Jan O’Sullivan says radio quotas ‘could breach EU law’

Mike Dwane


Mike Dwane

Radio quotas: Limerick songwriter Johnny Duhan
FRENCH-style radio quotas for Irish music could contravene European law, Minister Jan O’Sullivan has insisted.

FRENCH-style radio quotas for Irish music could contravene European law, Minister Jan O’Sullivan has insisted.

She was responding to Labour colleague Deputy Willie Penrose, who was speaking in the Dail in support of Limerick songwriter Johnny Duhan’s call to set aside a minimum amount of airtime to Irish acts.

The man who penned hits such as The Voyage recently compared his income unfavourably to that of a roadsweeper. Were Irish radio stations to play more Irish acts, it would mean more exposure as well as more royalties, Mr Duhan has argued. He pointed to France, where 40% of all songs played have to be by French artists.

Deputy Penrose said: “It is well argued by Mr Duhan that we are more vulnerable than any other EU country as we are very near England, and as many of our singers generally sing in English we are more exposed and susceptible to the cultural influence of England and the US than any of our EU partners”.

“Irish bands of all genres do not get fair airplay. Stations such as RTE and other commercial stations should have a quota for the amount of Irish music played and they should step up to the mark. We must remember it is Raidió Teilifís Éireann. France is the only country in Europe with a specific quota for national music.”

Instead, Irish musicians had songwriters had to make do with a voluntary code for radio stations which could claim One Direction was an Irish act because Niall Horan was from Mullingar. “Crazy loopholes” had also turned Rihanna and Kylie Minogue into Irish acts, Deputy Penrose protested.

Minister O’Sullivan, who was taking questions on behalf of Communications Minister Alex White, noted that the content played on commercial radio stations could form part of negotiations with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland prior to the granting or renewal of a licence.

And while the government supported the promotion of Irish music, its approach had to be “consistent with EU and Irish regulatory structures”, Minister O’Sullivan said.

“While I know the deputy challenges this, it is believed that a quota system for music could not therefore be based simply on the nationality of the musicians, singers or producers, thus discriminating against works produced by nationals of other member states. Such a move was considered in the past but fell foul of EU law on this basis.”

But Deputy Penrose accused the government of “political cowardice” on the matter and of being “poodles” to our European masters.

“If the French can do it, why can we not do it,” he demanded to know.

Minister O’Sullivan said it was her understanding that the French criteria were “much narrower and more identifiable” than what was being proposed by Deputy Penrose.