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Thursday 18 September 2014

RTE fears UTV threat despite its first profit in seven years

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

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Last year, Pat Kenny defected from RTE to take up a slot with Newstalk radio
Last year, Pat Kenny defected from RTE to take up a slot with Newstalk radio

RTE has warned it is facing fresh financial challenges despite posting a profit for the first time since 2007.

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The state-owned broadcaster said it generated a pre-tax profit of €1.1m in 2013, despite its commercial revenue last year having fallen 7pc to €145.2m. Its licence fee revenue edged 1.5pc higher to €182.4m but its commercial revenue is now lower than it was in 2003.

Newcomer UTV Ireland – which will start broadcasting next year – and the growing popularity of internet TV and movie service Netflix, are just two of the challenges facing RTE, director general Noel Curran said.

RTE said its revenue last year was hit by the overall impact of the analogue switch-off, an increase in the number of UK channels offering advertising in the Irish market, and declines in "key trading audiences".

"Economic conditions rem- ained very challenging while competition increased and marketing budgets were further reduced," RTE noted in its annual report published yesterday.

Mr Curran said that since 2008, RTE had reduced its costs by 30pc, or €133m.

"The scale of RTE's response has been almost unique across the Irish semi-state sector," he said. "The impact on the organisation has been very significant."

He said that since 2008, 500 full-time staff, or 21pc of RTE's workforce, had left the broadcaster, while pay had been cut at "all levels", performance-related pay had ceased and fees for top presenters this year were nearly 40pc lower than in 2008.

Last year, Pat Kenny defected from RTE to take up a slot with Newstalk radio. Mr Curran said Mr Kenny's replacement, Sean O'Rourke, had "settled in very well" to his new slot.

Mr Curran added that programmes such as crime drama 'Love/Hate', a "rejuvenated" 'The Late Late Show', and natural history series, 'The Secret Life of the Shannon', had helped to contribute to the "rich and varied" RTE schedule in 2013.

"The uncertainties of the future will continue to challenge RTE," he said.

Competition

He said that RTE faced increased competition in the Irish market, but would continue its five-year journey to transform to "a public service multimedia organisation serving Irish audiences with quality content and a breadth of services".

"UTV Ireland's announcement that it will begin broadcasting in January next year will add an important new competitor to the Irish media landscape," added RTE chairman Tom Savage.

RTE also said that TV licence evasion levels "remain a concern", especially combined with the increasing number of homes that did not have a TV set.

In 2012, evasion levels stood at 17pc of chargeable domestic households and business premises. RTE said that's high compared with other European countries.

It said reducing the evasion level is a "key priority".

Irish Independent

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