Cantillon: Why fewer RTÉ programmes may be made
Regulator keen for independent sector to play bigger role
The Television Centre at RTÉ. The broadcaster has indicated that half of any additional funds generated by the household broadcasting charge could go into the independent production or co-production pot.
How much of what we see and hear on RTÉ should be made by RTÉ and how much should be made by the independent production sector? This is one of the questions raised by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in its five-year review of public service media funding.
Currently, the statutory minimum that RTÉ must spend on independent commissions is just below €40 million a year, while it spends about another €10 million on non-statutory commissions. It spends roughly four times as much on in-house productions as it does on independent commissions, and about half as much on overseas acquisitions.
RTÉ has indicated that half of any additional funds generated by the household broadcasting charge could go into the independent production or co-production pot.
But both the BAI and Crowe Horwath – the accountancy firm that wrote the initial report for the review – seem a lot keener on the case for more outsourcing than RTÉ.
The broadcaster’s internal analysis disputes the idea that more external production would achieve better value for money. Crowe Horwath, however, suggests a greater use of external production and a corresponding scaling back of in-house programme-making “may provide RTÉ with the opportunity to reduce its costs more significantly over time”. It goes further, adding that more independent productions could benefit RTÉ’s “creative position”.
The BAI has now recommended to the Government that any additional public funding granted to RTÉ “should be deployed to the greatest extent possible through the independent production sector”.
It has also agreed with Crowe Horwath that a study of “the real relationship between the costs of in-house and independent production” is necessary.
If RTÉ in-house resources were scaled back in their entirety, it would eventually resemble British public service broadcaster Channel 4, which buys in all of its programmes.
Such a complete power-strip is off the table – the BAI promises that its proposed independent cost-benefit analysis is not a prelude to RTÉ’s conversion into what is known as a “publisher broadcaster”.
Exxon, Providence differ over Dunquin
There was a clear difference between the statements issued yesterday by ExxonMobil and Providence on the results of exploratory drilling in the Dunquin licence, in which both have a stake.
Exxon was blunt: We found water, some residual oil, we’re plugging the well and leaving. Providence, on the other hand, went into much greater detail, ultimately describing the results as encouraging for the Porcupine Basin, where Dunquin is located.
Key for Providence appears to be the fact that Exxon found residual oil, essentially the remains of a reservoir that drained away sometime in the past because some distant seismic event broke the rock that kept it in place.
Its technical director, John O’Sullivan, pointed out that this was recognised as a risk for the specific area where Exxon drilled, but said that it may not apply in other sections that could also contain oil or gas.