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Dee Forbes on RTE's Urgent Financial Situation
04 May 2018 :
RTE DG Dee Forbes
RTE Director General Dee Forbes met with the Public Accounts Committee this week to discuss the broadcaster's use of licence-fee payers' cash, painting a dire picture of the financial situation at the public broadcaster.

Catherine Murphy TD questioned Ms Forbes about the list of top ten earners (figures from 2015 show show that Ryan Tubridy was paid €495,000, Ray D’Arcy was paid €400,000) saying "the impression that RTÉ has shedloads of money. Whether you like that or not that is the impression that it gives.” "It’s then very difficult to argue that RTE is short of money".

She told the Public Accounts Committee that although “it may appear to some that RTÉ has plenty of money” the organisation is in desperate need of a new, modern source of funding that encompasses non-traditional media.

Ms Forbes clarified that top ten talent is 1pc of RTÉ's total cost base, and that 50pc of RTÉ's funding comes from commercial revenue and that it's incumbent on presenters - "the best in the country" - to deliver strong audiences in order to be attractive to advertisers.

She said that the public service broadcaster is facing “urgent and substantial financial challenges” and by extension, “the broader creative sector that relies on a healthy RTÉ”.

She argued that RTÉ’s public service activities were “substantially in excess” of the funding it receives and that the balance is met through advertisements, which she said has “fallen by 36% or close to €90 million in the last ten years”.

 

She told the PAC that a direct result of “inadequate” resources, RTÉ is not investing properly in drama, children’s programme, arts, and the Irish language. Independent production has been slashed in half over the past decade, international news resources and foreign correspondent positions have been scrapped, and most recently, why the RTÉ orchestra may need to be downgraded.

“It would be remiss of me as director general, at a time of such turbulence in the media when so much of what we have relied upon for our news — not to impress on this committee the urgent and substantial financial challenges facing RTE. There is an obligation on policymakers and the Government to modernise the TV licence system which is fundamentally unfit for purpose and unreflective of how people consume and interact with public service media and content today”.

“Evasion levels in Ireland are over twice that in the UK and collection costs are more than double other European counterparts. That is not something RTE is responsible for, but it is something that has a massive bearing on our capacity.

“Why is it acceptable the TV licence system in this country is so inefficient that over €60m goes uncollected every year? RTE is not asking for additional money from households. We are simply asking that the money the State itself believes is appropriate as a TV licence should be collected.”

She continued that RTÉ is in dire need of a new TV licence model as the current one “is fundamentally unfit for purpose”, saying that the Government must impose strict new measures to reform the system and ensure €60m a year in unpaid fees are received.

 




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