Cuts loom at RTÉ over delay in replacing TV licence fee, staff told

Dee Forbes says station is ‘reassessing everything we currently do’

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes  said  ‘our current financial situation is not like anything we have seen before’.

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said ‘our current financial situation is not like anything we have seen before’.

 

The director general of RTÉ, Dee Forbes, has told staff to expect cutbacks in the short to medium term as the station could no longer afford to “continue as we are”.

In an email sent to staff of the national broadcaster, Ms Forbes said that delays in implementing a new system to replace the television licence will severely compromise RTÉ’s capacity to deliver content.

“With commercial revenues and public funding both significantly below what is needed to operate the organisation in its current form, our current financial situation is not like anything we have seen before,” she wrote in the email.

“As a result, it will no longer be possible to continue as we are.”

Ms Forbes said the RTÉ board and the broadcaster’s most senior executives have been “reassessing everything we currently do and what we can continue to do in the future”.

She said that the review was almost complete and she would share details with employees as soon as possible.

In the circular, Ms Forbes congratulated RTÉ employees for their work in providing news and sports coverage, programme content, as well as making sure that “every twist and turn in the Brexit debate is reported across our platforms”.

She referred to the future replacement of the traditional TV licence with a new broadcasting charge that would not be dependent on a TV set or electronic device.

Welcoming the change, she nonetheless said that the delay in implementing this new system would mean the funding shortfall for the broadcaster would not be resolved.

In its annual report for 2018, published in June, RTÉ reported a net deficit of €13 million. Ms Forbes said at the time the media organisation could not continue to operate at a deficit.

In August, the Government announced it would put the collection of the TV licence fee out to tender.

The successful bidder will be awarded a five-year contract for the service.

The Government said it would be only after this five-year period has elapsed that the licence fee would be replaced by a “device-independent broadcasting charge” designed to capture households consuming publicly-funded content on devices other than traditional television sets. A system for collecting such a fee has yet to be determined.