Saturday 24 March 2018

RTE to choose between licence fee and ad revenue

Presenter Claire Byrne
Presenter Claire Byrne
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The Government is poised to force RTE to choose between the licence fee and making money from advertisements, Communications Minister Alex White has told the Irish Independent.

The current 'dual funding' model - which allows RTÉ to raise revenue both from licence fee payers and advertisers - is seen by many rival media companies as an unfair commercial advantage.

Mr White - who is a former RTÉ producer - said he will bring a memo to Cabinet within weeks setting out different policy options for public service broadcasting.

The memo will examine whether the Government should go ahead with a planned public broadcasting charge that would force every home to pay a fee to RTÉ even if they don't have a television.

But Mr White said he wouldn't expect any change in relation to replacing the current licence fee soon.


However, Mr White said he expects and intends to continue reviewing the whole regime of funding for public service broadcasting.

Mr White's comments came after he addressed a symposium on the future of Irish local newspapers organised by local newspapers representative group Local Ireland.

Having RTE in the advertising marketplace makes it doubly hard for local newspapers to monetise their online offering, Local Ireland president Sean Mahon told the Irish Independent.

"There is only a limited pool of advertising out there and you have a State broadcaster that is on the one hand being funded by a licence fee to develop its programming and its content, and a lot of that content in itself is being re-purposed to create the digital side of their business, and then in addition they're able to monetise that by selling advertising in a commercial fashion," Mr Mahon said.

"In an evolving media landscape ... where we are investing into and developing our overall reach not only through our newspapers but through our digital products and services, we have to feel that we can go and try to monetise those," Mr Mahon said.

Mr White said he understands the concerns of the privately owned media.

"People have come through a very testing time, I know that's the case in terms of both local radio and local newspapers. I appreciate and understand that but I don't like to see this issue in zero sum ways, that we have to take from one to give to the other."

"I think public-service broadcasting is critically important in a democratic society, and I think it needs to be funded."

Irish Independent

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