IBI renews call for licence fee sharing

Commercial radio operators are backing a renewed call for stations that are required by their licence to provide public service content to get a share of public funding.

A report for the BAI, which points out that RTÉ stations are not the only ones providing a valuable public service, has been published for the first time.

The report by independent consultants Crowe Horwath highlights the current situation regarding the publicly funded ‘Sound and Vision Scheme’ for both state and independent broadcasters. It claims that the scheme undermines RTÉ’s position as having an automatic entitlement to all of the funding available for public service broadcasting.

The Chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), John Purcell, said: “The IBI has long being making the case that independent radio stations which are obliged under the terms of their licenses to provide a minimum of 20% public service content should have access to license fee revenue. This money is currently ring fenced for RTÉ. The report makes clear that RTÉ, who as well as having a public service obligation also operate in a purely commercial manner and are effectively ‘having their cake and eating it’. The report also makes it clear, indeed it explicitly acknowledges that our member stations have a valid role to play in broadcasting public service content to Irish audiences and this should be supported by license fee funding.”

The report also highlights international and European examples where money is already split between state and commercial broadcasters. “In New Zealand for example all money raised through broadcast licensing is distributed between State owned and Independent broadcasters based on the type of material they provide,” said Mr Purcell. “Closer to home in Croatia a portion of the license fee is distributed directly to regional and local broadcasters.

The IBI says a new agreement to give independent stations some extra public money could help secure their future. “Sound and Vision makes funding available for a narrow range of programming, with the advent of the new broadcasting charge due to come into being in the near future, the time is now right to open up the funding of news, sport and information programming to independent broadcasters as well as to RTÉ,” said Mr Purcell.

The IBI is calling on the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, to give the report’s findings serious consideration when drafting new broadcasting legislation.

John Purcell added: “There is a fundamentally unfair divide in the way that current public policy is applied to RTÉ and independent broadcasters and the notion that RTÉ has a monopoly on public service is as absurd as it is untrue. Much more importantly it is an insult to the 67% of the audience who choose Independent radio as their station of choice every day. Minister Rabbitte has the opportunity to redefine public service broadcasting so that it reflects where the listeners are as opposed to who is controlling the broadcast.“

Read the Crowe Horwath report on Sound and Vision from earlier this year here.

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