AS THE Broadcasting Authority [BAI] prepares for its first board meeting of the year next Monday, all ears in radioland will be eagerly cocked for news on the controversial soon-to-be introduced broadcasting levy.
Brought in as part of last year's Broadcasting Act, the levy was initially expected to yield about €6m from contributions by the commercial operators and RTE. More recently, though, industry insiders say a figure of €7.4m has been mooted.
"We had a meeting with them [the BAI] and they told us [it was €7.4m]," said Today FM boss Willie O'Reilly, who also heads up the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland [IBI].
"They said they needed more staff and a bigger budget."
Suggestions of a higher levy, which the BAI this week refused to comment on, have irked commercial operators, who point out the trend in the private sector is "everyone trying to do more for less", to quote Mr O'Reilly.
The IBI is also getting exercised about what they perceive as a "lack of transparency" in the BAI's 2010 operations.
At the commercial broadcasters' suggestion, last year's Act includes a clause which requires the BAI to publish its income and expenditure projections annually.
But three weeks into 2010, no publication has been forthcoming, and the broadcasters are not amused.
A spokesman for the BAI this week confirmed the projections had not been published -- because the Broadcasting Authority was convened a day after the publication was due.
The BAI was established on October 1; the Act requires the income and expenditure accounts to be submitted "no later than September 30 each year", the spokesman said.
The BAI will submit 2011 estimates to the minister as per the Act, while the publication of those for 2010 "will be considered as part of the Levy Order process".
Accepting the BAI's position is within the letter of the law; the broadcasters remain unhappy.
"This is a nervous time for people in the industry, and we have absolutely no clarity," said Mr O'Reilly, who's hoping to be somewhat enlightened after Monday's board gathering.