The boss of the production company behind the reality TV show First Dates Ireland has called for a replacement of the TV licence with a ‘household media charge’ in order to have the independent production sector here properly funded.
Speaking yesterday, Coco Television’s managing director Stuart Switzer blamed a 65% drop in profits last year at his firm on RTÉ’s budget for independent production being slashed.
Newly filed accounts for Coco Television Ltd show that it generated profits of €119,874 last year, down from a profit of €212,192 in 2014.
As of the end of December 2015, the Dublin television production firm had accumulated profits of €1.6m and had €1m in cash.
Mr Switzer said the drop in profit in 2015 “is due to the continuing downward pressure on domestic production budgets and margins as a direct result of our public service broadcaster, RTÉ, being under-resourced”.
“In 2008, RTÉ spent circa €80m on independent production compared with the current €38m and of course still has a schedule to fill,” he said. Mr Switzer added that revenues at Coco were last year similar to 2014 but that the drop in profits “is a concern as profits are required to enable us invest in the development of new ideas”.
He said the underfunding will continue “until our legislators deal with the level of the TV licence fee evasion by moving to a media charge, and resolve the opt-out Irish advertising drain by introducing an ‘Irish production levy’ which will benefit all broadcasters in Ireland”.
“I think a ‘media charge’ is fair irrespective of owning a TV, as fast broadband has enabled an array of devices to receive content,” he said. “Given the current economic climate, I suggest there is no political appetite for a fee/charge increase but with less evasion and an efficient collection system this could generate an additional €25m to fund content creation.”
He said an Irish production levy of 50% “would be paid by the advertising agency as a percentage of the revenue paid by the advertiser to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
“The BAI would spend the additional income on independent production on a competitive submission basis as they do now,” said Mr Switzer.
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