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Crowds line the streets in Dublin city centre as Pope Francis passes by on his tour of the city, during the first day of his visit to Ireland. Sasko Lazarov via
In the red

RTÉ says covering papal visit and World Cup added to money woes as it reports €13 million deficit

Director General Dee Forbes said there is a significant need for a complete revamp of the licence fee system.

RTÉ HAS TODAY published its annual report which shows how the national broadcaster is operating a €13 million deficit after what it described as another “challenging year”. 

Montrose bosses said that covering events such as the papal visit as well as the presidential election and World Cup came to €7.2 million. RTÉ said when this was added with depreciation, tax and other charges, it meant that it was €13 million in the red. 

RTÉ has not shied away from its money woes. Its director general, Dee Forbes, has repeatedly said that it  in dire need of a new TV licence model as the current one “is fundamentally unfit for purpose”.

She has said that the public service broadcaster is facing “urgent and substantial financial challenges” the committee was told, and by extension, so was “the broader creative sector that relies on a healthy RTÉ”.

RTÉ was also forced into the position of selling acres of its prime Donnybrook estate to developers to make some cash. 

Irish housebuilder Cairn Homes agreed the purchase for a total price of €107.5 million in 2017.

Speaking today, Forbes said that there is a significant need for a complete revamp of the licence fee system. 

She said: “We want to do more. We are full of programme ideas, but every day we have to curtail our own ambitions and the creative ambitions of the broader independent production sector due to our constrained resources. TV licence payers want us to do more and deserve more from us. 

“However, it will not be possible for RTÉ to maintain and enhance what we do and fulfill our remit without action from Government and a solution to the funding of public service media in Ireland.”

Forbes added that the case for increased public funding has been made in numerous independent reports over the past five years, including the most recent BAI review conducted in 2018 which recommended an immediate increase in annual public funding of €30 million for RTÉ.

She said that the case for reform of the TV licence system “has also been made in numerous reviews, however, to date, there has been no substantial response from Government”.

The Annual Report highlighted what RTÉ said were its “many achievements in 2018″. It said that the broadcaster had 39 of the top 50 most-watched television programmes in 2018.

The report also found that 81% of Irish adults continued to consider RTÉ to be an important part of Irish life while over 1 million people tuned in to RTÉ Radio One each week.

You can read the full RTÉ report here

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