RTÉ’s spending on independent productions last year fell €3.7 million short of its €40.2 million statutory target as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The broadcaster had previously indicated that it would not reach the minimum spend requirement, but the extent to which it missed it has been confirmed in the just published 2020 annual report for RTÉ Independent Productions.
The report states that the target was not met because of the cancellation or postponement of many productions from March 2020 onwards, resulting in an annual spend of €36.5 million on independent productions.
While many productions were able to adapt their production methods, some types of programming were prevented by public health advice and pandemic restrictions, it says.
Under the Broadcasting Act 2009, which sets the minimum that RTÉ must spend on commissioning programmes from independent television and radio producers, any shortfall must be made up for within the two subsequent years.
RTÉ director-general Dee Forbes acknowledged the need to catch up on its commissioning requirements at a hearing of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee in April, saying the State-owned broadcaster had “commissioned excess programming” this year to make up for the shortfall.
The issue has been closely monitored by Screen Producers Ireland, the representative group for the sector.
Last year, 239 companies made 882 proposals for television programmes and RTÉ awarded 124 commissions for 502 hours of television.
In total, it paid out €34.9 million to independent television producers and €1.5 million to independent radio producers.
Six companies shared television commissions with a value of €13.8 million, representing 40 per cent of the value of new 2020 television commissions.
The total value of RTÉ independent television programming activities in 2020, inclusive of all third-party funding, was €66.6 million.
Shows prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic accounted for a sizeable chunk of independently produced hours last year on RTÉ television.
Macalla Teo produced 72.5 hours of Home School Hub for children affected by school closures during the year, while the company also produced an additional 46 hours of After School Hub.
The report shows that Coco Content produced 14 hours of RTÉ2 ratings winner First Dates Ireland and another seven hours of Dermot Bannon’s Room to Improve.
Other entertainment series produced for RTÉ last year include Dancing with the Stars made by Shinawil, the Tommy Tiernan Show produced by Power Pictures and Amy Huberman's Finding Joy, made by Treasure Entertainment.
RTÉ One had its best performing year since 2011, with a significant increase of 3.3 points in its national consolidated all-day share of viewing year-on-year.
Life-affirming and escapist programming such DIY SOS: The Big Build Ireland, presented by Baz Ashmawy and made by Motive Television , were among the independently produced shows to outperform ratings expectations.