TV3 declares war on RTÉ’s system of ‘dual-funding’

TV3 has declared war on RTÉ in a battle for ratings as well as a challenge to end the state broadcaster’s access to dual funding from advertising and the TV licence fee.

TV3 chief executive David McRedmond said there was an overwhelming need for economic regulation of the Irish television industry to provide fairer competition in the sector.

Mr McRedmond called on the Government and regulators to reform the system that allowed RTÉ funding from two revenue streams as he unveiled details of TV3’s autumn schedule in Dublin yesterday.

More than 230 hours of home-produced programming will see a range of new series including an Irish version of Mastermind hosted by Nora Owen, Twink as an agony aunt in Give Adele a Bell and a reality TV show, the punningly titled Tallafornia.

Although TV3’s advertising revenue has grown by 4% this year, Mr McRedmond claimed RTÉ’s advertising rates were pitched too low and were distorting the market for TV, radio and print media.

He said recent criticism by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland of transmission costs proposed by RTÉ to carry other stations on its digital TV service, Saorview, was further evidence of how RTÉ was abusing its funding system.

Mr McRedmond proposed that RTÉ1 should be funded solely from licence fee income as the main channel for public service broadcasting, while RTÉ2 should become a purely commercial station reliant on advertising revenue.

The TV3 boss pointed out the station’s share of the Irish TV audience had grown 10% over the past three years so that it now exceeds both RTÉ2 and the combined viewing figures for BBC1, BBC2 and ITV.

Mr McRedmond said TV3 was firmly focused on home-produced programming which now accounts for 43% of TV3’s schedule with a target of reaching 50% by next year. He revealed that TV3 had begun to sell some of its own programmes abroad, including Animal A&E and one-off documentaries such as The Tragedy of Phoebe Prince.

The station is also set to a open a €4.5 million studio at its Ballymount headquarters next year which will be five times the size of its existing studio facilities.

Meanwhile, TV3’s director of programming, Ben Frow, promised the station’s autumn schedule would be heavily concentrated on entertainment shows. “This autumn, TV3 will again be the place to escape to for fun and feelgood distraction,” said Mr Frow.

Mr Frow admitted he was wrong to predict the demise of reality TV a few years ago which explains why popular favourites of the genre such as The Apprentice and Celebrity Salon return.

New reality shows will see Tallafornia, which follows the party lifestyle of eight young adults from west Dublin, while Southside Housewives promises more of the same.

For drama, TV3 will rely largely on successful British and US series such as Downton Abbey, Glee and Law and Order: SVU, with one of the highlights being a four-part mini series, Titanic, to be shown next year to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage.

Successful programmes from last season will enjoy a second series including the dating show, Take Me Out with Ray Foley, the Irish version of Come Dine With Me and the crime series, 24 Hours to Kill.

Special documentaries include a three-part series on the recent history of Fianna Fáil presented by TV3 political correspondent Ursula Halligan and Sex Lives, which explores the illegal sex industry in Ireland.

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