RTÉ warns Government of ‘serious financial position’

Broadcaster posts €6.4m deficit for 2017and cites licence, Brexit and ad revenue woes

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes: Despite a voluntary-redundancy scheme,  a land sale and new structures, the annual report warns of financial challenges.

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes: Despite a voluntary-redundancy scheme, a land sale and new structures, the annual report warns of financial challenges.

 

RTÉ has reported a deficit of €6.4 million for 2017 and has warned the Government it faces a “serious financial position”.

The Cabinet will consider the national broadcaster’s annual report at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, ahead of publication of the results for 2017 next week.

The report acknowledges there has been a significant reduction in the broadcaster’s losses since 2016, when it reported a €20 million deficit.

This loss had been expected due to the organisation’s spend of €16.1 million on its coverage of the general election, Euro 2016, the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the 1916 centenary celebrations.

Despite the public service broadcaster’s voluntary-redundancy scheme, the sale of a part of its campus and new organisational structures, the 2017 annual report warns of continued serious financial challenges.

The director general of RTÉ, Dee Forbes, says the uncertainty surrounding the television licence fee system, difficulties arising from Brexit, and falling advertising revenues paint an urgent and bleak financial picture for the organisation.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Communications Denis Naughten declined to be drawn on the RTÉ report or its contents, insisting it was a matter for the organisation.

Licence fee

However, she confirmed Mr Naughten would bring a memo to Cabinet in a number of weeks outlining policy advances in funding for public service broadcasting. It will also address the issue of evasion, which is estimated to be 14.6 per cent with some €25 million lost from the broadcasting sector as a result.

Ms Forbes has previously called for the TV licence to be increased from €160 to €175. The confusion over its future has led to an inability to adequately prepare a long-term strategy, the director general has argued.

Meanwhile, Minister for Arts Josepha Madigan will seek Cabinet approval to change the name of the Irish Film Board to Screen Ireland, or Fís Éireann in the Irish language.

Ms Madigan will inform Cabinet the new title will “reflect the broader remit of the agency as the promoter of the Irish film, TV and animation sector both internationally and in the domestic market”.

This will form part of an audiovisual action plan, which will aim to develop Ireland into a global hub for the production of film, TV drama and animation. It is understood €200 million will be allocated to meet the objectives in the plan.

The plan recommends additional capital funding and references a review of film tax relief, which is scheduled to cease at the end of 2020.