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Readers Blog: Do we need a State-owned broadcaster?

The hullabaloo about the gender pay gap in RTÉ follows the publication of comparable data by BBC. The 56th annual report discloses cash-strapped RTÉ reported a deficit in 2016 of €19.7m from total revenue of €337.3m on top of a pre-existing cumulative deficit of €15.1m.

The hullabaloo about the gender pay gap in RTÉ follows the publication of comparable data by BBC. The 56th annual report discloses cash-strapped RTÉ reported a deficit in 2016 of €19.7m from total revenue of €337.3m on top of a pre-existing cumulative deficit of €15.1m.

The Irish public would seem far less ready to support our national broadcaster than the British public is to support theirs. Some 76% of the cost of running the BBC is financed by £3.7bn in licence fee revenue collected from 25.5m licence holders, with relatively little incidence of non-compliance, or licence fee evasion.

Some 53% of the cost of running RTÉ is financed by €179m of licence fee revenue collected from only 75% of the households in the State — a revenue quantum, in the case of RTÉ, that declined by more than €4m since 2015.

We were persuaded that Aer Lingus, the national airline, and a plethora of other commercial State companies are not indispensable to the vitality and growth of our society. Aer Lingus was sold to a foreign buyer on the grounds it enjoyed inadequate economies of scale to remain viable as an independent entity. Passenger traffic into and out of the State has not fallen as a consequence of its ownership by a London-based conglomerate.

Has the time not come for a fundamental public debate about whether we really need a State-funded national broadcasting service or should RTÉ be sold to the highest bidder on the global market with a promise of higher quality programmes of local interest?

If the Irish public are unwilling to adequately support RTÉ through a combination of public revenue, advertising revenue and commercial revenue the writing is on the wall. RTÉ will become defined by increasing mediocrity, a loss of confidence and irrelevance. It will perish on the vine of obsolescence, like the canal barge companies of the 19th century and Dún Laoghaire harbour.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary

Co Dublin



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