'Scrap TV licence and charge for use of media' - First Dates Ireland boss
The managing director of the firm behind the hit TV show 'First Dates Ireland' has called for the replacement of the TV licence with a 'household media charge' to fund the independent production sector.
In an interview yesterday, Stuart Switzer, of Coco Television, blamed a 65pc drop in profits last year at his firm on RTÉ's budget for independent production being slashed.
New accounts for Coco Television Ltd show that last year the Dublin firm recorded profits of €119,874 - this compares with profits of €212,192 in 2014.
At the end of last year, Coco Television had accumulated profits of €1.6m and had €1m in cash.
Mr Switzer said that the drop in profit in 2015 "is due to the continuing downward pressure on domestic production budgets and margins as direct result of our public service broadcaster RTÉ being under-resourced".
"In 2008 RTÉ spent circa €80m on independent production compared with the current €38m and of course it still has a schedule to fill," he said.
Mr Switzer said the drop in profits "is a concern as profits are required to enable us invest in the development of new ideas".
Mr Switzer said that the underfunding would continue "until our legislators deal with the level of the TV licence fee evasion by moving to a media charge, and resolve the opt-out Irish advertising drain by introducing an 'Irish production levy' which will benefit all broadcasters in Ireland".
"I think a 'media charge' is fair irrespective of owning a TV, as fast broadband has enabled an array of devices to receive content. Given the current economic climate I suggest there is no political appetite for a fee/charge increase but with less evasion and an efficient collection system this could generate an additional €25m," he said.
Mr Switzer said that currently, the advertising spend here on opt-out UK channels is €50m and an Irish production levy of 50pc "would be paid by the Advertising Agency as a percentage of the revenue paid by the advertiser to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland".
The firm's top-rated show 'Room to Improve' last year had an audience high of a 638,000 while Mr Switzer said that 'First Dates Ireland' - which is due to return in January - "received an Ifta, excellent ratings and was a 'wow' on social media".
The company also produced the documentary '1916', which has been seen by 35 million worldwide.