Thursday 22 March 2018

RTE turns down ads from rival Newstalk

Pat Kenny moved from RTE to Newstalk last year
Pat Kenny moved from RTE to Newstalk last year
Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

Newstalk is considering taking legal action against RTE as the state broadcaster refuses to carry an ad campaign from the rival radio station.

The rejected ads were part of the commercial station's 'Move the Dial' campaign aimed at encouraging listeners to follow Pat Kenny to Newstalk after his departure from RTE last year.

"RTE's decision not to accept the ad is motivated solely by its determination to curb the listenership of a competitor," Gerard Whelan, Newstalk CEO, said. Newstalk also said RTE was in breach of its public sector broadcasting remit by refusing to run the TV ads.

Mr Whelan believes that RTE "took an arbitrary decision to reject it". Had the TV and radio station carried Newstalk's ad, Mr Kenny's face would have reappeared on national screens.

Mr Whelan also took issue with RTE's refusal of revenue as a state broadcaster and recipient of taxpayers' money.

"RTE is subsidised by the taxpayer and in 2012 it generated a licence fee income of approximately €181m. It also took in advertising revenue of approximately €156m. Now they want to stamp out the competition. This is clearly anti-competitive and an abuse of its position."

Newstalk was given notice this week by RTE that it was not carrying the TV ads. The latter did not give any explicit reason for the rejection.

RTE had previously carried similar ads and, according to Newstalk, the state broadcaster has guidelines on rejecting ads from competitors.

"RTE should make these guidelines public immediately, in the interest of transparency," said Mr Whelan.

RTE responded to Newstalk's comments by saying that it "airs advertising from competing media". It continued: "Previously this has included TV3, Newstalk, Today fm and Sky among others. All of these clients understand that the ads must adhere to our advertising codes. We are happy to carry the most recent Newstalk TV ad as broadcast on RTE in September and October 2013, should they so wish."

It added that "an earlier version of this ad was rejected as it contained a 'call-to-action', something we have made clear is in breach of our codes and regulations. This is widely understood and respected by the industry."

The Department of Communications said it "does not have a role to play in RTE's commercial policy on advertising".

Newstalk is currently taking legal advice on the matter and is strongly considering lodging a complaint with the Competition Authority.

Irish Independent

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