RTÉ and TG4 have joined forces with commercial operator Virgin Media in a plea to the chairman of the Future of the Media Commission about the prominence of Irish channels on streaming and on-demand services.
All three operators have deep concerns about Irish stations being lost on platforms in a digital era.
Minister for Media Catherine Martin recently announced that the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill would give the planned Media Commission the power to require
pay-TV services such as Sky to guarantee prominence to Irish public service channels and content to ensure they remain “easily findable and discoverable”.
The Media Commission would have to draw up guidelines for this and the three Irish channels urged the Future of the Media Commission to make this an urgent requirement.
The letter to commission’s chairman Brian MacCraith said: “It is not very often that RTÉ, TG4 and Virgin Media agree on media policy.
"But as the Commission finalises its report, we would collectively like to draw to your attention an issue of material importance to us all – the urgent need for effective legislation and regulatory policy regarding the prominence of Irish public service channels, services and content on existing and emerging TV, streaming, VOD (video on demand) platforms etc. and smart TVs.”
They welcomed Martin’s amendment but expressed fears that it may take some time for guidelines to be introduced.
"Our collective concern is that given all of the pressing matters for the new Media Commission to consider, without a real push from the Future of Media Commission and Government the development of the codes and the practical enforcement of the policy could be a number of years away,” the letter continued.
"Given the speed of developments in this area, this would be way too late, and potentially stands to significantly undermine the reach and relevance of national broadcasters, when they are already considerably challenged.
“Therefore, we would request that the Future of Media Commission make a recommendation in your final report, that the upcoming Bill should include a time bound provision to create a clear timeframe for the Media Commission to develop and operationalise the codes.
“This issue is of the highest priority for us all.”
The letter was signed by Dee Forbes, director general of RTÉ; Alan Esslemont, director general of TG4; and Paul Farrell, managing director of Virgin Media Television.