Concern for TV and radio jobs remains despite decline in BAI levy on broadcasters to €5.7m

TV and radio stations will have to pay a €5.7 million levy to fund the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland this year in a move that broadcasters have warned could cost jobs in the sector.

However, the BAI confirmed yesterday that the bill stations face is down from an original forecast of €7.6m, after it slashed its budget by 21%.

The reduced budget represents something of a victory for the Oireachtas Communications Committee which had threatened to delay legislation to give effect to the controversial levy over concerns that it would result in job losses in the independent TV and radio sector.

TDs and senators had demanded more time to examine the BAI’s accounts to see if a 27% increase in its original budget could be justified.

The BAI claimed the extra spending was due to the additional responsibility of regulating RTÉ since it had taken over responsibility for the entire sector from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

Many broadcasters had complained about the impact of the proposed levy which was due to finance the BAI’s initial 2010 budget of €7.6m.

However, BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe informed the committee yesterday that the revised budget now stood at €6m after savings of €1.6m had been identified. Mr O’Keeffe said the actual levy required from TV and radio stations would be €5.7m as it was also excluding depreciation charges.

The BAI said savings had largely been achieved as a result of a change in its VAT status and a reduction in overhead costs as well as its ability to recoup costs under the Broadcasting Funding Scheme. Mr O’Keeffe said cuts of €400,000 would be achieved from reduced PR services, advertising, publicity campaigns, translation and the cancellation of a planned broadcasting conference.

Despite concern being voiced by several TDs that the levy would have a disproportionate impact on smaller radio stations, Mr O’Keeffe insisted that national TV and radio stations as well as the three largest local stations would pay 81% of the levy.

RTÉ will contribute €2.1m or 37% of the total levy, according to the BAI. TV3 and TG4 will contribute between €677,000 and €770,000 each, while Today FM, Newstalk and Dublin’s 98FM and FM104 and Cork’s 96FM will pay a levy ranging from €137,000 to €338,000.

The committee heard that the remaining 27 local and regional radio stations would pay sums between €10,000 and €80,000. Community radio stations will pay a levy between €750 and €8,000.

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland had claimed the minimum levy for each station would be €100,000.

Mr O’Keeffe said it was still undecided if broadcasters would also have to pay a levy to cover the BAI’s costs for the final quarter of 2009.

Labour Party communications spokeswoman, Liz McManus said any attempt to off-load the €1.3m cost of that quarter on radio stations was “totally unacceptable”.

Despite the reduced BAI budget, Fine Gael communications spokesman Simon Coveney said the committee remained frustrated that it hasn’t been given detailed accounts by the BAI. He claimed the imposition of the levy would undoubtedly lead to job losses in the sector.

More in this section