RTÉ boss says she's in for long haul

The director general of RTÉ has said she is “absolutely” in the role for the long haul as the broadcaster enters the second year of a five-year plan to boost its audience.

Dee Forbes said it was a “fantastic opportunity in a challenging time” but that she and RTÉ staff were “dedicated to carrying it through”.

 Dee Forbes Director General RTE at the RTE Breakfast Briefing at the Imperial Hotel in Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins
Dee Forbes Director General RTE at the RTE Breakfast Briefing at the Imperial Hotel in Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins

RTÉ posted a €6.4m loss last year, has shed hundreds of jobs and sold around nine acres of land in Donnybrook for €107.5m as part of what it called “radical cost-cutting”.

Speaking in Cork where the broadcaster outlined its plans for a new RTÉ Player and increased indigenous content, Ms Forbes said RTÉ was one year into the plan and that she planned to execute it.

“I came home from London to take on this role. It’s a fantastic opportunity in a challenging time. I’m here absolutely, I have an amazing team that is dedicated to carrying it through. The thing about a strategy is that you have to live it. It evolves as you go through the time,” she said.

The former managing director of Discovery Networks Northern Europe said the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was an important voice in backing its calls for more Government funding.

“With the strategy, we submit to the BAI and the BAI submits to Government. We haven’t had a formal correspondence from Government on it yet but the BAI came out and said that on the back of what we submitted, they were recommending an immediate payment of €30m to RTÉ to ensure we could deliver on the strategy.

“Even the BAI recognise we are underfunded, and that was a very big call to action on behalf of the BAI just before the Budget this year,” she said.

Ms Forbes said the current television licence system was “not fit for purpose” and that up to €50m remained uncollected.

“What we have been asking for all along is reform of the collection system. If the licence fee was collected at its current level, it would be an extra €40 or €50m. The important thing is (former Communications Minister) Denis Naughten, before he left his post, convened a committee to look at that very notion -- what is the optimal way to collect the licence fee going forward.

“There is €40 to €50m out there. It is important to reiterate that it isn’t just about RTÉ, it is the creative centre. There is the BAI sound and vision fund, which gets a slice of the licence fee, and that is for programme-making for anybody within the island. It’s not just about RTÉ. We have a vibrant sector here, and what this is about is ensuring it is funded to a level that we can celebrate the good in it,” she said.

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