BAI welcomes review of public service broadcasting structure

Thursday 18 July 2013 20.22
The BAI acknowledged there would be a need to increase funding for public service broadcasting in the longer term
The BAI acknowledged there would be a need to increase funding for public service broadcasting in the longer term

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has welcomed the Government decision to review the funding structure for public service broadcasting.

At a media conference this morning, the authority acknowledged that there would be a need to increase funding for public service broadcasting in the longer term.

However, it said it could not be justified in the shorter term until a number of key conditions were met.

Chairman Bob Collins said the BAI wanted a definitive review of the extent to which further efficiencies were possible in RTÉ, though the question of job or pay cuts would be a matter for the management of RTÉ.

Mr Collins said the BAI recognised the reductions RTÉ had made in its cost base, but said one responsibility that comes with receiving a significant amount of public money is to ensure that you are operating at the lowest cost consistent with programme quality for the audience.

The Government decided yesterday that the review will be carried out by New Era, and RTÉ pledged to cooperate with it.

Mr Collins said the BAI also wanted to see a "rebalancing" of RTÉ's public and private funding, whereby any increase in State funding would be matched by a commensurate decrease in commercial revenue.

Yesterday, the Government approved a review of the advertising market.

Mr Collins also said the BAI wanted an examination of the relationship between the cost of programmes in RTÉ and the cost of independent productions in order to have a clearer view of the effectiveness of RTÉ's use of public money.

He welcomed what he called the unprecedented speed of the Government in reaching a decision on foot of recommendations submitted by the BAI.

Asked whether he envisaged any of the proposed household broadcasting charge going to commercial operators, Mr Collins said that was not part of any recommendation the BAI had made.

He said that at present 7% of licence fee revenue goes to the Sound and Vision fund.

He said the BAI’s focus had been on the important role that public service broadcasters play, as well as the potential for commercial broadcasters.

This morning, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said that television licence fee evaders would be targeted under plans to introduce a new broadcasting levy to replace the existing charge.

Mr Rabbitte said the new levy was aimed at targeting the 20% of those who are currently eligible to pay the licence but who do not do so, amounting to a loss of around €30m in lost revenue.

He also said changes in technology meant that many people now accessed broadcast output via mobile communications devices such as smart phones or iPads, rather than on traditional television or radio sets.

Keywords: bai, rte