Independent radio stations warn new broadcasting charge will destroy 1,500 jobs

18 Jul 2013

Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte’s proposed Public Service Broadcasting Charge will destroy the diverse independent broadcasting sector which employs 1,500 people across the counties of Ireland, the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) has warned.

The chairman of IBI John Purcell today described the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s review of public-service broadcasting as a “white wash” that he believes failed to recognise the value of public-service content on independent radio stations. According to the IBI, 70pc of Ireland’s population tunes into independent radio on a daily basis.

Yesterday, upon the unveiling of the report, Rabbitte announced new rules are to be introduced on the use of public money by public-service broadcasters like RTÉ and TG4, and how they separate public funds and commercial income raised through the sale of advertising.

A consultation paper is soon to be published on a household-based Public Service Broadcasting Charge to replace the TV licence.

Concerns of independent broadcasters falling on deaf ears?

The idea of the charge is to address the scale of evasion and respond to technology advances, such as broadband, smartphones and apps.

Every home in Ireland will be liable to pay the charge, which could be collected in the same manner as the controversial property tax.

“It is outrageous that taxpayers’ money has been spent on a report that Minister Rabbitte claims ‘looks at the entire broadcasting landscape’ but which does so only through the blinkered view of RTÉ and its Government owner,” Purcell said.

“The funding model proposed is in effect a ‘Montrose Tax’ which will prop up RTÉ and effectively destroy the diverse broadcasting sector of which Ireland can be justifiably proud and which employs over 1,500 people in counties throughout Ireland,” he said. 

“We firmly believe that it is possible to ‘square the circle’ and develop a funding model that works for RTÉ, the independent broadcasters in Ireland and, most importantly, the public.  

“We have been working hard with the minister, the BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) and indeed RTÉ to achieve this aim but it is clear that our proposals are falling on deaf ears. It is regrettable that the very real opportunity to fund a diverse and healthy public-broadcasting sector has been spurned,” Purcell added.

Purcell said Rabbitte’s argument that the Broadcasting Act of 2009 imposes specific public-service obligations on RTÉ which are not imposed on the commercial sector is misinformed. The same Broadcasting Act requires independent broadcasters to broadcast a set  percentage of public-service programming under their licence agreements.

“I want to be very clear here. We are not against RTÉ being properly funded, but we will not acquiesce to our members being disadvantaged as a result. The proposals as presented are inequitable and do nothing to nourish and enhance the broad Irish media radio scape.  

“Public-service broadcasting needs to be determined by the content that is broadcast, not by the organisation who broadcasts it. We will be taking up the minister on his public declaration that he is willing to tease out the issues involved and will be looking to redress the imbalance so clearly evident in this report.”

On the air image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years