BAI Chief Executive Michael O’Keeffe has described 2013 as a busy year and one of significant achievement for the Authority.
One of the highlights was the recent funding of 88 radio programmes under the Sound and Vision Scheme (Round 19) project. In total, the BAI awarded over €13.35m to radio and television and the total number of projects supported was 342.
A statutory review of the existing Scheme was completed during 2013 and submitted to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in July. Approval for the existing scheme expires at the end of 2014 and the BAI has launched a public consultation on a replacement scheme: Sound & Vision 3. This will require the approval of both the Minister and the European Commission, which will consider the Scheme in the context of State Aid rules. A public consultation process on the new draft scheme is underway and will close on 6th February 2014. It is intended that the new scheme will be in place by January 2015.
O’Keeffe says: “Round 19 of Sound & Vision marked a record in the number of applications received in any round of the scheme to date. As with previous rounds, the number of applications received was far in excess of funding available and, while the BAI was in the fortunate position of being able to allocate funding above that indicatively set for the round, we are also conscious that there were a significant number of quality projects that did not receive funding support.
“Our approach to the funding rounds in 2014, which was announced in recent weeks, recognises the finite resources available next year and the need for the BAI to adapt its approach accordingly through the provision of two open rounds and one targeted round of the Scheme, focusing on animation and education.”
Also, the BAI said significant work was undertaken during 2013 on progressing the current licensing plan. The majority of licensing was undertaken through the fast-track application process. By year-end, 12 contracts had been signed, with the remaining applications received through the fast-track process in the final stages of assessment and scheduled for contract signing in the New Year.
Five franchise areas are the subject of a competitive licensing process, due to the receipt of more than one expression of interest in each franchise area. In the case of the Midlands (counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath) and South-East regional franchise areas, one application was received respectively from the existing operator. Three applications were received for the niche music service, serving Dublin City and County, and two applications were received for each of the North Donegal and Sligo/North Leitrim/South Donegal franchise areas.
All competitive processes are currently underway and will be considered by the Contract Awards Committee over their meetings in the New Year.
The complaints handling process was reviewed by the Compliance Committee. Changes to the process will be considered and introduced in 2014. The BAI Compliance and Enforcement Policy and Procedures were ratified by the Authority in November. The Policy will come into effect in 2014 and will govern the BAI’s compliance work, in addition to providing guidance in relation to the procedures for conducting investigations under the Broadcasting Act.
The report also provided an update on the first round of the Archiving Scheme, the new Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs and details of the ‘public conversation’ event which took place in Smock Alley on 12th December.
Finally, a budget of €342,000 was allocated under the BAI’s Sectoral Learning and Development policy towards six core areas of delivery to the broadcasting sector in 2013. €270,000 of this was specifically allocated to the support of networks such as CRAOL (community broadcasters’ network), Learning Waves, Community Television Association (CTA), the Association of Independent Radio Producers of Ireland (AIRPI), Media Desk Ireland and Screen Producers Ireland (SPI), among others. A budget of €347,000 has been approved for 2014.