RTÉ strikes back at ‘unfair’ claims about its website

15 Dec 2010

RTÉ has hit back at “unfair” claims from the newspaper industry, which says the national broadcaster’s site “abuses its role as a public broadcaster.”

The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) previously told a Dail Committee that RTÉ’s website did not match its public service remit in the Broadcasting Act 2009, as it includes advertising on the site and that it has an unfair advantage, as the group said RTÉ used its programming to advertise its online services.

RTÉ responded to this, telling the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that the lobbying by the NNI against RTÉ’s online activity was “wrong on the key issues and unfair.”

The broadcaster’s chief financial officer Conor Hayes said RTÉ is “fully transparent and legally compliant in all its online activities.”

He told the committee that RTÉ not only observes European policy and Irish broadcasting law by ensuring all content produced by the broadcaster is available to the public on all platforms, but is obliged by law to do it.

Hayes also emphasised that no licence fee funding is used to operate RTÉ’s site. He also said that, where news and other content are used on the service, it was already paid for by the public through licence fees and will not be charged again.

All work of adapting this content for web use is supported by RTÉ’s commercial income from the site and other activities, he said.

RTÉ also questioned the NNI’s assertions that the broadcaster prevents newspapers from earning a fair share of the advertising market.

“Contrary to what has been suggested by NNI, RTÉ is not a dominant player in the online revenue and advertising market in Ireland,” said Hayes.

“In fact, of a reported total Irish online advertising spend of €97m in 2009, as estimated in the IAB Adspend Study of April 2010, RTÉ’s share was just €2½m or less than 3pc of the market. 

“The RTÉ figure is specifically disclosed in our annual report should you wish to check the figures for yourself. The assertion made by NNI is therefore wrong,” he said.

Hayes noted that the real challenge to media outlets online was from places like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, along with other established advertising networks such as Sky and UPC.

“The Irish online advertising market is tough, competitive and is populated with very strong global competitors,” said Hayes.

“‘New’ media is no longer ‘New’, it is here to stay – the clock can’t be turned back.”