RTÉ back in the black but warns of stormy seas ahead

The broadcaster announced a surplus of €1.1 million but said revenues fell by €9.6 million

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 01:01

RTÉ made money last year for the first time since the height of the boom in 2007. But the national broadcaster warned that, despite recording an annual pre-tax surplus of just over €1 million, more public funding was needed because of “uncertainties of the future”.

In its 2013 annual report published yesterday, the station announced a pre-tax surplus of €1.1 million but said total revenues fell by €9.6 million to €327.6 million, as commercial income fell by 7 per cent to €145.2 million

Station executives cited the “overall impact of analogue switch-off, an increase in UK-based opt-out channels offering advertising in the Irish market and declines in key trading audiences” as the key factors behind the decrease, although it reported some recovery in the latter part of last year.

Director general Noel Curran said the turnaround last year was down to “decisive action” taken in recent years and he pointed to a radical restructuring of the organisation over the past five years as the station’s financial position worsened significantly.

Since 2008 RTÉ has reduced its operating cost base by more than €132 million, or 30 per cent. Its workforce has fallen 21 per cent and the fees it pays to “talent” fell by 40 per cent. At least some of this decline can be explained by the departure of Pat Kenny last year, in a move that will save the station more than €600,000 annually.


Five-year journey

Despite the return to surplus, Mr Curran stressed that “uncertainties of the future will continue to challenge RTÉ”. “RTÉ will continue on its five-year journey to transform to a public service multimedia organisation serving Irish audiences with quality content and a breadth of services.”


He added that the broadcaster needed additional public funding to invest in programming, content and key technology. RTÉ employed 1,856 people at the end of 2013, of whom 260 were part-time or casual.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte welcomed the improved picture painted in this year’s report. He did not address Mr Curran’s call for increased funding other than to say that “Government action later this year will focus on ensuring that the public service broadcasters, RTÉ and TG4, continue to be well positioned to ensure the delivery of quality services to the Irish public”.