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Monday 5 December 2016

'RTE need to downsize its operation', says ex-board member

Aileen O’Meara
Aileen O’Meara

RTE needs to shed its "monopoly mindset" and downsize, according to former board member Aileen O'Meara.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's This Week programme yesterday, the former RTE producer said the challenges facing the State broadcaster in the digital age were daunting.

Faced with the departure of three senior management staff and a €2.8m deficit for last year as costs exceeded revenues, the media consultant said a shake-up was badly needed at Montrose.

"RTE needs to lose, to some certain extent, the monopoly mindset that it has," she said.

"Competition has always been very good for RTE. I used to work in here and there was nothing better to get people up and moving than to see the competitor doing something we should have been doing."

The former RTE journalist, who sat on its board between 2010 and 2015, said there was no justification for RTE getting the lion's share of State funds from TV licence revenues.

"Look at Red Rock on TV3 - there's a super example of a well-written, well-produced, well-acted soap that is now being sold to the BBC," she said.

Streaming

At the same time, traditional revenue streams are in jeopardy having migrated to the internet and "UK channels that are beaming into Ireland", she said.

Television viewers have, by and large, switched from watching TV to streaming movies over the internet or watching box sets, she explained. "People aren't watching linear television any more," she said.

She added that, as a result, RTE's newly-appointed Director General, Dee Forbes, has her work cut out for her. "She's looking at an organisation that is still a very big, unwieldy company that probably needs to shrink quite a lot," she said.

"The biggest question that they have to face at RTE is do you stay with the hybrid model - the dual commercial income with the licence fee?

"Or do you shrink back and say 'We are going to be a pure public service broadcaster?'."

Ms O'Meara said she believes RTE should focus on "doing what we're really good at", which includes "big" productions such as coverage of State events like the 1916 Easter Rising commemorations and the All-Ireland GAA championships, as well as continuing to produce high-quality news and current affairs shows on radio and TV.

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