Risks to RTÉ public service content

RTÉ could be forced to reduce its public service content and viewers could face more repeats on their TV sets unless the broadcaster gets either increased public funding or achieves greater efficiencies, according to the latest independent review of public service broadcasting.

The Public Funding Review of Public Service Broadcasters, carried out by consultants Indecon, also highlighted concerns about TG4, and particularly its shortage of younger viewers.

The review was completed last December and has now been laid before the Oireachtas and focuses primarily on 2016.

It does acknowledge the sale announced last summer of nine acres of land on the RTÉ campus in Donnybrook and Indecon said the fact that the proceeds from the land sale will not fund annual operational budgets was “prudent”, adding: “We believe that the focus should be on investment in technology to enhance cost efficiencies and to develop engagement and build audiences.”

Allowing for the fact that at time of completion of the report no final decision had been taken by the RTÉ board regarding expenditure cutbacks, Indecon said: “RTÉ has indicated that it may have to utilise a greater number of repeat or acquired programming in its schedules, and would reduce the volume of original indigenous content for Irish audiences.

"These would include cuts to RTÉ One and RTÉ2 in the areas of news and current affairs (N&CA), sport, entertainment, and factual.

“Indecon’s overall conclusion is that even with enhanced efficiencies and a reduced cost base and with the effective use of land sale income, there is a need to increase funding if there is to be any enhancement in the level of public service content.”

The report mentions the increasingly fragmented viewing patterns within households, competition from other areas including online offerings, and how RTÉ needed to bolster its online advertising.

However, it also noted that it had fully or substantially met almost all its audience-related targets but concluded: “Without enhanced efficiencies and/or increases in public funding, there is little doubt that RTÉ will be forced to reduce its public service content.”

In his response to the report, Communications Minister Denis Naughten said he was now examining the report from the joint Oireachtas committee on communications, climate action and environment on proposed amendments to the 2009 Broadcasting Act.


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