The future of RTÉ

 

Sir, – I do have some sympathy regarding the current state of affairs that face the board of RTÉ. I know this may not be the most popular statement that has been made in recent days on the subject.

The fact is that I’m not sure whether RTÉ can ever become financially stable in this current digital environment, which has totally changed the way we view television and listen to the radio.

It is my opinion that the matter will never be settled until the board, the Government and the public come to a decision as to what they really expect from the national broadcaster.

Currently, the organisation is caught between the proverbial two stools. On the one hand it has a remit to produce quality news and current affairs programming, as well as developing a diverse range of Irish programmes which reflect our culture and define who we are as a nation. And incidentally these are often programmes that other commercial broadcasters are reluctant to produce as they do not automatically garner huge audiences. On the other hand, because RTÉ has a dual-funding model, there is heavy reliance on producing popular output, stuff that you can see or hear on practically every media channel, and is forced to search for large ratings, because advertising naturally follows big audiences.

Unfortunately, the dual-funding model is broken and these two goals are no longer as compatible as they once were.

Considerable dependence on advertising revenues is no panacea for a bankable source of income, as advertising on traditional media has been almost halved in the last 10 years, while digital media has dominated advertising spends. And what’s more, it’s not going to get any better.

In today’s highly competitive media market, it’s almost impossible to do both successfully.

At some stage we are going to have to have a serious conversation with ourselves about what we want from public service broadcasters and finally decide how much we are prepared to pay for the values that we hold precious. – Yours, etc,

MARTIN BLOCK,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Your editorial hits the nail on the head (“The Irish Times view on the crisis at RTÉ: beyond the platitudes”, November 9th). The Government’s ongoing failure to deal with TV licence fee evasion accommodates those who refuse to pay and penalises those of us who pay our way. We should not be surprised – we had precisely the same supine failure of leadership in relation to water charges.

Niall Pelly (Letters, November 9th) has the answer. Hand over collection to Revenue and see compliance levels soar. – Yours, etc,

PAT O’BRIEN,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.

Sir,– On a recent BBC Radio 4 programme I heard the BBC Sounds streaming media and audio download service (a replacement for the BBC iPlayer) described as “being as user-friendly as a cornered rat”.

Granted, in the age of agile software development and continuous deployment, there is scope to rapidly improve services online as time progresses. But where does this colourful description leave RTÉ and the user experience of its equivalent RTÉ Player?

The RTÉ Player is not fit for purpose; with poor performance, information architecture, exception handling, absence of familiar design paradigms, and more. Indeed, some of the experience does not even make sense.

For example, users of the RTÉ Player interested in watching “On Now” live RTÉ TV programmes are warned to disable ad-blocking software before proceeding; yet all live ad breaks are replaced by a static screen about the service being resumed shortly; accompanied by music for you to do yoga to handle the stress.

A solid, digital, paid, “on-demand” service based on a useful RTÉ Player experience could play a large role in solving the RTÉ financial challenge. Why extend the torture of online consumers and licence-fee payer alike, as is?

Having a cornered rat on your digital device would be an improvement. – Yours, etc,

ULTAN Ó BROIN,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – We value the role that RTÉ radio plays in our lives. We don’t have a television or a TV licence.

Perhaps RTÉ could consider a system for voluntary contributions from the public. We would like to pay our share for the excellent radio service we enjoy. – Yours, etc,

PAULA JENNINGS,

Cllr PADDY McCARTAN,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – There’s much reflection about RTÉ’s plight amid remembrance of its greatest ever presenter’s connection with his audience and talk of declining engagement of younger people with mainstream broadcasting.

A clue to RTÉ’s current “fit” with modern Ireland may lie in the 9am to 5 pm weekday roster on Radio 1. The ages of the presenters are 46, 63, 66, 54, 63, and 55.

All of these presenters have had similar frontline roles for at least 10 years and Radio 1’s weekly schedule is largely unchanged over that period.

Remember that Gay Byrne started presenting the ground-breaking Late Late Show on television aged 29.

It’s hard to see how Radio 1’s current aged and ageing offering is a solution that will attract newer audiences. – Yours, etc,

PETER FOLEY,

Tramore,

Co Waterford.