RTÉ Maximum Secrecy
In June of 2020 The Sunday Business Post ran a story outlining RTÉ's offer to take a 49% stake of Maximum Media, the ailing publisher behind online news sites joe.ie and her.ie. In December following a failed Freedom of Information request to RTÉ on this deal The Sunday Time ran a story outline it reasoning as to why such documents should be released. RTÉ have also refused to say that such document exist as it could potentially undermined them in future business deals.
Over the last decade (or more) RTÉ has continually pointed to its drop in funding. In their 2019 annual report they are still talking about the cut in funding they took in 2008, down 23% from 11 years ago. Over that period they have had their cap in hand to successive governments to increase their funding from the license fee or to reform the license fee, yet they themselves have not done an ounce to reform RTÉ over that period.
It is disappointing that RTÉ refuse make a statement on their interest in Maximum Media the publisher behind joe.ie and her.ie.
Here is an organization supposedly in the middle a financial crisis cutting at children's content, independent drama and scripted comedy. A company that on a quarterly basis produces a costly "Brand and Reputation Research" report on their over 15 brands ranging from their stalwarts RTÉ ONE, Radio 1 and 2fm to their forgotten RTÉ2, News Now and digital radio stations, to their "for sale" RTÉ Guide.
In 2019, just one year after their alleged discussions with Maximum Media, they began their Revised Strategy 2024, which came to little.
Rather than investing their time in developing their content they choose to cut in areas where no public service broadcaster should decide to cut, all the while pressing for government reform of the license fee rather than implementing their own reforms.
In 2016 RTÉ had promised in the national press that it was not cutting Children’s content, however by 2019 its spend on Children’s content had been reduced to less than €3.5million per year. In 2016 RTÉ stated "RTÉ is not reducing its commitment to young peoples' programming....RTÉ remains fully committed to delivering original Irish content for young people.", nothing could be further from the truth.
Drama, another important part of public service broadcasting, was destroyed by the Broadcaster, cutting funding to independent drama and scripted comedy to less than €3million by 2019.
But even the decisions that they made they were unable to push forward with, all the while diminishing their responsibility toward Irish Content and their commitment to their Audiences.
Their decision to sell their art work came to little. Their decision to sell the RTÉ Guide was reversed. Their decision to move Lyric FM from Limerick City was politically motivated to cause political outrage, resulting in a €10 million top up for 2020.
Their decision to continue to ring fencing funding to 2FM and Imported Programming year-on-year while cutting at content across all other services.
RTÉ2 is a shell of its former self, failed by RTÉ the broadcaster it has seen its audience share drop to under 5% in 2020. Its programming, both for children and adults, is questionably public service in nature, indeed the kind of audience the channel is getting for largely commercial content is unacceptable.
So with all of their brand research surely RTÉ would have had some idea that their own brands would stand up against the likes of joe.ie and her.ie, would there be any different between those publications and RTÉ TEN, which has since been replace by RTÉ Entertainment. Indeed in the early 2000's RTÉ had their own separate business news website, called "onbusiness".
RTÉ have been far from transparent. It failed to publish its annual report for 2019 in 2020, having presented it to the government at the end of July 2020. Failing again to publish its list of top ten earners for 2017 and 2018 and only publishing them at the beginning of 2021.
It is time that the RTÉ board and executive board reflected on their decisions over the last decade.