Renua Broadcasting Plan Shows Ignorance
Broadcasting is becoming old fashioned but both the Right and the Left of the political spectrum have huge interest in the National Broadcasters. Renua plan is simple cut the License Fee and retain just €56million from the Department of Social Protection for the procurement of Public Service broadcasters from different sources. The proposal is cost neutral according to the Party. As such RTÉ must stand on its own two feet. So why the problem with such a simple and, for many voters, an agreeable plan.
It's a massive cut to producers. Funding from the license fee is significantly reduce for many independent producers who are reliant on funding from RTÉ, TG4 and the BAI. The majority of production in the country still comes from the License fee, in particular local content.
The Renua plan fails to consider other RTÉ obligations, for example its attitude toward the RTÉ Musical Group is it is not the mandate of Broadcasting and such funding should now be pushed on to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and according to Renua the department will have to make choices, but they largely feel that the groups will be able to be supported by commercial revenues.
Renua make the point that many people pay extra for Pay TV, thus the License Fee is seen by many as an extra charge. However, the party will not regulate content on such Pay TV platforms unlike other Irish Broadcasters that are required to provide local content. They go on to suggested that Pay platforms will be able to apply to receive public funding even though they will not have the same regulatory requirements as Irish broadcasters.
TG4's funding from the License Fee would be also cut and the government would need to find ways to fund RnaG, it suggests that in some way by closing 2FM and RTÉ2 the government could support Irish language media. In effect more TV advertising would head abroad, while some radio independent might see a slight increase in revenue, due to the closure of 2fm. The state would still be left funding Irish Language broadcasting/content, to a much greater degree than it currently does.
Should RTÉ Radio begin selling the same number of ads as Independent Radio stations, it’s likely that Independent radio stations will bear the brunt of any increase to RTÉ's advertising minutes. The same can be said of TV where new increases on RTÉ TV will eat into advertising revenue going to TV3 and UTV Ireland. If RTÉ2 closes more revenue departs to foreign waters.
Overall this policy is majorly flawed and would only result in more ads and less home produced content and services. In fairness to Renua we publish questions and answers put to the party: -
Q. How will the revenue from the license fee be retained? Will a government with Renua reduce the license fee to just the Grant-in-aid from the DSP? Or will all funding be retained but taken from other sources? Which Department will provide funding?
A. The revenue from the license fee will not be retained. RENUA Ireland will reduce public funding to the value of funds transferred from the DSP. RTE will need to run its operations on a commercial basis. Increase advertising minutes will provide RTE with some additional funding but it will likely to need to adjust its operating base & potentially move location to right size its footprint & ensure its viability.
Q. Who will regulate advertising minutes on broadcast TV and Radio? And what kind of regulation will be put in place? e.g. Number of Minutes allowed per hour, Advertising Alcohol, Medicine and Political Advertising?
A. This role would likely be played by the BAI. While minutes per hour could increase, RENUA Ireland is happy to leave that to the regulator to determine with the broadcasters.
Q. Will TG4 retain their current level of funding from DCENR and the License Fee?
A. Government will need to find additional funding if it wishes to retain TG4 as it is today. RENUA Ireland is committed to maintaining fully functioning services within the official national language. Any change to the broadcasting payment model will require a lead in period during which tradeoffs are made. Stations like 2FM or RTE2 can be weighed up against the benefits a station like TG4 or RnaG deliver.
Follow up Question: You say trade offs between RTÉ2/2fm and RnaG/TG4 does this mean providing any profits from the two RTÉ stations to TG4/RnaG along with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources continuing to provide TG4 with Grant-In-Aid?
A. No, it may mean closing services with no clear public service mandate to fund Irish language services.
Q. I note that Renua suggests that most of the country pay twice for TV, once for their TV license and then for pay subscriptions, will pay TV providers such as Sky and Virgin Media have regulation surrounding their Electronic Programme Guides and also the amount of Hours of Irish TV produced? How much Irish TV has been produced by Virgin Media and Sky TV in the last 10 years? (Noting that Virgin Media has only just come into the TV content market in 2016).
A. Statement noted.
Follow up Question: You mention you note my statement in relation to Pay TV providers but you didn't answer the question. All broadcasters licensed by the BAI have a certain Irish programming requirement to meet, does ReNua wish to extend such programming requirements to Pay TV providers Sky, Virgin, Eir and others?
A. No. They will however be free to bid for Irish language programming provision should such a lot come up as a public service broadcasting package.
Q. Will RTÉ continue to provide the current number of services?
A. That is a matter for RTE. It will have choices to make.
Q. Will Renua consider selling RTÉ in the future? If so how much would Renua expect to get for RTÉ?
A. RENUA Ireland have never stated that they would sell RTE, merely that it would need to become self-funding. Renua does believe however that the campus in Donnybrook should be used as part of a commitment to living cities for a mix of private and social & affordable housing. We have outlined our views on this previously.
Q. How will the RTÉ Musical Groups be funded (NSO, NCO, Cór Na nÓg)?
A. The Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaelteacht will have choices to make. While these currently fall under RTE they have nothing to do with a broadcasting mandate.
Follow up Question: According to ReNua this policy is cost neutral, but in relation to the €10m or so given to the RTÉ Music Groups you say that "the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaelteacht will have choices to make." Would this mean the Minister in charge would have to take €10m from their vote to fund the National Music Groups?
A. It would mean moving towards a co-funding model. Music groups will need to be able to fund a substantial amount of their running costs in the future. If the Minister elects to increase their block funding as resources allow, this will help them also.
Q. How will RnaG and RTÉjr be funded, considering neither currently carry any advertising?
A. In any unbundling process, challenges will be encountered. There will be a need for choices to be made. The Department of the Gaelteacht will have some choices to make in relation to RnaG.
Q. Who will distribute the fund and who will be eligible to apply for funding?
A. RENUA Ireland will provide for an industry panel under the auspices of the BAI in conjunction with the OGP to procure lots of current affairs, entertainment, drama and other designated public interest contracts. Full EU procurement rules will apply to such contests.
Follow up answer relating to Pay TV providers: They will however be free to bid for Irish language programming provision should such a lot come up as a public service broadcasting package.