Friday 23 March 2018

RTÉ plunges into the red with a loss of €2.8m

RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes
RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

RTÉ's financial results for 2015 show the scale of the challenge facing newly appointed director general Dee Forbes.

The State-owned broadcaster made an overall loss, or deficit, last year of €2.8m, reversing a small surplus in 2014.

Commenting on the results, Communications Minister Denis Naughten promised a crackdown on TV licence evasion as a matter of urgency.

Proposals for funding public service broadcasting will be tabled by the Government later this year, the minister said.

Last month the minister scrapped plans drawn up under the last government to replace the licence fee for TV owners with a Broadcast Charge for all homes. That's seen as politically toxic in the wake of the anti-water charges protests.

In a statement, RTÉ said cost pressures, including the negative impact of currency swings, were behind the loss.

The impact of foreign exchange swings against the dollar and sterling - which cost RTÉ €2.6m - highlights its reliance on content bought in from the US and Britain.

The 2015 results showed a 4pc rise in advertising income, to €155m. RTÉ's share of TV licence fee income held steady at almost €179m, but the broadcaster is not seeing any rise on the back of the growth in the number of households, highlighted most recently in Census 2016.

RTÉ's deputy director general Kevin Bakhurst described the broadcaster's financial position as challenging.

"Without a meaningful review of public funding, RTÉ will remain financially challenged, and unable to maintain or increase investment in the sector, or to invest in important investigations, drama development and landmark factual programming," he said.

Costs at RTÉ are now well down on pre-crash levels, Mr Bakhurst said. At an operating level the broadcaster reported a profit and delivered increases in commercial revenue, he said.

However, public funding is static and "in real terms", declining, he said. He blamed a high evasion rate, of 14pc, but also said there had been a steady increase in homes without a television set. Those who don't have a TV can watch content on mobile devices but are exempt from the licence fee. Since the crash, RTÉ has been forced to cope with dramatically reduced resources. State funding was cut by €5m in Budget 2014.

On the commercial side, TV advertising added €83m to RTÉ's coffers; €19m was from radio and €7.5m from digital.

Irish Independent

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