Wednesday 19 December 2018

Reduced RTÉ programming 'due to €100m fall in funding'

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes
RTÉ director general Dee Forbes
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

RTÉ boss Dee Forbes is set to blame a €100m fall in its funding over the last decade for a drop in investment in programming.

She is also expected to tell the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that international media and tech companies - which don't invest in Irish journalism and programming - will be the only organisations to benefit from a "severely diminished Irish media".

The Dáil's public spending watchdog last month raised concerns about oversight arrangements for licence-fee payers' funds going to RTÉ from the Department of Communications. This funding amounted to €179m in 2016.

Ms Forbes is scheduled to attend the committee's meeting today where she is expected to outline the broadcaster's financial difficulties in stark terms.

RTÉ is also understood to have provided the PAC with a briefing outlining RTÉ's use of public funding.

Ms Forbes' submission to the committee, seen by the Irish Independent, says that RTÉ still retains large audiences on TV, radio and online.

However, she is to outline the challenge RTÉ is facing with "inadequate resources".

The statement says that RTÉ's overall funding, from commercial and licence-fee revenue, has fallen by more than €100m since 2008 with the broadcaster's obligation to provide greater online services increasing during this same period.

She will say this is why RTÉ is "not now investing enough" in TV drama and children's programming, among other areas.

She also says that the drop in funding is why its news department doesn't have enough international correspondents.

"This is why we are finding it harder and harder to sustain audience share and compete for commercial revenue against... competitors like Virgin Media, Sky, BBC, ITV, Netflix, Amazon and a host of 'opt out channels'."

Ms Forbes is to tell the PAC the broadcaster has reduced costs by more than 20pc but she is also expected to call for a modernising of the TV licence fee system.

Irish Independent

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