RTE's €8m in sponsorship fees raises concerns on impartiality
RTE is earning almost €8m a year in controversial sponsorship deals, including agreements with a number of financial institutions that raise concerns over impartiality at the State broadcaster, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
With Montrose seeking €500,000 to sponsor Ryan Tubridy's new flagship 2FM show, and following its autumn schedule launch last week, the level of money being taken in has been criticised.
New figures, obtained by this newspaper, show that across television and radio, RTE is earning €7.9m from sponsorship arrangements, on top of more than €200m a year it gets from licence fees.
Among the main criticisms is the continuing sponsorship of news and current affairs programmes by banks, or companies like the under-administration Quinn Insurance (that sponsors The Late Late Show).
Drivetime with Mary Wilson is sponsored by HSBC, while AIB, which announced losses of €2bn last week, is sponsor of two sports programmes, including Sport at Seven, with Darragh Maloney.
Rival broadcaster TV3 yesterday criticised RTE's need for sponsorship, which they claim is a result of continuous overspending on programmes, wages and on staff numbers.
"RTE is vastly inefficient compared to TV3, listing 10 press officers for their autumn launch is beyond a joke.
"Acquiring almost every sports event that moves, and warehousing thousands of hours of programming that never see the light of day, is a huge waste. The licence fee has increased by 10 per cent in real terms over the past 18 months by not being reduced in line with the cost of living.
"And staff have taken pay cuts, so someone should investigate just what they are spending their money on," a spokeswoman said.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) yesterday said the issue of sponsorship is an ongoing concern at RTE and other broadcasters.
"It is an ongoing issue and we at the BAI monitor the issue of sponsorship and product placement continuously.
"It is a concern and it is one that we keep a close eye on," Dr Colum Kenny of the BAI said yesterday.
RTE receives 84 per cent of the annual licence fee, with the remainder split between TG4, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, An Post and government departments.
Tomorrow is the final submission date for expressions of interest in the €500,000 Tubridy sponsorship package.
The Late Late Show, also hosted by Tubridy (37), is the most lucrative Irish TV sponsorship package. The asking price for The Late Late Show was €1m but the final price agreed with the Quinn organisation, is believed to have been around €800,000.
Tubridy's new radio show will broadcast Monday to Friday, from 9am to 11am
His former Radio 1 show was sponsored by Airtricity in a deal believed to have been worth about €250,000.
Other RTE sponsorships up for grabs include the Magners League, which carries a price tag of €350,000.