RTÉ report highlights ongoing challenges facing the broadcaster

Figures show it made a loss of €6.5m in 2017, down from €19.4m a year earlier

Excluding the land sale and other exceptional items, RTÉ made a loss of €6.5 million in 2017, down from €19.4 million a year earlier. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Excluding the land sale and other exceptional items, RTÉ made a loss of €6.5 million in 2017, down from €19.4 million a year earlier. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

RTÉ’s latest annual report shows an improved financial position but also highlights the continuing difficulties facing the national broadcaster.

It recorded a surplus before tax of €63.5 million for 2017, thanks to a €107.5 million sale of eight acres of land at Montrose to Cairn Homes.

Excluding the land sale and other exceptional items, RTÉ made a loss of €6.5 million in 2017, down from €19.4 million a year earlier.

The downward pressure on commercial revenue continued, reducing by €6.7 million to €151.5 million. On the plus side, licence fee revenue rose by €7 million to €186 million. This was largely due to €6 million in additional public funding announced by the Government in Budget 2017.

There was also extra income from new household formations, and some increased activity to tackle licence fee evasion.

RTÉ estimates evasion rates at 15 per cent, costing it €50 million in lost income. More worryingly, the number of households without a traditional television set is increasingly steadily – it was 9.1 per cent at January 2018.

This is the impact of streaming services such as Netflix and the increasing use by viewers of laptops and personal devices to view content. It is a trend that is likely to continue .

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe also allocated an additional €1.5 million to RTÉ in Budget 2018 and the broadcaster will no doubt be hoping that another increase might come its way in October’s budget to help it fund its public service obligations.

RTÉ could certainly do more to trim excess fat from the organisation (its employee numbers last year were higher than in 2012 in spite of various redundancy programmes in the meantime) and to maximise its return from what is a hugely valuable landbank in Donnybrook.

But it also needs the Government to push through a licence fee increase (there hasn’t been one since early 2008) and to pressure An Post to up its game on evasion, or replace it with the Revenue Commissioners.

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