RTE rejects claim 2fm is a waste of public cash
Published 21/01/2014 | 02:30
RTE has defended its flagship music radio station 2fm amid allegations that the station is costing taxpayers millions.
The national broadcaster has been accused of wasting public money by the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), which is calling for an independent investigation by a Joint Oireachtas Committee into the use of licence-fee revenues to plug 2fm's losses.
RTE's annual accounts, the IBI said, showed that losses at 2fm exceeded €13m between 2010 and 2012.
It accused RTE of using millions of euro of public money to prop up Ireland's "most expensive but least listened to music station".
2fm, which was launched in the late 1970s, is described by RTE as a "music and entertainment service" targeted at people aged 25 to 44.
"RTE has said repeatedly over the years that it is licence-fee neutral - this clearly isn't the case," said John Purcell, chairman of the IBI.
The station has too many competitors to justify its expense, he added.
"2fm was established in 1979 in a different era, to play pop music aimed at young people when there were no legally licensed broadcasters other than RTE. (It) has been totally eclipsed by independent radio stations, doing what 2fm used to do, doing it far better and at a fraction of the cost."
Responding to the criticism last night, RTE said 2fm was an "integral part of its overall suite" designed to meet the needs of a diverse audience, and that its financing had been approved by the Government.
It said that 2fm's ability to generate money from advertising was "considerably less" than independent radio stations, since laws restrict it to playing four minutes and 30 seconds worth of ads per hour rather than the nine minutes afforded to other broadcasters.
It added that it had reduced overall operating costs by 30pc since 2008.
However, the IBI said 2fm's relatively small staff made its losses even more questionable. The station's management has previously indicated a staff number of around 27.
The organisation is due to meet with Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte in the next few weeks to discuss the matter.
It added that transparency around how licence-fee revenues are spent is more important than ever before, in light of the Government's attempts to roll out a universal broadcasting charge designed to crack down on evaders.