Sunday 26 January 2020

Dee Forbes' letters blamed Bruton over delay to RTE reform

Dee Forbes said Richard Bruton slowed licence fee reform
Dee Forbes said Richard Bruton slowed licence fee reform

RTE director general Dee Forbes pointed a finger of blame at Communications Minister Richard Bruton for the deepening crisis at the broadcaster in a letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The Herald can reveal that Ms Forbes wrote a series of letters to government ministers on the day she called a town hall briefing for staff at Montrose to inform them of RTE's reform plan.


Each letter outlined elements of the strategy, but also contained a bespoke note appealing to the ministers' respective portfolio or area of interest and calling for reform of the licence fee.

The letters, sent last November and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, called for a meeting with the minister, or the Taoiseach, to discuss the issues.

Ms Forbes took aim at Mr Bruton for slowing down reforms of the licence fee.

The minister had said "a device independent broadcasting charge" would be introduced by 2024.

"The decision announced by Minister Bruton in August 2019 to delay any meaningful reform of the TV licence system for a further five to six years will, if unchanged, have a catastrophic impact on RTE's future and the future of Irish independent production," Ms Forbes said.

She has said repeatedly that RTE has highlighted the licence fee system is "fundamentally and irrevocably broken".

RTE said it had nothing to add on the content of the letters and that the issues were also aired at an Oireachtas committee meeting.

A spokesperson for Mr Brut- on did not respond directly to the criticism, but said the Government had agreed to provide an extra €10m funding to broadcasting, with around €9m going to RTE to implement its new plan.

Richard Bruton
Richard Bruton

"RTE must make changes to reposition itself. However, it is also important that a careful assessment take place of what are the models and funding mechanisms that can best support the continuing important public service goals," they said.

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