TG4 warns Irish-language programming under threat

Station posts €21,000 deficit for 2018 and argues for 5% per annum funding increase

Among TG4’s flagship offerings is the Ladies Gaelic Football Championship, which it sponsors. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Among TG4’s flagship offerings is the Ladies Gaelic Football Championship, which it sponsors. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

TG4 has warned that it will not be able to maintain existing levels of expenditure on Irish-language programming without additional funding.

The State-owned Irish-language station said it required sustained additional funding in order to deliver on its 2018-2022 strategy.

In its latest annual report, TG4 said the TV market last year was more challenging than ever before and its reach with viewers beyond its core Irish-language audience was “under pressure”.

TG4 chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh said the key challenge was retaining engagement level among the wider national television audience in an exceptionally competitive market. Ms Ní Raghallaigh also pointed to continued fragmentation in how people watched TV.

Although TG4 received a 2.6 per cent increase in its funding to almost €33.8 million last year as well as one-off supplementary funding of €985,000 for Bliain na Gaeilge programming, Ms Ní Raghallaigh said funding levels remained significantly lower than recommended by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

She pointed out that last year’s income was still almost €2 million lower than was required for the station to deliver on its strategy.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh said the authority had endorsed TG4’s new five-year strategy and agreed that increased funding of €6 million per annum for the station was justified.

She added: “With Irish media and culture running the risk of becoming diluted, never before has Irish public service broadcasting and media been more important in the context of national identity.”

She said the station needed an average increase of more than 5 per cent per annum to deliver on its strategy.

Investment in content

TG4 director general Alan Esslemont said greater investment in content was needed “to retain our relevance for current and future audiences and to ensure we continue to impact critical cultural public policy objectives such as promoting the Irish language”.

The annual report shows a net deficit of €21,000 in 2018 as TG4 spent €28.3 million on programming, including €25.8 million on Irish-language content, when it intended investing €29.2 million as part of its strategy.

It said such a level of expenditure on content would not be possible this year as current funding at €34.2 million represented a 1.6 percent decrease on last year’s budget.

Overall, TG4 provided 1,511 hours of original Irish-language content last year, down from 1,619 in 2017.

Average all-day share of the national TV audience declined to 1.76 per cent last year following two years of consecutive growth in 2016 and 2017.

TG4 said it was “extremely disappointing” that its weekly reach of the national TV audience declined by 9 per cent to 30 per cent during 2018.

It claimed the decrease reflected the highly competitive environment and the requirement to invest in more compelling and entertaining content to compete with international and Irish broadcasters.

TG4 retained its ranking as the seventh-most-watched channel in the State in 2018. Among its flagship programming offerings is the Ladies Gaelic Football Championship, which it sponsors.

Overall expenditure at the Connemara-based broadcaster last year rose by 6.5 per cent to €38.4 million.

Total commercial revenue increased by 0.5 per cent to €4.1 million, boosted by a 6 per cent growth in advertising and sponsorship income that totalled just under €2.8 million.