Sunday 16 December 2018

RTÉ chief blames Brexit and online giants for fall in revenue

RTE Director General Dee Forbes Picture: Caroline Quinn
RTE Director General Dee Forbes Picture: Caroline Quinn
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said she expects the broadcaster to suffer another drop in commercial revenue, blaming Brexit and advertisers flocking to internet giants.

She said there was a "worrying trend" where traditional broadcasters and newspapers were "having a difficult time at the mercy of Google and Facebook",

But she was also hoping a relaunch of the online RTÉ Player service would boost advertising income.

Ms Forbes was appearing at the Oireachtas Communications Committee, which was examining RTÉ's 2017 Annual Report.

She told TDs and Senators that RTÉ's commercial revenue of €151.5m last year was €6.7m less than in 2016 and said it was indicative of Brexit-related effects.

She said: "The outlook for 2018 and 2019 remains very challenging."

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan asked Ms Forbes if she had an estimate for what commercial revenues would be this year.

She said there wasn't a final number yet but she was expecting it to be behind 2017 with the market down by "a few percent".

"Indicators so far this year have been not as good as we would have liked," she said, saying the "Brexit impact continues".

Big advertisers like Mars and Unilever, who plan their advertising spend from the UK, were "feeling the pressure in their UK business and as a result Ireland gets affected".

Ms Forbes said the car market was also "very cautious" but RTÉ still had some "big months to come yet on our commercial income".

Ms Forbes promised RTÉ's soon-to-be-launched online player service would be "a much more pleasant experience for the user" and a better design. She said RTÉ was hoping to generate more advertising revenue with the player.

Mr Ryan also asked about funding for children's television.

Ms Forbes said this had been "severely curtailed" in recent years amid RTÉ's financial difficulties - dropping from €16m in 2008 to €6.5m in 2016.

She said RTÉ was still investing in the independent sector, particularly animation, and the new player would have a dedicated area for children, including parental controls.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley sought an update on job cuts at RTÉ.

The broadcaster's chief financial officer, Breda O'Keeffe, said €29.6m had been allocated for restructuring in 2017 which provided for a reduction of staffing levels of between 200 and 300 staff.

She said the scheme, which includes early retirement, was "entirely voluntary" and around 150 people have left.

Irish Independent

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