Papers reject RTE claims news site is public service
THE LEADING trade group for the Irish newspaper industry has rejected RTE's claim that its entire website is part of its public service brief.
The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), which represents nearly all major newspapers in Ireland, including the Irish Independent, said there was a distinction to be made between website content stemming from RTE's public service broadcasting and other content, such as its dating and motoring sites -- which were unconnected with its public service function.
It accused the state broadcaster of using web services as a "loss leader".
On Wednesday, Conor Hayes, RTE's chief financial officer, defended its operations at the Oireachtas Communications Committee but, in a statement, the NNI said it was "astounded" to learn that RTE.ie had a full-time staff of 70 and suggested this should push wage costs to around €5m annually.
That would mean the website is run at a loss of around €2.5m annually after advertising is taken into account. By "using publicly funded content and attracting advertising revenues, RTE is having its cake and eating it," said the NNI.
"The NNI has no issue with RTE producing an excellent website, but it should not be able to do so on the basis of publicly funded news content and commercial revenues."