TV3 calls for RTÉ funding reform to be implemented

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland flags ‘anomalies’ in its remit

David McRedmond: he  earlier expressed concern that the Government’s decision to commission a review of the advertising market would  stall any reform

David McRedmond: he earlier expressed concern that the Government’s decision to commission a review of the advertising market would stall any reform

 



The Government’s plan to replace the television licence fee with a public service broadcasting (PBS) charge should not go ahead until it has acted to reduce RTÉ’s commercial footprint, according to TV3 chief executive David McRedmond.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) recommended last month that an increase in RTÉ’s funding through the proposed PSB charge should be matched by tighter restrictions on how it earns commercial revenue. But Mr McRedmond told the regulator yesterday he was concerned this recommendation was “being ignored” by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.

“What I would question is whether the BAI has significant impact and significant independence in relation to the Department of Communications,” Mr McRedmond said.

BAI chairman Bob Collins said he could give the TV3 boss “absolute assurance of the independence of the BAI”, but could not guarantee him the Government would take its advice. However, he “did not see evidence at this stage that the recommendation of a rebalancing has been rejected” by Mr Rabbitte.

Restrictions

The BAI has advised the Minister that any additional funding raised by the PSB charge and allocated to RTÉ should be offset by restrictions on commercial activities such as “a reduction in permitted advertising minutage, or a reduction in sponsorship or a combination of both”. TV3 and Setanta would benefit from such a move, it acknowledges, but “in the authority’s view, such an outcome is justified”.

Mr McRedmond earlier expressed concern that the Government’s decision to commission a review of the advertising market would serve to stall any reform.

“I don’t think the charge should be allowed until the rebalancing goes ahead,” he said. “I don’t have any issue with RTÉ being better funded, although I’m not sure it needs to be better funded, but what I do object to is the use of those funds to distort the advertising market.”

Consultation process

The Department of Communications has opened up a six-week consultation process on the PSB charge. Separately, the BAI has invited interested parties to submit comments on how it should “recalibrate” the way in which it monitors the industry in the future.

“There are anomalies even as we speak. We regulate broadcasters but we have no role in relation to broadcasters’ websites,” Mr Collins told broadcasting sector executives. This meant its rules on election moratoriums, for example, did not apply to broadcasters’ websites, he said.

The BAI says it wants to work with regulated broadcasters “to encourage the extension of current standards to those services beyond the BAI’s current regulatory reach”.

However, broadcasters are likely to resist any extension of regulation to their websites, which compete against many unregulated online services.

“It would seem impossible to regulate and I would just question the need for the regulator’s remit to be extended in this way,” said Garrett Harte, station editor of Newstalk.