Conclusions from the Report of the Forum of Broadcasting to the Minister for Communications Marine and Natural Resources Dermot Ahern TD - August 2002
Conclusions from the Report of the Forum of Broadcasting to the Minister for Communications Marine and Natural Resources Dermot Ahern TD.
On the evidence presented, it is the view of the Forum that (subject to some regulatory changes) the existing broad framework for broadcasting in Ireland provides a satisfactory basis for future development. There are considerable uncertainties ahead as advances in technology open the way to the age of digital television and to increased competition from outside the State.
The Forum believes that there is a clear necessity for public service broadcasting that fosters, expresses and reflects the varied, complementary and sometimes conflicting values of the community. Furthermore, it is the opinion of the Forum that the existence of a designated public service broadcaster is the best guarantee of public service broadcasting in Ireland now and for the foreseeable future. This broadcaster must have a strong commitment to Irish culture and language.
Equally, there is a vital role for commercial and community broadcasters in Ireland to provide audiences with a genuine choice of programming and alternative coverage of news and current affairs. Commercial and community broadcasters have introduced an element of competition which has had a positive impact on the quality of public service broadcasting. Local radio (perhaps because of the greater flexibility of the medium) in particular has defined new audiences and broadened the choice available to the public.
RTÉ occupies a special position as the public service broadcaster and this position should be strengthened in the light of the changed contemporary broadcasting environment. While there is a clear need for greater efficiencies within the organisation, it is also noted that RTÉ has not been well served by deficiencies in the collection of licence fees and by the fact that cost increases have well outstripped licence fee adjustments in recent years. Funding should be sufficient to allow RTÉ to fulfil its obligations and to plan for the future on a realistic level. Increased public funding for RTÉ should be conditional on its fulfilment of its public service obligations and on its efficient operation as monitored under the Charter.
On the basis of its assessment of the evidence, the Forum makes the following recommendations.
The role of public service broadcasting
1. The role of RTÉ as the designated public service broadcaster should be reaffirmed. RTÉ should continue, for the present, to operate its existing range of television and radio channels in order to fulfil its role as described under Section 28 of the Broadcasting Act, 2001.
2. RTÉ should remain in public ownership, but this should not preclude alliances with external organisations for specific purposes.
3. RTÉ?s performance of its public service broadcasting remit should be measured against a more detailed statement of public service broadcasting commitments accompanied by a significantly improved system of public accountability (discussed in more detail below).
4. All proposals by RTÉ for significant future development, whether or not in alliance with external organisations, should require prior approval of a business plan by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
The impact of digital television
5. As a matter of urgency, the issue of digital terrestrial television should be revisited in an attempt to provide a countrywide system as part of the national infrastructure.
6. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should keep under review the impact of digital television on the role of RTÉ.
The role of commercial broadcasting services
7. The New Adventures in Broadcasting scheme run by the BCI for the development of public service programming should be maintained, and expanded as resources permit.
The regulation of broadcasters
8. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should establish, within three years, a new single regulator for broadcasting in Ireland to be called the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). It would be established, under legislation, to assume the existing functions of the BCI and the regulatory functions of the RTÉ Authority.
9. The status of the RTÉ Authority should be redefined so that it becomes a Board of Directors.
10. There will continue to be a need for an autonomous Broadcasting Complaints Commission.
11. The Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation (ODTR) should continue to regulate distribution platforms. There should, however, be formal liaison between the ODTR and the BAI.
A Charter for RTÉ
12. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should agree with RTÉ a Charter for the exercise of its public service remit, and rolling business planning for the delivery of agreed objectives. The Charter should be reviewed periodically.
13. The Charter should include clear statements of purpose and criteria under which RTÉ's performance can be monitored by the BAI. The criteria should relate to content, impartiality and the application of public sector funding.
14. Each RTÉ channel should be subject to at least the same level of content regulation as applies to the commercial sector.
15. Pending the establishment of the BAI, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should arrange for transparent and independent monitoring of the Charter.
