Friday 23 August 2019

'Quota' needed to protect Irish music industry

Singer-songwriter Johnny Duhan says a music quota is necessary to protect Irish culture. Photo: Tony Gavin
Singer-songwriter Johnny Duhan says a music quota is necessary to protect Irish culture. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mark O'Regan

Irish musicians are demanding a quota which would decide the minimum amount of indigenous songs played on radio - amid claims that such a move could create up to 10,000 jobs.

One of the country's most successful musicians, Johnny Duhan, whose composition The Voyage has been described as "a modern classic", is among the most vocal in pressing for change.

He insists new legislation is vital to secure the future of home-produced music in the internet age.

He also argues songs from other English-speaking countries hold too much sway on the airways. Failure to act will mean an integral part of Ireland's culture will be lost for good, he adds.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Duhan, who has written extensively on this issue, said our home-grown music industry is gradually being "wiped out".

"In my autobiography The Voyage, to be published in the spring, there's a chapter called 'The Bill'. It gives a fairly comprehensive history of the struggle that has gone on for more than 30 years to establish an Irish music quota on our radio stations," he said.

"It started with a brave attempt by Bill Whelan, composer of Riverdance, to get the Irish Government to follow on the heels of the French, who introduced a 40pc quota, without a whimper of protest from other EU countries."

Musicians from around the country will gather at the Dail on Wednesday to support an amendment being put forward by Labour TD Willie Penrose.

Mr Penrose, who has led the charge on the issue, says he is determined to see the 40pc minimum threshold for the playing of indigenous music by our radio stations introduced.

The TD for Longford Westmeath wants to make an amendment to the Broadcasting Act, which would ensure this figure is devoted to output that is by Irish artists.

He insists an amendment is necessary, saying there are "8,000 to 10,000 jobs dependant on this change being introduced".

"I hope we can progress it to committee stage - we need a statutory base to underpin to position of Irish music across all genres."

He described Communications Minister Denis Naughten as "a man of the country".

"He knows what this means," he added.

"I want Irish music of all genres to be included in the proposed quota - and I want it to apply from 7am to 7pm."

He pointed out that a 90pc quota has been brought in by the national broadcaster, SABC, in South Africa.

There is currently a requirement that 30pc of music output is Irish-generated, but Mr Penrose says this is not happening, and needs reinforcement through legislation.

"If all they play are songs by the likes of Rihanna, then that's all people are exposed to, and they aren't listening to what our great artists have to offer. Up to 10,000 jobs could be created if we got the 40pc.

"There are big music weekends across the country every year. Hotels, guest houses, restaurants, are packed to the gills from Friday to Monday when these events take place."

He said the music industry also generates a range of knock-on employment, ranging from work for van drivers, to the tailors and retailers who provide on-stage outfits for singers and their bands.

Sunday Independent

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