Views sought on future of public service broadcasting

Committee wants to explore role of independent producers and new digital services

An Oireachtas committee has opened a new consultation process on the future of public service broadcasting in Ireland, inviting views on subjects such as the role of independent production companies and the funding of Irish language programming.

The Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, chaired by Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, is seeking submissions from interested parties before a deadline of February 2nd.

Other themes the committee wants to explore include the role of new digital services, the number of advertising minutes per hour permitted on screen and the balance between commercial and public service activities at RTÉ. It is also interested in the impact of funding levels on the quality of journalism.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten asked the committee last October to examine the issue of funding for public service broadcasting, saying he was aware the subject was "of particular interest" to committee members.

Changes

In his letter to the committee, the Minister cited both dramatic changes in how media is consumed and the market in which Irish broadcasters operate. He said it was his opinion that Irish audiences “need strong, independent public service media that can hold its own”.

The exercise takes place in the context of declining revenues and deepening deficits at RTÉ, amid licence fee evasion, commercial competition and rising costs in key areas such as sports rights.

The committee has provisional plans to host a forum on public service broadcasting issues in Dublin Castle in late February.

RTÉ and TG4 are separately preparing five-year plans for their future strategy, which they are obliged to do under broadcasting legislation.

These documents, which cover the period 2018 to 2022, will include cost estimates for both organisations’ wish list of activities, depending on the finance available to them.

They will become part of the next five-year review by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland of the adequacy of public service funding.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics

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