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'It's fair value for 44c a day': RTÉ boss to make direct appeal to politicians over TV licence reforms

Forbes wants the Government to take action to tackle households evading the licence fee.

Forbes will speak at an Oireachtas committee meeting this morning.
Forbes will speak at an Oireachtas committee meeting this morning.
Image: LEAH FARRELL

RTÉ DIRECTOR GENERAL Dee Forbes is set to renew her appeal for TV licence reforms when she appears before a panel of TDs and senators in Leinster House today. 

Forbes will speak about RTÉ’s controversial cost-cutting measures and argue the case for reforming the €160 annual licence fee when she comes before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

In a statement to be delivered by the head of the station, seen by TheJournal.ie, she will once again criticise the 13% of households which are evading the licence fee and argue that the current rate of 44c per household per day is not an unreasonable amount. 

“The current licence fee costs the equivalent of 44c a day, of which RTÉ receives the lion’s share,” she will say. 

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

“In terms of value, I think it is also useful to put RTÉ spend and services in context with other international public service media providers.”

Forbes will compare RTÉ to the structure of the BBC, which is funded through revenue it receives from a licence fee-paying population that is over 10 times the size of Ireland’s.

A new reformed TV licence system has already been announced for 2024, which would be “device independent” – meaning that if you can play the RTÉ Player on it, you have to pay the charge. It’s not been decided yet whether the charge will be per household, like the current TV licence, or per person.

Forbes wants these plans introduced sooner rather than later. 

Last month, news broke that RTÉ was due to make a series of major cuts in order to deal with its dire financial situation.

As part of a major restructuring plan, it will cut the pay of its top presenters by 15%, cut 200 jobs (through voluntary redundancies), move production of Lyric FM from Limerick to Cork and Dublin and reduce RTÉ executives’ pay by 10%.

The broadcaster has been trying to return to profit for years now, selling off land at its Montrose site in Donnybrook, and more recently putting acclaimed pieces of art up for auction.

Forbes will make an appeal for the licence fee structure to be reviewed and reformed in light of changing trends around how people watch television, particularly as more people watch online now than before. 

“Ireland’s TV licence system is irrevocably broken and is no longer capable of properly sustaining public service broadcasting or Ireland’s broader audio-visual and creative sector.

“As I have said on a number of occasions, it is not possible for RTÉ to continue to operate from a position of deficit. We need to reduce projected costs by €60 million over the next three years. 

This is in addition to the cost reductions of 23% of operating costs, achieved between 2008 and 2018.

Last week, RTÉ confirmed it has rolled back on its decision to sell the RTÉ Guide as part of operation reforms to reduce costs.

With reporting by Christina Finn

In a recent episode of TheJournal.ie’s The Explainer podcast, we looked at what the situation is for RTÉ right now: what the financial issues are, what it’s planning to do about it, and what the future looks like for the broadcaster.

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