Concern as RTÉ fails to attract younger viewers

The Minister for Communications has told the chairman of the country’’s broadcasting watchdog of his concern that RTÉ is not meeting some of its targets, including attracting younger viewers who are opting for new platforms.
Concern as RTÉ fails to attract younger viewers

The Minister for Communications has told the chairman of the country’’s broadcasting watchdog of his concern that RTÉ is not meeting some of its targets, including attracting younger viewers who are opting for new platforms.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, was responding to the chairman of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Professor Pauric Travers, on the BAI’s Annual Review of Performance and Public Funding of RTÉ and TG4 for 2018.

Prof Travers had initially expressed his "concern" to the Minister regarding RTÉ missing financial targets and about the impact of funding cuts at TG4.

Correspondence laid before the Oireachtas shows that Prof Travers wrote of TG4’s failure to reach some core audience targets.

This performance captures, quite starkly, the link between funding and the achievement of TG4’s strategic objectives.

Prof Travers also mentioned a shortfall when it comes to attracting younger viewers and the "growing fragmentation of younger audiences".

He noted the high levels of public trust in RTÉ but added: "The Authority is most concerned at the net impact, which is ultimately the diminishing provision of public service content to lrish audiences.

"ln the current climate of disinformation and ’’fake news’’, stable and sustainable public service broadcasting is viewed as being more necessary than ever."

He recommended a funding increase of €5.557m for TG4 and an increase of more than €12m for RTÉ.

In his response, written on March 19 last, Minister Bruton said: " RTÉ and TG4 are both vital to the maintenance of our democracy, especially in a time where we have seen a significant rise in disinformation."

He welcomed aspects of RTÉ performance but said he shared the concerns about the lack of reach to the youngest viewers — "the viewers of the future", while also expressing concern at slippage in the public’s trust in RTÉ and in terms of seeing it as value for money.

I recognise that younger audiences are shifting to new platforms, away from linear TV and tend to prove more difficult for broadcasters to attract. However, this is a key demographic for the future.

Minister Bruton defended the level of funding allocated to public service broadcasters and said both RTÉ and TG4 have seen increases in the amounts provided.

He also referred to the newly-established Commission on the Future of Irish Public Service Broadcasting, which will make recommendations to the Government, and also said he shares the BAI’s concerns about ongoing deficits at RTÉ.

RTÉ has overhauled its programming to take the Covid-19 pandemic into account, including output for younger viewers now home from school, and within days of the Minister’s letter, Dee Forbes, RTÉ director-general, said: “People at home and abroad are coming to RTÉ in huge numbers right now."

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