18 April 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

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RTÉ appears before Oireachtas committee: TV Licence Fee and funding of RTÉ discussed
14 Feb 2024 : Luke Shanahan
RTÉ Director-General Kevin Bakhurst, along with several RTÉ executive and board members, have appeared before the Oireachtas media committee today. Among the topics discussed is the issue of the TV licence fee in the wake of RTÉ’s ongoing financial scandals.

RTÉ executives and board members are appearing before the Oireachtas media committee today in relation to recent controversies such as the Toy Show The Musical making a total loss of €2,272,859, and the show's going ahead without written approval from the RTÉ Board according to the Grant Thornton report.

Over the course of today’s hearing, RTÉ Director-General Kevin Bakhurst has defended his decision to pull advertising for licence fee sales and renewals last summer. Brendan Griffin, Fine Gael TD referred to this as an “unbelievable decision”, and asked the RTÉ executives and board members present who decided to pull the advertisements, to which Bakhurst replied it was his decision. Bakhurst justified the decision on the basis that it would be “tone deaf” and “disrespectful” to use licence fee payers’ money to chase licence fee renewals in light of the "constant scandal" unfolding. Bakhurst "categorically" denied that advertising was deliberately pulled last year in order to collapse revenues to precipitate a decision on funding.

The licence fee was brought up again when Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said that the issue of the licence fee had been “dragging on since June”, and that the Government needs to take action. His view is that the licence fee should be scrapped, and the Government should accept the recommendation of the Future of Media Commission that public media be funded directly through the exchequer, adding “I don’t see the problem [with direct exchequer funding]".

In response to this, Bakhurst said he welcomes “a real live discussion” about how best to fund RTÉ, and that this matter is “not a decision for RTÉ, you’ll be pleased to hear, it is a decision for the Oireachtas”.

The effects of RTE’s cost-cutting measures on programming are already apparent. One of the objectives outlined in RTÉ’s new Strategic Vision published last November, was to cut spending by €10 million in 2024. Since the cost of a programme is recorded in broadcasters’ accounts in the period in which it is transmitted, not when the money is spent, deferrals are one way in which RTÉ can strategically cut costs. 

Consequently, The Young Offenders season four, which has a BBC release date, will not air on RTÉ until 2025, as per an email to staff from Deputy Director General Adrian Lynch. Other programmes affected are Fair City, which has been cut from four nights per week to three nights as of January 4th, 2024. The production of a third season of The Money List will also be deferred until 2025, and the second season of The Money List, produced in 2023, will air next year. The Dry season two has a release date of March 14th on ITVX, but does not yet have an RTÉ release date, it is billed to release this Spring.

IFTA Q&A Series: Joanne O’Brien on Costume Design
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