RTÉ website ‘abuses’ broadcaster role, newspapers say

25 Nov 2010

The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) told an Oireachtas committee that RTÉ’s website was a commercial service and as such, was an abuse of its role as a public service broadcaster.

The NNI said RTÉ.ie’s current position did not match its public service remit in the Broadcasting Act 2009, noting it should not include advertising on the site.

NNI’s co-ordinating director Frank Cullen pointed out that in many countries, state broadcasters cannot include advertising on their sites, such as the BBC.

He said that RTÉ’s site displays news as funded by the licence fee and therefore, ads featuring “dating, motoring and property” were out of place.

Cullen also criticised the fact that while RTÉ’s television and radio advertising has statutory limits, the website does not.

Google was also criticised, where Cullen noted that the industry was under threat and the search giant was benefiting from online news content uploaded for free.

Liam Kavanagh, managing director of The Irish Times, a member of the NNI, said he was sceptical of RTÉ claiming the website was funded from commercial activities. He said that while The Irish Times has been investing in the site for years, it still hasn’t been able to make a profit from it.

Kavanagh believes RTÉ.ie has an unfair advantage, as he says it uses its programming to attract new visitors to the site.

The chairman of the committee said RTÉ would be called before them to explain its position.

RTÉ previously stated these claims were unrealistic and told them to work on their own online services instead.

“The National Newspapers of Ireland’s call for RTÉ’s normal online services to the public to be constrained by Government is impractical, inaccurate and regressive, and is based on a fundamentally flawed view of online activity in Ireland, of RTÉ’s dual funding model and of the development and control of the internet worldwide,” RTÉ said in a statement.