Wednesday 22 November 2017

RTE boss aims charm offensive at our politicians

Meeting: RTE chief Dee Forbes
Meeting: RTE chief Dee Forbes
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Newly appointed RTE director general Dee Forbes has begun a charm offensive to woo national politicians as she battles to revive the financially struggling State broadcaster, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Ms Forbes last week met Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and the party's communications spokesman Timmy Dooley in Leinster House.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photo: Gerry Mooney
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photo: Gerry Mooney

A senior RTE source said the meeting was "mainly about public funding and explaining the stations financial position".

Ms Forbes also plans to meet the leaders of the other main political parties.

"She is planning to have more formal meetings with the main political parties in due course," the source said.

A Fianna Fail source said Mr Martin had a "introductory meeting" with Ms Forbes and insisted it is "not unusual" for the party to meet with the head of RTE.

"She's the new director general of RTE and she came in to introduce herself and tell us what is going on in RTE," the source said.

Fianna Fail has formally complained to RTE in the past about what it perceived to be unfair bias against the party in the station's political coverage.

However, it is understood the issue was not raised at the meeting.

"She is mindful that as director general she needs to meet with party leaders. She is keen to be someone who is visible and does not want to be tied to her desk," an RTE source added.

She recently held her first meeting with Communications Minister Denis Naughten who ruled out any increase in the €160-a-year licence fee.

Mr Naughten has also ruled out the introduction of a broadcasting charge.

However, he is determined to increase revenue at the station by clamping down on licence fee evaders, who are costing the station around €40m a year.

RTE's latest financial figures which showed the station was running a deficit of €2.8m last year.

The Sunday Independent previously revealed the station expects to record a massive €20m loss this year, along a 20pc drop in advertising revenue.

Major television and radio resources were spent this year 1916 Rising Centenary coverage, the Rio Olympics and the Euros in Frances.

Ms Forbes recently said she wants to "future proof" RTE and establish new revenue streams for the broadcaster.

"More and more as the world around us is diversifying and fragmenting, we need to have a wide outward vision. And also I think it is not prudent any more for any broadcaster to go it alone on everything," she told the told the Mediacon conference in Dublin.

RTE is still considering what it should do with its Montrose site in Donnybrook.

A Government sanction report indicated that before any consideration was given to additional funding it was necessary to review both the advertising market and consider options for selling all or part of the Montrose site.

RTE sources said station chiefs are still discussing what the station should do with the site and a decision should be taken shortly.

Sunday Independent

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