find your time here stimulating and productive and that you will be able to experience some of the atmosphere for which we are famous.

It is appropriate that your organisation, representing as it does the European communications and cultural industries, should meet here in Dublin, home to many world famous literary and artistic communicators, people like Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and James Joyce, and also Roddy Doyle who I appointed to the Irish Film Board earlier this year.

The next two days offer an opportunity to think creatively about the challenges facing us in the 21st century, especially - What kind of audiovisual landscape do we want to hand on to future generations?

To put it plainly, do we want to beat the US at its own game, to produce more of the same but with European credits, or do we want to create a distinct European model.

If we are to succeed, specific and viable areas of co-operation must be explored, combining our talents to produce distinctive works in Europe.

You have set yourselves an ambitious and comprehensive schedule of work at this conference. The broad range of topics, from ‘Current trends in journalism’ to ‘Regulation of the audiovisual media’ is indicative of the complex and evolving challenges facing this sector.

You will be aware of the recently adopted new EU Commission Communication on the Legal aspects relating to cinematographic and other audiovisual works. It is reassuring to note that the document recognises the cultural diversity that must underpin the philosophy and direction for the future of this sector.

The audiovisual sector finds itself in a challenging and changing environment. As I stated at the EU Council of Audiovisual and Culture Ministers meeting this week, we must keep in mind constantly that each Member State is unique. The industry in each Member State has its own particular characteristics.

The audiovisual sector is, at heart, a creative one. Accordingly, it is not always possible or in fact desirable, to impose a standardised and centralised approach at EU level, in dealing with areas of concern in this important and sensitive sector.

It must be borne in mind that over-regulation of such a sphere may stifle this creativity. Obviously, we all favour the improved production and circulation of European audiovisual works, and we welcome the initiatives taken through the ongoing MEDIA programmes and the recent collaboration between the Commission and the European Investment Bank to support these objectives.

Our approach in general is to encourage the creation of conditions, which would allow such supports to develop, but without necessarily intervening directly. The audiovisual sector, as I’ve said, is part of the creative and cultural experience.

Those involved in this industry are not always enamoured of studies, surveys and other information gathering exercises.

While we understand the Commission’s intention in undertaking the proposed measures outlined in its Communication document that I mentioned earlier, we would encourage the utilisation of any existing statistical-gathering method in meeting these needs, rather than introducing new and possibly unnecessary structures.

The role of Public Service Broadcasters in the development of the audio-visual sector must also be recognised. The tradition of Public Service Broadcasting as we know it in Europe has provided the starting point from which many in the sector have emerged. In Ireland the support of RTÉ and TG4 for independent producers has proved to be a major catalyst in the development of our fledgling audio-visual sector.

For this and many other reasons we should be extremely careful when making any changes at EU level which might impact on the Public Service Broadcasting ethos which has served us so well.

In this regard I am particularly conscious of the EU Commission’s application of State Aid rules to Public Service Broadcasting. Ireland supports Public Service Broadcasting because it offers a guarantee of a comprehensive schedule of quality programming, catering for mainstream and minority tastes, which is available on a free-to-air basis to the Irish people, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Public Service Broadcasting, therefore, does not exist simply to address areas of market failure. Ireland considers that the intrinsic value of Public Service Broadcasting is of much greater significance not least of which relates to its contribution to the development of a vibrant indigenous audio-visual sector.

Clearly, broadcasting cannot be looked at in isolation. In the past it has been easy to distinguish between broadcasting services and other forms of telecommunications. However, as the technologies associated with the delivery of broadcasting services converge with the technologies associated with other forms of telecommunications and information services, the line between the different types of services becomes blurred.

There is an argument that in a world where the technologies are converging, all services should be treated and regulated in the same way as commercial telecommunications services. I do not accept this position.

I believe that in broadcasting there must be a balance between the social, cultural and democratic needs of our society, and the exploitation of the new technological and commercial opportunities.

Broadcast radio and television have become the most powerful mass media ever devised.

They have profound cultural and social affects at a local, national and international level. They are powerful tools for the dissemination of information and the education of public opinion. Broadcasting, in its totality, therefore, is much more than a commercial activity where the object of the exercise is to simply deliver the biggest audience at the lowest price.

The application of digital techniques is currently revolutionising the broadcasting sector. By far the most important effect is increased broadcasting capacity and significantly increased flexibility and sophistication in the number and types of services which can be “broadcast”.

Most of the new services that will be made possible through the introduction of digital technology will be provided on a commercial basis. We will all have the opportunity to receive a huge amount of services by to-day’s numbers, vying for commercial survival. Already, some programming that was available on free-to-air channels has migrated to pay per view and subscription channels.

Niche subscription services and pay-per-view services are already with us and are set to grow.

My view is that there is now a stronger argument than ever for broadcasting services, operating to a strong public service remit, providing programme schedules of quality and diversity, and catering for minority as well as mainstream tastes.

I wish you well in your deliberations over the next two days. I hope you will find your time here with us constructive and re-vitalising.

Thank you.

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