Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Review of Broadcasting Levy Required

I raised the issue of the broadcasting levy to be imposed on the independent broadcasters in the Dáil today during question to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

I have highlighted this issue with the Minister on a number of occasions and have issued a number of statement on this also. I am concerned that the percentage levy proposed is too high on an industry that is already suffering economic hardship and may result in significant job losses.

"The latest figures for the total budget for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in 2010 is €7.6 million, up from the previous figure of €6.1 million. This is additional to the €1.5 million already outstanding for 2009. Under the terms of a Statutory Instrument laid before the Dáil in January and made under Section 33 of the Broadcasting Act, 2009, this money will have to be provided though a levy imposed on local stations.

"There is widespread concern that this levy will result in job losses across the independent sector. Now that the Broadcasting Regulator is to be funded by the broadcasting industry costs are already spiralling. At a time when advertising budgets are being slashed and jobs are being lost, the cost of the levy is punishing and totally unnecessary.

"The Labour Party did put forward proposals for a more streamlined operation incorporating ComReg and the Broadcasting Authority. We argued that one unified regulator would be more efficient and cost effective. This was backed up by a similar recommendation published in An Bord Snip. However, the Minister refused to listen, set up his quango instead and now broadcasters are bearing the brunt of his decision, as I predicted. There are now real concerns about the formula used to apportion costs.

“Unless the Statutory Instrument is annulled by the Dáil by next Thursday, the levy will come into effect, imposing a potentially crippling financial burden on stations, many of which are already struggling. This is a matter that is of such importance that it should not be allowed to go through by default."

Friday, January 08, 2010

Proposed Postcodes Won't Deliver

Happy New Year. As part of my 2010 New Year’s resolutions I have resolved to take up blogging again. Despite being one of the first TDs to start a blog, I haven't been updating it regularly for a while and I hope to address that this year.

I had a surreal conversation on Today FM's Last Word the other day with Ciaran Cuffe TD about postcodes. As each day passes the Green's seem more and more disconnected with reality.

I'm concerned about the cost to businesses and organisations with the introduction of postcodes. I believe that postcodes are a good idea, but they could pose lots of problems in the current economic climate. When I'd made what I thought to be a sensible point on this, I found myself in a weird ding dong with Deputy Cuffe who insisted that even Santa Claus had a postcode! I'm not sure this is the greatest argument for postcodes I've ever heard!

In more recent days I met again with Ciaran, who on a personal level I have great time for, on East Coast FM. Again, I found his arguments out of touch with the reality on the ground. The lack of understanding he showed towards the impact the weather crisis was having was offensive to people across Co. Wicklow, who phoned me later to express their frustration.

I accept that Dublin is also suffering badly by the harsh weather, but the reality is that Co. Wicklow and rural areas like it, is severely affected. People are very anxious and the remote rural areas are dangerously isolated. Thankfully, neighbours are really putting in an effort in all sorts of wonderful ways even in such hazardous conditions. I found this out to my cost this morning when going out to do a message for a neighbour and landed flat on my back. Most undignified.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reassessing Biofuels

Biofuels a reassessment

Last week the Labour Party published its position paper on Biofuels. Along with the Labour Leader, Eamon Gilmore TD, I launched the paper in front of an audience of media and interested parties. Groups present included the Irish Bioenergy Association, Trocaire, Bord na Mona, Sustainable Energy Ireland, Birdwatach Ireland and the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce. A lively discussion followed and it was a worthwhile and interesting exercise. This is a really hot issue with growing concerns around the link between the recent dash to biofuels and the global food price hikes. However, our govenrment is silent on the issue which we find unacceptable.

Labour's position is as follows:

Labour recommends:

1. Information on traceability to be fully available. Currently biofuel data is too difficult, at times impossible, to access. EU rules and WTO rules need to be changed to provide full transparency on sources of biofuels.

2. Support for the 20% overall target as set by the EU Commission for CO² emissions reduction by 2020. (30% if global agreement achieved).

• The EU target of 10% biofuels to be reviewed, in view of the severe impact on food supplies in the developing world.

• For Ireland, the findings of the Environmental Committee of the EU Parliament to be adopted as an interim measure.

• Support for the indigenous Irish Biofuel industry in line with environmental and social sustainability criteria.

3. The Government’s Climate Change Strategy to be reviewed and updated.

• On transport, a greater emphasis on public transport and the electrification of vehicles.

• On agriculture policy, an emphasis on food security and encouragement of greater food production.

• On biofuels policy, support for sustainable biofuel production with a focus on the development of second generation biofuel production and the use of marginal land unsuitable for food production.

• On energy policy, an increase in target set from 33% to 42% for renewables for electricity generation by 2020.

To read the position paper please go to the Labour website or click here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Broadband woes

Lots of feedback on the broadband debate in the Dail that took place this week. Minister Ryan's lovely red map showing broadband cover in Ireland is turning out to be full of holes. The village of Shillelagh is a case in point but what struck me was the extend of the problem across rural Ireland.

The government needs to speed up on broadband in every sense. Less international talk shops that cost the taxpayer €50,000 and more plumbing is whats needed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bellygrass and beyond!

Well, I've seen the future and its called bellygrass...

At yesterday's Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change a presentation given by Jerry Murphy of UCC had us all sitting up on our hind legs. He talked about biofuel and grass can be used to make gas for fuel. Since over 90% of Ireland's arable land is in grass this was significant. But what really got our questions coming was his explanation of how "bellygrass" is used in Europe for gas production for buses.

Bellygrass for those of us who don't know- and there are many - is found in cows and pigs slaughtered in our abattoirs.

Currently the bellygrass has to be carted away and spread on land and that costs the abattoir money.

In the future it can go to a digester system, converted to biofuel and used in buses etc..

While no-one has the solution to the problem of methane produced by belching cows, dead cows may provide part of the solution.

Or at least the grass in their stomachs. Don't they have four of them?