16. RTÉ should operate in accordance with an agreed Code of Fair Trading Practice.
17. RTÉ should publish transparent accounts for each service and, specifically, for its use of public funding.
Regulation of commercial broadcasters
18. The BAI should have regard to the need to stimulate meaningful competition in the commercial sector and to ensure broadcasters are geared to the needs of the communities which they serve.
19. The operation of the policy on the ownership and control of commercial broadcasters should be reviewed after three years to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness.
Regulation of trans-national broadcasters
20. The Government should pursue the revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive to bring it into line with today?s conditions.
Dual funding mechanism
21. The dual funding mechanism should be maintained as the only practical approach towards funding public service broadcasting in Ireland.
Licence fee system
22. The television licence fee system should continue as the basis for public funding of RTÉ.
23. The introduction of a higher level of licence fee for commercial premises should be considered in terms of cost-effectiveness and feasibility.
24. For the time being, the contract for the collection of the licence fee should remain with An Post. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, in consultation with An Post and RTÉ, should set targets for the number of licence fees collected, introduce a scheme of incentives and penalties for An Post relating to the rate of collection, and adjust the regulations governing the licence fee to enhance the collection rate.
Level of public funding for RTÉ
25. The licence fee should be reviewed with the objective of establishing a base on which RTÉ can move forward to meet its public service broadcasting remit. The Government should ensure through a series of adjustments over defined periods that the value of the new licence fee will not be eroded.
26. In making recommendations to the Government in relation to the licence fee, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should have regard to the level of public funding required for RTÉ to fulfil its public service broadcasting
obligations as well as to the maintenance of a balance between RTÉ's revenues from commercial and public sources.
27. Adjustments to the licence fee should be dependent on RTÉ?s performance in meeting the requirements set out under the Charter.
Broadcasting and the independent audio-visual sector
28. RTÉ and other broadcasters should institute multi-annual arrangements in relation to the outsourcing of production.
29. In the interests of transparency, the Independent Production Unit within RTÉ should publish, with due regard for commercial sensitivity, detailed information in relation to programme commissions. In addition, the responsibility for commissioning programmes from the independent production sector should be held by a broadly based group within RTÉ.
30. The BAI should ensure that, in the future, the commissioning of programming from the independent production sector is an effective precondition for the granting or renewal of broadcasting contracts.
31. The promotion of community broadcasting should be a stated policy objective of both the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and, pending the establishment of the BAI, the BCI.
Broadcasting and the Irish language
32. The level of additional public funding required for the establishment of TG4 as a separate statutory entity should be clearly identified prior to its establishment.
33. The fulfilment by RTÉ of its obligations to Irish language broadcasting should be a key element of the Charter. This could include, for instance, more programmes of a bilingual character.
34. Programmes aimed at learners of Irish, both adults and children, should be available at a variety of levels either on RTÉ 1 or TG4.
35. The BAI should continue the work of the BCI in exploring new ways of enhancing and incentivising Irish language broadcasting in the commercial sector.
Broadcasting and culture
36. RTÉ?s responsibility to commission, and cultivate audiences for, works of art should remain an element of programming policy and be integrated in RTÉ's forthcoming Charter.
Educational and children's programming
37. The production of increased amounts of original educational and children's programming should be encouraged of all broadcasters.
38. The Government should move to promote, at a European level, clear and enforceable policies in relation to advertising on children?s television.
RTÉ's performing groups
39. The cultural value of the RTÉ performing groups should be a stated element of RTÉ's Charter.
40. In light of the cultural significance of RTÉ's performing groups, the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism should be consulted on their future resourcing and deployment.
41. Broadcasters should be obliged to maintain archives in an appropriate manner. A representative group should be established to advise the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on the development of a national policy on audio-visual archives.
Developments in broadcasting
42. As a means of informing public policy formulation, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should commission appropriate studies and reports, including comparative studies and analysis.
43. In view of the central role of broadcasting in Irish life, it is important that the Oireachtas, through the Committee system in particular, should debate developments in broadcasting on an ongoing basis.
44. The Government should keep under review the working of the 2000 Transparency Directive of the EU Commission on state aid to public service broadcasters and related developments in European case law.
