Moya Doherty and John McColgan arriving at RTÉ studios this week. Sam Boal/
cost cutting

RTÉ board chair: 'People are downloading RTÉ content on their screens, they should pay for that'

RTÉ board chairperson Moya Doherty has also defended the station’s output.

THE CHAIRPERSON OF the RTÉ board Moya Doherty has defended the station’s output and says pressure must be put on the government to fix the failing licence fee collection system.

Doherty was speaking on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio One this afternoon after the broadcaster’s cost-cutting plan was revealed on Wednesday

As part of the plan, RTÉ said that licence fee evasion rates in Ireland are among the highest in Europe and are “costing jobs”.

It’s estimated that if everyone with a TV paid their licence fee in 2018, RTÉ would have had an extra €32 million

“We have the most expensive collection fee system in Europe. Why? Why do we pay 12 million to have our license collected poorly,” Doherty said today. 

Why do we not have a better database? Why don’t government look and think ‘TV is now a large old screen on somebody’s wall? We need to look at other ways’. Because so many people now are downloading and taking RTÉ content on their screens, and they should pay for that.

“And actually, I feel very sorry for those who do pay and do stay within the law and pay their license fee and are allowed, by government and others, to have a vast swathe of people, to allow 25 million pounds a year bleed out under the door that could be used for content,” she added. 

Doherty said she doesn’t think people want to hear “the minutiae detail” about RTÉ’s finances but “want to know we can be nimble, efficient, use their money well to get the stories across and have a place in Irish life.” 

RTÉ’s director general Dee Forbes has said that a review of the TV licence structure which funds the national broadcaster is needed and that a device charge rather than a standard TV charge, was necessary

Asked by Finucane if politicians are likely to insists on the public paying more for RTÉ following the failed introduction of water charges, Doherty said the result of that should be an example for people. 

“Other countries in Europe have managed to fix their collection method, I don’t see why RTÉ should be the outlier here. And actually on the water charges, how extraordinary that twice in the last two weeks we have a boil water notice and we have buckets of rain falling from the sky,” she said. 

Doherty said part of the reason RTÉ has been put in this position is due to the obligations placed on it by Broadcasting Act 2009.

She also defended RTÉ’s programming, saying “it’s difficult to please everybody with content”. 

I think you can look back, even this week at the tribute show that was turned around for our great colleague Gay Byrne to the investigative programmes that Prime Time do. There’s so much good television, everybody’s taste is different Marian, but what we want to do and RTÉ should do is not compete commercially but be unique and have its own voice.

“Take that wonderful Nationwide programme going around the country,” she added.

“What other commercial organisation is going to deliver that programme? What other commercial organisation is going to ask the hard facts about housing, the medical system, who else is going to spend a lot of money on investigative programmes if the public service media isn’t given the support to do that?”

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