Broadcasting regulator signals ‘online first’ change for funding scheme

BAI opens consultation on oversubscribed Sound & Vision

Virgin Media Television drama ‘Blood’, starring Adrian Dunbar, is among the series to have received funding from the BAI’s Sound & Vision scheme in recent years.

Virgin Media Television drama ‘Blood’, starring Adrian Dunbar, is among the series to have received funding from the BAI’s Sound & Vision scheme in recent years.

 

Television and radio programmes backed by the broadcasting regulator’s content funding scheme may be permitted to be shown online first under a new proposal.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has launched a public consultation on how it will operate the next iteration of its Sound & Vision scheme, which provides approximately €12 million a year in licence fee funding to independent television and radio producers.

It is seeking views on whether it should allow “digital first” distribution under the scheme, which can only be accessed by independent producers that have a commission in place from a broadcaster.

The regulator is also examining the introduction of a standardised scoring system for assessing applications.

The BAI’s Sound & Vision funding rounds are typically four times oversubscribed, according to a review by industry consultants Mediatique.

The scheme provides critical support to producers, with broadcasters’ commissions increasingly conditional on the receipt of this source of money. Some 85 per cent of the funds are awarded to television projects rather than radio ones.

Licence fee percentage

Some 7 per cent of licence fee receipts are used for both Sound & Vision and a separate scheme to encourage the archiving of broadcast material.

The Minister for Communications Richard Bruton hinted in August that the Government may explore increasing this percentage after a review.

The Mediatique review, which was commissioned by the BAI, recommends that the BAI “continue to be the body responsible” for the administration of this content fund.

It also suggests the BAI is “best placed” to administer any new funds that might be formed by Government levies on online providers or pay-TV operators in future, although it allows that content agency Screen Ireland might have a “co-sponsoring role” in the case of high-end drama.

Screen Ireland told the Government earlier this year that the BAI’s Sound & Vision fund was “not responding to the urgent needs of the creative and audio-visual sector”. It questioned the wisdom of the regulator also acting as fund administrator.