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Report finds RTÉ 'seriously deficient' and in breach of Irish language broadcast obligations

‘It was obvious that a ‘comprehensive range’ was not being provided in Irish,’ the investigation concluded.

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AN INVESTIGATION BY the Official Languages Commissioner has found RTÉ’s Irish language programming is “seriously deficient” and in breach of its obligations under Irish law. 

Under the Broadcasting Act 2009, the national broadcaster is obliged to provide a “comprehensive range” of programming in both the Irish and English language that reflects “the cultural diversity of the whole island of Ireland”.

To meet the requirement, RTÉ must provide coverage in areas of sports, religion and current affairs in both languages.

However, in an annual report from An Comisinéir Teanga today, it was revealed that just 123 hours of Irish language programming were broadcast on RTÉ TV channels in 2017 – less than 1% of the total 18,657 hours broadcast that year.

A complaint submitted to the languages commissioner prompted an investigation into the broadcaster in May 2018, who later found it was “seriously deficient and at odds with the will of the Houses of the Oireachtas”. 

“If a ‘comprehensive range’ of programmes was being provided in English, it was obvious that a ‘comprehensive range’ was not being provided in Irish,” the investigation concluded. 

Figures showed €177 million was spent on programming in 2017 with just €4 million or 2% of this being spent on Irish language programming. 

In relation to RTÉ’s radio output, the investigation found the station had satisfied the requirements, but added “this was largely due to the comprehensiveness of service provided by Raidió na Gaeltachta”. 

Speaking of the findings today, the commissioner, Rónán O’Domhnaill highlighted the discrepancy between the number of hours broadcast in each language. 

“This is the first time compliance with the Broadcasting Act, insofar as it relates to Irish language broadcasting, has been formally investigated,” he said. 

“The results of the investigation reveal that only 0.7% of programmes broadcast on RTÉ television are classified as Irish language programmes. Or, in other words, approximately 99% of programmes are in English only.”

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A spokesperson for RTÉ said, that although the report acknowledges a breach of its obligations under the broadcasting act, they said it had broadly fulfilled its Irish language duties. 

“While the Report finds RTÉ to be in breach of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 2009 regarding the provision of Irish language programming on its linear television channels, it also finds that RTÉ is fulfilling its obligations regarding television news programmes and its radio output as a whole.

“Furthermore, innovative developments made by RTÉ to considerably increase Irish language material available online, on social media, in digital radio and in podcasting are not within the scope of this Report.”

The commissioner recommended RTÉ should prepare an implementation plan within six months of the report from its investigation in order to provide a comprehensive range of programming in both English and Irish. 

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