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RTE stays tight-lipped on texting revenues

RTE has refused to reveal how much it earns from texts sent by listeners and viewers, despite their growing influence on programme formats.

Shows such as 'Ireland's Greatest', which encouraged viewers to vote for their favourite historical figure, and 'The All Ireland Talent Show', which mimics Britain's 'The X Factor', have become a central feature of the station's schedule.

Text-in competitions are also a huge money-spinner on radio and TV shows such as 'Mooney's Money', the 'Late Late Show' and 'No Frontiers'.

However, in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the station declined to reveal how much it earned from audience texts. RTE said it has always regarded such information as "commercially sensitive".

Consumers pay up to €1 per text to 'listener interactive' shows, with the revenue after VAT divided between RTE, the mobile phone company, the premium-rate operator and the regulator.

RTE pointed to figures in its annual report indicating it earned €5.7m in 2009 from "content, merchandising and related sales" in publishing, which it said included texts, but also other sources of revenue.

This is more than twice as much as it made from this source in 2007 (€2.5m) and 2008 (€2.8m), even though most other commercial revenues have gone through the floor in that period.

RTE defended its decision to withhold details of how much revenue comes from texts.

"If details became known through a FoI request, RTE would be put at a disadvantage in negotiating contracts," a station spokesperson said.

It was not in the public interest to reveal how much it earned from texting, as RTE was 50pc reliant on commercial revenue, which was then used to fund home-produced programmes.

"I cannot see how it is in the public interest to bring about any potential reduction in that revenue when the only result would be an increase in acquired programming which is frequently available on other channels," said RTE's FoI officer Peter Feeney.


Another RTE spokesman, Joseph Hoban, also refused to give a breakdown of the volumes of texts received, or revenue from premium-rate calls and texts.

RTE spent years refusing to reveal how much its top presenters earned, again citing commercial sensitivity.

The Irish Independent is appealing the broadcaster's decision not to disclose information on text revenues.

Irish Independent