RTÉ to publish five-year strategy


RTÉ will publish a "fully costed" five-year strategy by the end of the year that will map out its "view of what the future should be", RTÉ director general Noel Curran told a conference on television at University College Cork this morning.

Mr Curran questioned whether the Government's new household broadcasting charge - a proposed replacement for the current licence fee - "could or should" coincide with a "recalibration" of how RTÉ is funded, adding that the public service broadcaster was open to a debate.

"What would RTÉ give up?" he asked in his address to the conference. "How far should it go in sharing content?"

The director general said RTÉ would set out clear commitments, including the platforms and devices on which its content will be made available to viewers.

The broadcaster is facing into a €57 million deficit this year, partly the result of a redundancy programme designed to cut costs. Some 100 staff are leaving or due to leave RTÉ under its current cost-cutting programme, while the broadcaster hopes a further 70-80 employees will consider its voluntary redundancy offer.

RTÉ expects to break even in 2013, if commercial revenues hold steady. Last year, RTÉ received €184 million in funding from the public licence fee and earned €167 million in commercial income. Both sources of funding have been under pressure in recent times.

Acknowledging the difficulties being faced by its competitors in the media sector, Mr Curran said it was a period of "profound uncertainty, change and challenge" for television in Ireland. "If you type 'death of television' into Google, it produces nearly 2 billion results," he said.

He cited the telecoms company BT's snapping up of Premiership football rights as "the clearest sign yet of just how complicated this industry is going to get". Meanwhile, how people watch television content is changing - Rubberbandits' comedy song Horse Outside garnered more than 9 million views on YouTube, but only 200,000 people watched the original broadcast on RTÉ television, he noted.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said television in Ireland faced the "immediate issue" of a fast-changing market, with audiences fragmenting and domestic broadcasters facing intense competition from overseas.

"Already, the market for television advertising in Ireland is getting incredibly crowded. There are more than 30 channels of advertising available for sale in Ireland, with the majority of these originating from outside the State," Mr Rabbitte said.

Appearing to rule out a suggestions that a greater proportion of licence fee revenue should be distributed beyond RTÉ or even beyond the television sector, the Minister said changes to the licence fee regime were "not a solution to falling revenues" at other media groups.

"It will not help to meet the marked challenges facing media policy if different sections of the broadcast and print media start to cannibalise each other rather than creatively responding to technological change."

RTÉ "should be perennially challenged from both within and without" but should retain a central role in political and social life, the Minister added.

"It is the ultimate paradox of public service broadcasting that far from keeping everyone happy RTÉ is under legislative orders to actively try and not keep everyone happy - to push, to harangue, to test, to ask questions that commercial broadcasters are sometimes unwilling to, and in ways that they are unable to."

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