Radio station chiefs tell Rabbitte of pressures
CommunicationsMinister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said any direct subsidy of commercial radio stations might fall foul of European state aid rules.
The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), which represents 34 national and local commercial radio stations, has called for a public subsidy to be made available to them when a new household broadcasting charge is brought in to replace the television licence fee.
In a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, IBI chairman John Purcell said commercial stations were almost “completely excluded from public funding”.
He told the committee that commercial revenues for independent broadcasters had fallen by more than 40 per cent since the recession started and they did not have the licence fee to fall back on.
He added the Sound and Vision fund which was set up to support independent production companies was going overwhelmingly back to RTÉ. The national broadcaster accounted for 80 per cent of the fund.
“The current system not only enables RTÉ to have an unfettered commercial mandate, it also allows it to monopolise the vast majority of public monies and gives it the luxury of largely being able to write its own rules in huge areas of its operations,” Mr Purcell told the committee.
In their submission they called for a new public broadcasting charge to replace the television licence fee. That in turn should provide for public service broadcasting on independent radio stations and it should also define and limit the commercial mandate of RTÉ.
Though they acknowledged RTÉ’s dual-funding model should continue, they said its activities should be public service broadcasting and not include the importation of high-end American dramas, for instance.
Speaking after the meeting, the Minister said he would examine the proposal in the context of the report on broadcasting which the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is expected to complete in April.
That will be followed by the introduction of a household charge for broadcasting to replace the licence fee.