RTÉ spends 90% of budget on homegrown content

RTÉ spends 90% of budget on homegrown content

RTÉ Director-General Dee Forbes said RTÉ does not have 'adequate revenues' to deliver against its public service remit.

RTÉ spent €238 million of its programming budget, or just over 90%, on homegrown content in 2019, with €23.4 million expended on international programming.

The broadcaster said that €235.1 million was spent on both in-house and commissioned content, and €3.3 million on programme acquisitions within Ireland.

The information, contained in a wide-ranging update to the Public Accounts Committee, comes amid a flurry of lobbying on the part of the cash-strapped broadcaster for reforms as to how it is funded. Earlier this week RTÉ said that it will seek more than the 60 voluntary redundancies it had aimed for as a cost-cutting measure due to the process being oversubscribed.

On Thursday meanwhile the broadcaster’s head of strategy Rory Coveney called for a levy on streaming services which provide content which target Irish audiences.

The submission to the PAC follows an appearance by Director General Dee Forbes before the committee last month in which whe claimed that RTÉ does not have “adequate revenues” to deliver against its public service remit.

In the new communication RTÉ’s head of Public Affairs Vivienne Flood states that 6.7% of RTÉ’s total workforce of 1,831 is paid in excess of €100,000.

Those 122 workers do not include the top earners at the broadcaster, including Miriam O’Callaghan and Ryan Tubridy, who are engaged instead as separate contractors. Three of those performers are represented by the same agent - NK Management - Ms Flood said.

She declined to confirm what reparation payment RTÉ had made to the Revenue Commissioners regarding underpayment of social insurance contributions after a review found that 82 freelance workers with the broadcaster should instead have been retained as direct employees due to the nature of their work.

'Bogus employer'

At Ms Forbes’ appearance before the PAC she had denied that RTÉ is “a bogus employer” despite the review, carried out by consultants Eversheds Sutherland, concluding that 157 contractors with the broadcaster had “attributes akin to employment”.

That same hearing also heard that back-payments could not be made to the 80 employees who had accepted offers of direct contracts following the review until an audit by the Revenue Commissioners is complete.

“RTÉ made a voluntary qualifying disclosure to Revenue in respect of the engagement of contractors,” Ms Flood said. 

“Under the terms of this disclosure, the details are not made publicly available.” She also admitted that a “parallel audit” is being undertaken by the Department of Social Protection on the matter and as such “RTÉ is not in a position to comment further”.

At last month’s hearing RTÉ financial controller Fiona O’Shea was asked for the amount of the payment, after she had first raised its existence, but had said that she did “not have it to hand today”.

In her letter to the PAC Ms Flood likewise declined to say how much the Eversheds Sutherland review, commissioned in 2018, had cost “on the basis that RTÉ may have need for similar independent assessment and consultancy for future projects”.

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