Monday 14 October 2019

TV and film body warns RTE crisis will harm sector

Programme-makers back extra services plan amid criticism from Virgin, writes Samantha McCaughren

Stock photo
Stock photo
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Screen Producers Ireland (SPI), which represents independent programme and film-makers, has warned that the sector faces a "serious financial crisis" if RTE's funding difficulties are not addressed.

An SPI submission during a consultation by the Department of Communications on whether or not RTE should be allowed extend its '+1' services claims that the "most urgent issue" facing both RTE and the independent production sector is licence fee reform. The +1 services show channels an hour later than their linear broadcast time.

In RTE's own submission on the extended services, the broadcaster said that any additional revenue generated by the extended services would be reinvested in RTE services and would improve the range and quality of offering to the audience.

However, SPI called on RTE to go further "and distinguish a clear commitment that any additional revenue generated from either channel is invested back into commissioned content from the independent production sector". It said that since 2008, there has been a 50pc reduction in investment in independent production, due in part to the "unhealthy finances of RTE".

Most of the submissions to the department were in favour of RTE's proposals which were approved by Communications Minister Richard Bruton earlier this year.

This will clear the way for RTE to extend its RTE 1 +1, which shows its main channel an hour later, and launch an RTE 2 +1 service.

However, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, Virgin Media Television, formally know as TV3, was strongly critical of the plans.

Virgin claimed that new services would "direct RTE resources away from their core purposes". One of the reasons for this is that RTE is likely to have to pay carriage fees to platform operators in order to get extra material broadcast.

"Further, these schedule changes do not fulfil RTE's strategic aim of operating in a 'digital-first' manner, rather than expanding on traditional distribution methods," states the submission.

Virgin claimed the RTE proposal was a "misguided attempt to try to secure increased commercial revenue" while distracting RTE away from its core activities.

RTE is still awaiting news on an increase in licence funding. However, a senior Government official recently suggested that "a radical rethink" of RTE might be preferable.

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business