herald

Thursday 23 January 2020

Forbes insists RTE output amounts to 'fair value' compared to likes of Netflix

Director general Dee Forbes
Director general Dee Forbes

RTE boss Dee Forbes will insist today that the broadcaster's output, at a cost of 44c a day to households, represents "fair value" when compared with the costs of subscription services such as Netflix.

The director general of the cash-strapped organisation is also expected to hit out at delays in changes to the TV licence regime to include people who use the RTE Player.

Her statement will praise programmes such as The Late Late Toy Show, saying it is "worth fighting for" during her appearance before the Oireachtas Communications Committee.

RTE's financial difficulties mean it is preparing to cut 200 jobs and impose 15pc salary cuts on some of its best-paid talent as part of efforts to save €60m over three years.

Ms Forbes will tell TDs and senators that the current €160 TV licence fee is the equivalent of 44c a day, and this offers a "comprehensive" news service and "national moments" such as GAA finals on a free-to-air basis

"Many more moments of entertainment, celebration, revelation and reflection" are also part of the broadcaster's output, her statement adds.

"I think this is fair value for 44c a day per household, especially in comparison with the subscription costs to other media services, none of which offers anywhere near this level of Irish perspective or output."

Untenable

The licence fee works out at around €13 a month, slightly more than one Netflix price plan of around €12 a month.

Ms Forbes will also compare RTE's costs to international broadcasters, saying all RTE services are delivered for less than the £381m (€453m) the BBC spends on its secondary channel, BBC.

She hits out at delays in overhauling the licence fee regime, where evasion rates of 13pc have led to a loss of €25m a year.

She says the remedy proposed by the Government is that a five-year contract licence fee collection would be put out to tender.

She says a collecting agent would likely be contracted from 2021 and this would have the effect of delaying a broader media charge - aimed at incorporating viewers using RTE's online streaming service - for close to seven years. Ms Forbes brands this "completely untenable".

Her statement says "outdated" legislation means 11pc of households do not pay the TV licence fee but watch programmes online.

"This lag in legislation is resulting in a further loss of €20m in public funding annually," she adds.

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