Cantillon: RTÉ caught between a Wocc and a hard place

Semi-state consultants NewEra have thoughts on who should make TV shows

Efficiency consultants NewEra believe ‘an alternative approach’ should be considered for television programme commissioning. Its favoured model is the window of creative competition, aka the Wocc.

Efficiency consultants NewEra believe ‘an alternative approach’ should be considered for television programme commissioning. Its favoured model is the window of creative competition, aka the Wocc.

 

Who makes the television programmes commissioned by RTÉ? The crude answer, based on 2012 figures, is that 24 per cent are made by independent production companies and 76 per cent by RTÉ.

Excluding the genres of news and current affairs, weather and sport, the ratio is 55:45 in favour of in-house.

The broadcaster has a statutory requirement to spend a sum each year on independent commissions, with this minimum hovering just below €40 million. But semi-State efficiency consultants NewEra believe “an alternative approach” should be considered. Its favoured model is the window of creative competition, aka the Wocc.

It’s a BBC thing. For television, BBC has a 50 per cent “in-house guarantee” and a quota of 25 per cent that must be commissioned from independents. The remaining 25 per cent – the Wocc – is set aside for competition between the BBC and the “indies”. This creates a formal competitive process, whereby commissioners choose the best ideas for the lowest costs.

Comparing the cost-per-hour of independent and RTÉ commissions is not straightforward, but the industry assumption is that the independent sector is more adept at keeping budgets down than RTÉ in-house, in part because it has been forced to become so.

Cost-per-hour for commissioned programmes fell 20 per cent between 2008 and 2012, as the NewEra report notes, and there is no guarantee, now the recession is over, that budgets will improve. Rather, what seems to be happening is that more independently produced programmes can be classed loss-making passion or prestige projects, or they are being co-funded by advertisers, who get involved not merely as sponsors, but at development stages.

There are many ifs and buts in NewEra’s report, and little analysis of how a Wocc-system might colour RTÉ’s public service mission. There is also something galling about the idea that the focus should be on outsourcing creativity – rather than administrative and support functions – to the insecurities of the freelance and independent sector.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.