Sunday 17 December 2017

Broadcasting watchdog warned commercial radio faces 'extinction'

BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe. Photo:
BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe. Photo:
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Independent radio broadcasters have warned the regulator that the sector is "in danger of extinction".

In a strongly worded submission to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), the body which represents commercial stations said that the regulator must provide an environment which "regulates broadcasters but doesn't stifle them".

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) said that the regime should "most importantly ... allow broadcasters to operate in the commercial reality they are faced with to ultimately ensure the sustainability and viability of the independent radio stations".

The submission was made during the BAI's consultation on its new three-year strategy.

"At no time has the pace of change in the media landscape or the threats to the future viability of indigenous Irish media presented such a clear and present danger," said IBI.

The submission said that in 2008, media spend on Irish radio accounted for around 17pc of all media spend. Digital media was approximately 7pc.

"In 2016, radio's share is expected to be in the region of 6pc of the overall media spend. Digital has increased to approximately 34pc," it said.

"Indications are that this trend will continue and the prognosis for the short and medium term is bleak. The consequences for this profound shift in spending and the knock-on effect for broadcasters will be intense and acute."

One of the IBI's requests is that the BAI levy should be funded from money raised by the television licence fee rather than directly from the stations themselves.

"Not only would this give the BAI additional certainty in its operations it would also reduce the administration burden on the regulator reducing its running costs."

In its submission, RTE flagged the growing pressure from online media on the sector. It said it agreed with the BAI chief executive Michael O'Keeffe's comments that "opportunities for the broadcast sector in a growing online media context need to be sought out."

"It is important that this crucial question of addressing the audio-visual sector in this evolving online media context be factored into the BAI's work plan so that a common goal can be achieved," said RTE.

It also flagged the importance of Irish media in an increasingly global media market. "There is a risk that the Irish voices, and Irish editorial, the telling a story about ourselves will be lost in the vast and easily accessible content that is directly targeting Irish audiences," said the submission.

Meanwhile, Element Pictures, which co-produced hit films such as the Lobster and Room, as well as TV3's Red Rock, called on the BAI to make its funding scheme more accessible to the film industry.

"Irish feature film is enjoying a well-documented golden period at the moment, and that includes films supported by the Sound and Vision Fund,"it said.

"There is a real opportunity on the back of this success to encourage the emergence of a dynamic distribution sector in Ireland that can directly contribute to a more sustainable funding environment for the sector."

Sunday Indo Business

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