RTÉ reviewing ‘everything we produce’, says Dee Forbes

Director-general says it will step up efforts to reach ‘elusive’ 15-34-year-old audience

Nika McGuigan  and Seána Kerslake star as Danielle and Aisling in RTÉ2 series ‘Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope’, which was well-received by younger viewers.

Nika McGuigan and Seána Kerslake star as Danielle and Aisling in RTÉ2 series ‘Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope’, which was well-received by younger viewers.


RTÉ is looking “very seriously” at how it caters for the 15-34-year-old audience as part of a review of all of its channels and services, director-general Dee Forbes said on Thursday.

“We are at present reviewing everything we produce, the audiences we serve well and, importantly, those we don’t serve well,” Ms Forbes said.

Asked to identify which audiences she thought RTÉ could serve better, she identified “elusive 15-34s” as an age group that the organisation, in common with other broadcasters, has found it hard to reach.

“We are looking at it very seriously,” she said. “We really need to be talking to that audience.”

RTÉ recently axed RTÉ2’s satirical magazine show Republic of Telly, which was aimed at 15-34 year-olds, after a period of waning ratings. The first series of the channel’s comedy drama Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope received positive feedback from younger viewers, however, and has been recommissioned.

Ms Forbes hinted at wider structural changes to come at RTÉ as it looks at the mix of programme genres on its schedules, how it markets its channels and services and how it fulfils its public service remit.

“Some of what we do will change fundamentally. We’re likely to be structured differently, but much of what we will do will simply build upon and adjust to the new opportunities that now exist.”

It has previously been suggested that RTÉ’s digital division may be merged in future with RTÉ’s largest division, television.

Dizzying cycle

The “dizzying” cycle of recent news events posed enormous editorial and commercial challenges for media organisations, Ms Forbes also said.

“Between the ascension of Trump and the lingering shock of the Brexit vote, it’s hard to know what’s coming next, what to believe and who to trust.”

The director-general was speaking at an RTÉ Media Sales event aimed at advertisers and advertising agencies. Television advertising revenues were lower than originally projected in 2016, with Brexit cited as the main factor, heaping further commercial pressure on RTÉ. Ms Forbes said it was too early to say if Brexit would pose a drag on 2017 revenues.

RTÉ has separate advertising sales teams for television, radio and digital, but advertisers who want to book campaigns across more than one platform can now have “a single conversation” with RTÉ, said RTÉ Television commercial director Geraldine O’Leary.

“Lab test” research carried out for RTÉ by Behaviour & Attitudes in November found that consumers were more likely to recall an advertisement if it ran across more than one platform.

Paul Loughrey, head of insights for RTÉ Television, said the broadcaster was building a database that would allow it to better analyse the media consumption of different segments of the audience.

Age is not always a determining factor, he said. “We know that a 25-year-old with a young child has the same media habits as a 45-year-old with a young child.”