RTÉ’s advertising revenues drop €5.6m amid Brexit uncertainty

Director general calls for TV licence reform

Dee Forbes, RTÉ director general, said that 2017 marked the beginning of changes at the station that would continue for the next few years.

Dee Forbes, RTÉ director general, said that 2017 marked the beginning of changes at the station that would continue for the next few years.

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Advertising revenues on RTÉ’s TV and radio network fell €5.6 million last year amid fears about Brexit’s impact on the Republic, figures published by the State broadcaster show.

The station cut losses overall in 2017 by €13 million to €6.4 million but its annual report shows that commercial revenues fell 4 per cent to €151.5 million from €158.2 million in 2016.

Within this, TV advertising and sponsorship fell €5.1 million to about €90 million, a 6 per cent drop, while radio was down €500,000 or 2 per cent. Total losses from both were €5.6 million.

Falls in digital advertising and other revenues accounted for the remaining €1.1 million slide in commercial sales.

RTÉ’s report says Brexit-related currency weakness and business uncertainty hit the Republic’s advertising market last year, along with a lack of special events such as the Olympics, which had boosted sales in 2016.

Licence fee revenue grew 7 per cent to €186.1 million in 2017 from €179.1 million the previous year.

However, Dee Forbes, RTÉ’s director general, warned that Government failure to reform the licensing system was costing more than €50 million every year.

“Not only is this unfair on the majority who pay their TV licence fee, it is also limiting the potential of the whole independent production sector,” she said.

Evasion rates

About 153,000 homes have no television, a loss of €24 million in licence fees. RTÉ’s report says that the system needs to take into account changes in the way that people watch public broadcasting.

Almost 15 per cent of the remaining 1.55 million homes do not pay a licence, which the State company says is amongst the highest evasion rates in Europe. This costs €36 million a year.

An Post collected a total of €216 million. The €30 million not paid to RTÉ covered collection costs, part-financing Irish language station TG4 and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Sound and Vision Fund, which supports independent production.

RTÉ says overall revenues in 2017 were unchanged on the previous year at €337.6 million. Savings helped cut losses to €6.4 million from €19.4 million.

The broadcaster recorded an overall surplus for 2017 of €42.1 million, but that included a once-off €78.5 million gain from selling part of its property to builder Cairn Homes offset by a €29.6 million bill for cutting jobs.

Cost management

RTÉ is seeking 200-250 voluntary redundancies and early retirements. The €29.6 million set aside covers their pay offs, professional fees, pension costs and other related charges.

Operating costs at the broadcaster fell almost €9 million to €334.5 million. The report shows that spending on covering special events such as the 2016 general election, 1916 celebrations and sports fell €16 million.

A spokesman stressed that cutting costs remained a priority for RTÉ. “Cost management remains a key focus,” he said.

Ms Forbes noted that 2017 marked the beginning of changes at the station that would continue for the next few years. This involved reorganising the business, cutting jobs, developing a five-year strategy and selling eight acres of its land at its site in Donnybrook Dublin.

Chairwoman Moya Doherty said that RTÉ would continue to build for the future through collaborations and partnerships.

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