List of Organisations and Persons who made submissions to the Forum
Bowden, Mr Chris, Manager, Television Research, AC Nielsen
Breathnach, Mr Diarmuid
Brennan, Mr Edward, School of Media, Dublin Institute of Technology
Broadcasting Commission of Ireland
Bushe, Dr Con
Byrne, Mr Charles, Chairman, Royal Television Society
Callanan, Mr Ronan
Carberry, Mr Enda, Midwest Radio/North West Radio
Cardy, Mr Stephen, Irish Christian Broadcasters
Casey, Mr Leo, AV Edge Communications
Chorus Communication Ltd
Church of Ireland Broadcasting Committee
CMN, Dublin City Community Media Forum and Dublin Community TV Channel
Collins, Mr Dan
Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge
Conradh Na Gaeilge
Contemporary Music Centre
Corcoran, Mr Farrell, School of Communications, DCU
Creely, Ms Marion
Daly, Mr Jerome
Deering, Mr Mark, Sky Ireland
Dublin Television & Multi-Media Ltd
Dun Laoghaire Institute / School of Art Design & Media
Elliot, Dr Ian, Irish Science Centres Awareness Network
Family and Media Association
Farrell, Mr Michael, Radiomation Ltd, Roscommon
Fennell, Mr Cillian
Foras Na Gaeilge
Forum for Music in Ireland
Gallagher, Mr Shane
Graham, Mr Ian
Havelin, Mr David
Healy, Mr David, Audio-visual Federation, IBEC
Higgins, Mr Michael D. T.D.
Hill, Mr Dick
Holmes, Mr John S
Hughes, Mr Michael
Independent Broadcasters of Ireland
Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland/Association of Advertisers in Ireland
Institute of Technology, Tralee
Irish Churches' Council for Television & Radio Affairs
Irish Film Board
Irish Hard of Hearing Association
Irish Traditional Music Archive
Its TV Limited
Kelly, Mr T
Kennedy, Mr Peter
Kenny, Dr Colum
Kenny, Mr Shane, Managing Editor, RTÉ OnBusiness
Lacey, Councillor D, Dublin Corporation
Leahy, Ms Ann, Age and Opportunity
Mr Cormac Leonard, Irish Deaf Society
Mac Coille, Mr Cathal
Mac Donncha, Mr Pádraic, Comharchumann Ráth Cáirn
Mac Murchú, Irial, Nemeton Teo
Martin, Mr Niall
MacBride, Mr Gerry, Lon Dub Teo
McCabe, Mr Dermot
McKimm, Mr Peter
Minogue, Ms Kate
Mulqueen, Mr Mark, Film Institute of Ireland
Murphy, Mr Patrick J, Chairman Arts Council
National Newspapers of Ireland
National Union of Journalists
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Ní Mhíocháin, Ms Máire/ Mr Alan Esslemont
O Coileáin, Mr Tadhg, Léirithe Lúnasa Teo
O? Connor, Mr Ulick
O?Driscoll, Mr Donal
O? Farrelly, Mr Christopher
O?Gadhra, Mr Nollaig
O? Kane, Mr Enda, Irish Overseas Broadcasting
O Muiré, Orán
O?Murachú, Mr Seán, NMD Productions
O?Neill, Dr. Brian, School of Media, DIT
O'Reilly, Dr. Barney, Kerry Education Service, Co. Kerry VEC
O?Sullivan, Mr Sean Francis Patrick
Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation
Office of Tobacco Control
Parlaimint na mBan
Patten, Mr John, Medialink (on behalf of Channel 4)
Pine, Mr Richard
Quinn, Mr Bob
Richardson, Ms. Anne Marie
RTÉ Managers Association
RTÉ Trade Union Group
RTÉ TV Producer/Director Group
Ryan, Dr Joseph, Athlone Institute of Technology
Ryan, Mr Eoin
Scottish Radio Holdings
Screen Directors Guild of Ireland
Sheehan, Mr Killian
Smeaton, Prof Alan, Centre for Digital Video Processing, DCU
Swift, Mr John, SIPTU NSO
TV3 Television Network Ltd
UCD School of Film
Williams, Mr John, Producer, RTÉ