IFTA chief hits out at RTE over decision to axe awards
The CEO of the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Aine Moriarty has launched a scathing attack on RTE, accusing the State broadcaster of "disgraceful" behaviour over its decision to pull its annual award ceremony from its airwaves.
In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Ms Moriarty also said RTE acted "disingenuously".
"When things were going right - only last year - they sent out a press release saying that it was produced in conjunction with RTE," she said.
"It's still up on their website today. It was all great to say that for 10 years in a row, but when the critics were out baying for blood it was pretty disingenuous to say that it wasn't anything to do with them and that it was an IFTA production."
Ms Moriarty said RTE's decision not to broadcast the IFTAs next year was particularly hard to swallow because, she claims, the station refused to provide adequate funding for the show, despite the fact it attracted lucrative advertising revenue.
Ms Moriarty told the Sunday Independent: "IFTA has been asking for three years for RTE to step up to the plate and increase the budget which they were giving us to produce the awards.
"They only gave us 10pc of the money that the BAFTAs receive each year from the BBC. It was disgraceful. Especially in light of the fact that RTE made quite a lot of money around the awards ceremony. They don't seem to have to release these figures. But you only need to look at the advertising revenue they were bringing in from the show.
"Ad rates averaged €5,800 per 30 seconds, providing RTE with the potential of making €174,000 around the show.
"Furthermore, IFTA was told that RTE's broadcast advertisers were ring-fenced and that IFTA could not approach them for sponsorship."
The live two-hour IFTA ceremony - hosted by MTV presenter Laura Whitmore and actor Simon Delaney - cost €500,000 to produce, of which RTÉ contributes an average €126,000 per year to the production.
Ms Moriarty says this is less than the €600,000 RTE spends on average for a one-hour drama.
"That should give you an idea of what we were dealing with with our production budget," Ms Moriarty added.
The IFTA chief fears RTE's action may have put off big-name actors from turning up to next year's ceremony.
"The danger is that they have caused serious damage to the Academy and to the awards ceremony. But we are determined not to let this damage the industry and we are going to think outside the box this year to ensure this much needed showcase continues," she said.
"The public should be able to see first-hand a showcase of the talent in this country. It's a David-and-Goliath battle, but we must go on."
Ms Moriarty said she had been approached by another broadcaster with a view to taking over the event from RTE, but would not reveal which one.
Founded in 2003 to celebrate Irish film and TV talent, it has been described by President Michael D Higgins as "playing a crucial role in our drive for national recovery by raising the profile of our industry across the globe" This year, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Dornan, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson all made the pilgrimage home for the ceremony in February.
Meanwhile an RTE source told the Sunday Independent that "RTE has never pointed any fingers to blame IFTA". The source said: "The station has merely stated it is taking a break this year."