Broadcasters focusing on climate change to benefit from €40m scheme

BAI will run up to three open funding rounds annually for ‘innovative programming’

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton: the scheme will  focus initially on climate change and adult/media literacy issues. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton: the scheme will focus initially on climate change and adult/media literacy issues. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

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Irish broadcasters that focus on climate change will benefit from new guidelines for the State’s €40 million Sound & Vision scheme, which will be announced on Thursday.

The fourth iteration of the scheme will see the €40 million budget distributed around Irish broadcasters that “undertake imaginative and innovative programming”, Minister for Communications Richard Bruton has said.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), which administers the scheme, will run up to three open funding rounds annually, which will focus initially on climate change and adult/media literacy issues.

“Creative content has an enormous role to play in helping communities understand and mobilize around the major challenges of our time,” Mr Bruton said. “Climate disruption will be a focus of this year’s scheme. It is the defining issue of this generation and broadcasters play a crucial role in informing the public on the nature of the challenge. There will also be a focus on initiatives to develop local and community broadcasting and projects with lower funding levels.”

The Sound & Vision scheme is funded by the TV licence fee. Its performance, and whether it has a greater role as technology and consumer preferences evolve, is being reviewed by the Commission on Irish Public Service Broadcasting, launched in December 2019.

Younger audiences

In another landmark change to be introduced in this iteration of the scheme, the BAI will institute a Digital First Principal, designed to facilitate the distribution of content on digital media first to try and capture younger audiences where they tend to view their media.

The BAI will also aim to establish specific measures for projects with lower funding levels in the community radio and TV sectors on a rolling basis with “a less onerous application process and a maximum funding limit available”.

A standardised points system is also being examined to govern the evaluation of applications and assist in providing feedback to applicants.

The Sound and Vision Scheme will split funds between TV and Radio on a 85 per cent/15 per cent basis, the department confirmed. New metrics will also be introduced to assess the impact of the initiatives.

The most recent review of the scheme found that Ireland is unlikely to see significant indigenous content reflecting Irish culture, heritage and diversity unless there is public intervention. The scheme is in part designed to offset that.

“Our heritage is our greatest asset and public service broadcasting must reflect the diversity of Irish culture,” said Mr Bruton.

Following today’s Ministerial approval, the BAI is clear to launch the scheme and seek applications. It is estimated that the fund will have an annual value in excess of €14 million.