RTÉ raises its estimate of ‘lost’ licence funding to €65m

State broadcaster urges Government to approve an increase in its annual funding

Licence fee evasion and a rise in the proportion of households without a traditional television  has exacerbated its funding woes, the broadcaster says. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Licence fee evasion and a rise in the proportion of households without a traditional television has exacerbated its funding woes, the broadcaster says. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

RTÉ has increased to €65 million its estimate of the public broadcasting funding “lost” each year as a result of licence fee evasion and the growing number of “no TV” households that are ineligible to pay the charge.

Its previous estimate of this lost funding was €50 million.

But a rise in the proportion of households without a traditional television set to 15.1 per cent – or some 282,000 homes – as of January 2022, together with an evasion rate of 15.2 per cent as of 2020, has exacerbated its funding woes, it says.

The State-owned broadcaster will highlight to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday how the €160 annual fee has remained “static” since January 2008, when it increased by €2.

Failure to keep pace with the global surge in inflation “creates an unrealistic basis on which to maintain a service” that fulfils its current remit and is “a problem which is likely to become more acute”, it will tell the PAC.

Its appearance before the committee coincides with widespread criticism of the UK government’s move to freeze the BBC licence fee at £159 (€190) for the next two years, followed by increases in line with inflation for a further four years and a review of whether the licence fee “will remain a viable funding model” for the BBC.

Annual funding

RTÉ has repeatedly urged the Government to approve a 2018 recommendation by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to increase its annual funding by a minimum of €30 million a year.

It has also long sought wider reform of the licence fee system, which it describes as “fundamentally unfit for purpose”.

The RTÉ submission to PAC also notes that it has appointed Willis Towers Watson to oversee a planned shake-up in pay grades and grading structure at the broadcaster. The recommendation to undertake such an exercise was made in the gender and role review, which identified a total of 164 different grades across RTÉ. The complexity of this structure is “no longer an appropriate fit for the organisation as it currently operates”, the PAC submission states.

The Willis Towers Watson review will evaluate the role and grading structures in RTÉ, including an effort to “inform and benchmark remuneration to ensure market competitiveness and cost efficiency in key areas”. The process will also undertake an “analysis of reward structure, relative both to the market and RTÉ”.

The plan is to complete the review in the final quarter of this year, the submission states.