Rabbitte begins seismic transformation of how broadcasting is funded in Ireland

17 Jul 2013

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, is to introduce legislation for a new system of funding public-service broadcasting in Ireland. For the first time, both commercial revenue and television licence fee funding will be considered together.

Rabbitte has announced that 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.

The new charge will be designed to address the scale of evasion and respond to technology advances such as broadband, smartphones and apps.

TG4 will be asked to produce a revised medium strategy based on present levels of funding.

The legislation decision was announced on the occasion of publication of the Review of Funding for Public Service Broadcasters by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland; the first such review under the Broadcasting Act of 2009.

The review evaluated plans by RTÉ and TG4 and how efficiently public funding is being used.

It also evaluated the impact of pay TV services from outside the Republic as well as technological and market shifts.

“Irish broadcasters must continue to adapt and develop both in terms of content offerings and the manner in which services are provided,” Minister Rabbitte said.

He pointed out that additional public funds would be required if RTÉ in particular was to remain relevant in the changing media landscape.

He said an independent assessment for additional efficiencies within RTÉ and the potential for increased use of independently produced content by the national broadcaster.

“It is important to ensure that Irish public service broadcasting remains relevant and vital, and that it retains its central place in Irish life in the face of some very difficult challenges. Key to this is ensuring the financial sustainability of public service broadcasters,” Rabbitte said.

Digital TV image via Shutterstock

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