The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) recently completed its five-year funding review of Ireland’s two public service broadcasters, RTÉ and TG4. The focus of the review was on the strategic challenges and opportunities facing the public service broadcasters (“PSBs”) over the next five-year period, and the adequacy of funding required to support their work in serving Irish audiences in the evolving and increasingly dynamic media environment.
Quality public service broadcasting in Ireland reflects the voice and interests of Irish citizens, serves their needs and connects them to the wider world; it provides a trusted and impartial source of news and current affairs; it supports linguistic diversity; and it makes an indispensable contribution to social, political and cultural life.
The role and value of public service broadcasting should not be taken for granted, particularly in the current environment where PSBs face significant challenges in responding to dramatic social change in Ireland, and the rapidly evolving media environment which is marked by the fragmentation of audiences and the growth of digital and non-linear services and content.
The report and recommendations have been submitted to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. A summary of the key funding recommendations is set out below.
The BAI’s review concludes that both RTÉ and TG4 continue to deliver value for Irish audiences and submits that there is a strong justification to support increased levels of funding for each of the broadcasters which should assist them in meeting environmental, technological and financial challenges while also fulfilling audience expectations, both now and into the future.
ln presenting its recommendations, the BAI has taken account of the fact that, notwithstanding its frequent funding recommendations to Government in the case of RTÉ, there has been no television licence fee increase in over ten years. Funding recommendations for TG4 have not been fully realised either, despite an increasingly competitive environment for content – both linear and non-linear.
The BAI recommends, at a minimum, that RTÉ should receive an increase in its annual public funding of €30m per annum. Given the urgency of RTÉ’s current funding position, the increased level of public funding recommended should be available to the broadcaster immediately.
As set out in the report, the BAI believes that there may well be a case for increased funding in excess of €30m per annum and remains open to receiving further detailed proposals from the broadcaster over the period of its 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, aligned with its statutory remit.
The BAI recommends an increase of €6m per annum in public funding for TG4. It is the view of the BAI that this increase should have full effect from 2018 and onwards over the period of TG4’s strategy.
The BAI believes that both funding increases are justified, as, in its view, the funding currently available is not sufficient to ensure the broadcaster’s sustainability. Increased funding will also facilitate the broadcasters in pursuing their creative vision for Irish audiences in collaboration with the Irish independent production sector, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the wider Irish audio-visual sector.
Enhancing Sectoral Sustainability
Viewers and listeners in Ireland are served by a wide range of public service, commercial and community broadcasters all of whom play a valuable and crucial role in realising the BAI’s vision of a media landscape that shapes and reflects who we are. In pursuing this vision, it is the BAI’s objective to contribute to achieving sustainability for the Irish audio-visual sector and to foster the delivery of creative, innovative and culturally-relevant content for Irish audiences across all broadcasting platforms.
The implementation of the recommendations of the five-year review of public funding will make a significant contribution towards the sustainability of public service broadcasters. Separately, the BAI will continue to work with the commercial and community broadcasting sectors over the remainder of the Strategy to enhance their sustainability in an ever more challenging media environment.
The development of sustainable funding models, and the enhancement of creativity and innovation within the Irish audio-visual sector, goes to the heart of the BAI Strategy Statement. The BAI acknowledges the valuable role played by the independent commercial and community sectors in providing choice and diversity for audiences, and will continue to engage with these key stakeholders to work towards the achievement of these objectives.
With regard to RTÉ and TG4, the BAI notes the significant changes that both PSBs have implemented to reduce costs and increase efficiencies in recent years. The BAI recognises also that both broadcasters have taken steps to meet current and future challenges. In this context, current levels of public funding are not sufficient to sustain the reach and impact of current provision, let alone allow the broadcasters to evolve in such a way as to adequately fulfil their statutory remit in serving Irish audiences.
The BAI requests that the Minister and the Government urgently address the financing required for public service broadcasting as set out in the BAI’s report.
Professor Pauric Travers, Chairperson – Broadcasting Authority of Ireland
The report of the BAI will be published once it has been laid before each House of the Oireachtas by the Minister, further to Section 124 (15) of the 2009 Act.