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RTE accuses Government over €5m TV licence allowance cut

RTE has accused the Government of trying to use €5m cuts in TV licence allowances to make welfare budget savings.

Following the October Budget, RTE chairman Tom Savage wrote a letter to Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte saying he was concerned about the money the Government pay to the national broadcaster for the free licence fee for pensioners being cut from €59m to €54m.

In the letter, he said Social Protection Minister Joan Burton's budget announcement created "extraordinary" difficulties. He described the move as "almost entirely arbitrary" and that it went against Government policy towards RTE.

"RTE's public funding has been reduced to make a saving in the budget of the Department of Social Protection. In effect, RTE is being asked to bear the cost of national welfare policy," wrote Mr Savage.

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He outlined the €135m cut in RTE's cost base, including reducing staff by 500.

Mr Savage said that as RTE's resources were much lower than in the past, its ability to respond to new financial challenges was "severely limited".

He said a "new reduction in public funding will be extraordinarily difficult to manage".

Minister Rabbitte slammed the cut in a letter to Minister Burton, saying it came on top of a practice by the Department of Social Protection to pay only €145 to RTE for each of the 405,000 "free TV licences" for pensioners instead of the €160 licence fee, claiming it had already cost RTE €6m.

In the letters, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Rabbitte told Ms Burton that next year, "the 'hit taken by public service broadcasting and the independent programme makers will exceed €11m".

cfeehan@herald.ie


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