Dublin, 21 April 2015
Minister for Communications Alex White T.D., today (Tuesday) informed Government of his intention to publish the results of an RTÉ efficiency review, which was conducted by NewERA, and a broadcasting advertising market review, carried out for his department by Indecon. The Cabinet noted Minister White's proposals to:
- Revert to Government with legislative proposals to amend the regulatory framework for broadcasting advertising minutage, and to strengthen measures to tackle TV licence evasion including by allowing An Post to access Sky and UPC customer data
- Continue to engage with RTÉ's board and management to ensure that the broadcaster retains the capacity to deliver on its public service remit, including by undertaking a review of its assets including the Montrose site.
Minister White also told the Government that the introduction of the proposed public service broadcasting charge would not be possible within the lifetime of this Government.
Minister White said: "Media plurality is essential to the health of our democracy and Government policy is to sustain a diverse Irish broadcasting sector, including a strong public service broadcaster capable of delivering services that serve all our citizens' diverse needs and tastes.
"Declining advertising revenue – which is now shared between a growing number of broadcasters including many from overseas – has challenged all broadcasters including RTE, which depends on advertising for almost half its income.
"The NewERA report I am publishing today demonstrates that RTÉ has adjusted to this environment by reducing its operating costs and improving its efficiency to the point where its costs are now in the middle range of comparable European public service broadcasters. I will be engaging with RTÉ to ensure that these efforts are progressed and that the broadcaster continues with the review of its assets, including the Montrose site.
"Equally, the Government is committed to providing adequate funding for public service broadcasting in a time of stretched family budgets and limited exchequer funds. I believe a public service broadcasting charge could contribute to this, while reflecting the changing ways that viewers now access public service broadcasting. However, we cannot replace the TV licence fee with a public service broadcasting charge until we have built public understanding and support for such a move.
In the meantime, I will be bringing legislation to Government to help tackle licence fee evasion, which is currently estimated to exceed 15%, with the loss of over €25 million to broadcasters each year. This is also a matter of fairness. The vast majority of Irish citizens are making their contribution to the costs of quality public service broadcasting by paying their licence fee. But a significant minority continues to enjoy the benefits while expecting others to pay their share."
The Minister pointed out that 7% of annual TV licence receipts are allocated to the Broadcasting Fund, which ensured that €14.2 million was available to support the production and transmission of high quality Irish culture and heritage programming in 2014.
Welcoming the findings of the Indecon report, Minister White said: "Indecon's analysis indicates that any changes to the advertising minutage of domestic public service broadcasters would likely see further leakage of advertising spend to broadcasters outside of Ireland as much as to domestic commercial broadcasters."
Minister White also signalled his intention to amend the legislation to give additional responsibilities to the BAI to ensure that its reviews of public service broadcasting funding will always take account of the impact of any recommendations on the advertising market.
Notes to editors
Publication of the Indecon and NewERA reports
The BAI carried out its first five-year review of the funding of public service broadcasting in 2013. In its response to that review, Government initiated two studies – an economic analysis of the Irish advertising market, and a review of possible further efficiencies within RTÉ. These reviews, undertaken by Indecon and NewERA respectively, have since been completed and both reports will be published on the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website at the following links:
The Minister will revert to Government with legislative proposals, including in relation to the development of a more suitable advertising regulatory framework. These proposals will include measures to reinforce the current TV licensing system, such as sharing subscription data with TV service providers. The legislation will be designed to give the collecting agent access to the information solely for its statutory functions in relation to licence fee collection. The commercial confidentially of the information will be safeguarded.