Dee Forbes calls for new €15m fund to support TV drama

Director general of RTÉ says licence fee system is broken and new approach is required

Dee Forbes,  RTÉ director general, believes that  TV drama represents the single biggest growth opportunity for the Irish media industry

Dee Forbes, RTÉ director general, believes that TV drama represents the single biggest growth opportunity for the Irish media industry

 

RTÉ’s director general Dee Forbes has called on the Government to set up an annual €15 million fund to support the production of TV drama.

Ms Forbes was speaking at a Creative Ireland media production workshop in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on Friday to an audience including Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys.

Ms Forbes said that TV drama represented the single biggest growth opportunity for the Irish media industry, but that, in recent years, RTÉ had significantly cut back on its drama output due to financial constraints.

“I’m well aware RTÉ does not commission enough drama,” said Ms Forbes, who described the broadcaster’s current schedules as “unbalanced” and the TV licence fee system as “broken”.

“I want to do more. I want our dramas to be more diverse and more ambitious. I want RTÉ to be a leader in developing and supporting drama, along with others. Therefore there is a need for increased investment.”

Ms Forbes said that an additional €10 million for RTÉ would allow the broadcaster to commission 60 additional hours of drama per year, including primetime series running every Sunday night from January to May and from September to December, along with a number of comedy dramas and long-running series on RTÉ 2.

“Where could an additional €10 million come from?” she asked. “RTÉ can’t do it without additional funding.”

Critical mass

Ms Forbes said she believed that the sector as a whole would need €15million per year to achieve critical mass and the proposed fund would be available to RTÉ, TV3 and TG4.

Representatives from across the film, broadcast and animation industry participated in the workshop to discuss the future of the industry in light of the five-year Creative Ireland plan announced last December by the Taoiseach, which aims to place culture at the heart of Irish life. One of the plan’s five pillars proposes to develop Ireland as a centre of excellence in media production.

They heard preliminary findings from an economic study being conductedfor the Department of Arts by Olsberg SPI Ltd which showed that the audiovisual sector directly supported 7,500 jobs last year, with 15,000 jobs supported when multiplier effects were taken into account. Some 6,700 Irish residents work as cast or crew in live action film and TV. More than 800 Irish residents work in the post-production and VFX sectors, with more than 1,000 Irish residents in the animation sector. The audiovisual industry attracted more than €150 million in inward investment in 2016.