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Rabbitte publishes 5 year review of public service broadcasting & announces new approach to funding

New legislation to include assessment of licence fee and commercial revenues to be introduced alongside new rules on the use of public money by broadcasters

Public consultation to commence on replacement of TV Licence with new Public Service Broadcasting Charge

Minister asks New Era to conduct assessment of further efficiencies at RTE

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, T.D. today published the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s 5 year review of public service broadcasting and announced that he is to introduce legislation for a fundamentally new system of funding for public service broadcasters. Central to the new system will be the requirement that both commercial revenue and television licence fee funding are considered together for the first time.

In addition to this, new rules are to be introduced on the use of public money by Public Service Broadcasters and how they separate public funds and commercial income earned through the sale of advertising.

The Minister further announced that he would shortly publish a consultation paper on a household based ‘Public Service Broadcasting Charge’ to replace the Television Licence.  This consultation will be open for public consultation for a limited time, and will seek responses across a range of issues around the application and collection of such a charge. The new household based charge will be designed to address the scale of evasion as well as respond to technological advance, whereby increasing numbers are accessing broadcast content online.

Minister Rabbitte also announced that TG4 will be asked to produce a revised medium term strategy based on present levels of funding, as recommended by  the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and its consultants.

Today the Minister published the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)’s ‘Review of Funding for Public Service Broadcasters’, the first such review conducted under the Broadcasting Act 2009. This review evaluated multiannual plans prepared by RTÉ and TG4 on levels of public funding, how efficiently they are used, and the robustness of spending oversight procedures.

The BAI and a report prepared by their external consultants, Crowe Horwath, strongly recommend continued public funding for public service broadcasting in Ireland, but both point to a number of developing challenges for Irish broadcasters.

These include technological and market changes, shifts in viewer preference and age profile, and the increased penetration of subscription or ‘pay tv’ from outside the State.

Minister Rabbitte explained that, in order to meet these challenges “Irish broadcasters must continue to adapt and develop, both in terms of content offerings and the manner in which services are provided”.

He noted the very significant and difficult savings that had been made in both RTÉ and TG4 in the last number of years.

He added that the BAI recommendations suggest that while existing levels of funding are sufficient for the moment, additional public funds are likely to be required if RTÉ, in particular, is to remain relevant in this changing media landscape.

The Minister commented “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.”

To that end, Minister Rabbitte said that all necessary steps need to be taken to ensure that public funds are spent in an efficient manner and that value for money is being delivered by the broadcasters at all times.

In this regard, the Minister has asked New Era to conduct an independent assessment of both the scope for additional efficiencies within RTÉ and the potential for increased use of independently produced content by the national broadcaster. When this assessment is complete and once the revised system of public funding is in place, an informed decision can then be taken on future funding arrangements. The revised system for setting advertising minutage will also bring the setting of all broadcast advertising time limits within the one process within the BAI for the first time.

The Minister is publishing three documents today:

The BAI’s recommendations;

The report prepared by the BAI’s consultants Crowe Horwath.

The Government Response to both documents, as agreed by the Government on the 16th of July 2013.

Many of the measures referred to above will be implemented by amending existing legislation. In the preparation of these amendments the Minister will be happy to take submissions from and engage with stakeholders on these measures and on the BAI Report.


The relevant documents may be viewed here:


The Section 124(8) or ‘Five Year Review’ process was established in the Broadcasting Act 2009 as a means of conducting a periodic fundamental review of the funding of Public Service Broadcasters in terms of the sufficiency of the funding, the robustness of the systems used to control it and the structure and efficiency of the broadcasters themselves. These reviews are carried out in conjunction with annual or ‘single year reviews’ under Section 124(2). The task of conducting these reviews is conferred on the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), the regulatory body also established under the 2009 Act. In doing so, the BAI is required to take account of 10 separate matters identified in Section 124(9), including (a) the existing financial resources available to a corporation, (b) the current level of public funding available to a corporation, (c) the multi-annual nature of public funding requirements, and (d) the level of commercial funding available to a corporation in pursuance of its exploitation of commercial opportunities objects.

The Act requires the BAI to make a recommendation ‘as to the requisite level of public funding required to permit the  corporation to fulfil its public service objects’, and to submit both these recommendations and the report itself to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. To assist it in its consideration of the Review, the BAI commissioned a consultancy group, Crowe Horwath.  The BAI formally submitted its recommendations and the Crowe Horwath Report to the Minister on the 21st June 2013.

The Minister is required to submit both documents to Government, following which the Government is required to publish a response to the BAI recommendations, and to publish both documents submitted to it by the BAI.  This document from the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources sets out the Government’s response.