RTE pushed hard for £50 licence fee rise


Internal RTE documents making the station's case for a £50 licence fee increase emphasised that Ireland had one of the lowest fees for a state broadcasting service in Europe.

The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, included a letter to staff from the director-general, Mr Bob Collins, dated November 24th, 2000. He said RTE's relatively low licence fee meant it had become dependent on commercial income "to a far greater extent than other European public broadcasters." He added: "Even after the increase we have sought is granted, it will be significantly below the European average."

However, the increase was not granted.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was appointed by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands to assess the application. In its initial report of January 26th, 2001, it said RTE had demonstrated the need for a licence fee increase. The second report of May 31st, 2001, contained an analysis of the requested £50 increase.

"We considered a range of increases from £10 to £50 and how the range of increase might impact on RTE's plans. We also considered the phasing of any increase. The key issue to emerge from this analysis is the choices RTE needs to make, dependent on differing levels of licence fee increase", it said.

The initial report contained international comparisons of licence fees. It found that when the licence fees of 14 Western European countries were converted into pounds, the average cost was £118.76. Only Italy and Greece had a lower licence fee than Ireland.

The RTE Authority chairman, Mr Paddy Wright, in a New Year's letter to staff, said: "I urge you to speak to neighbours and friends, to TDs and public representatives. You know what value RTE gives to this community and you can remind others of the important facts about broadcasting in Ireland."

The documents also included a letter outlining RTE's case, sent by Mr Collins to all TDs, senators and MEPs, shortly after the request for a £50 licence fee increase was made.