..back to home                                                    27 September 2003, last update.
Paying for Propaganda

("Forum on Broadcasting", 2002)

(Ed note: Emphasis added)
Drive against TV licence defaulters

An "intensive drive" against tv licence defaulters is now being carried out by the collecting agents, An Post.

More than 300 people were brought before the Dublin Discrict Court on Friday, 26 September.  A further 300 would be procecuted on 3 October and another 430 cases were listed for 24 October,  making over 1,000 in all by the end of October.

Of the first 150 listed, 104 were struck out, mainly because notices could not be served.  There were also a significant number of women who told the court that they were lone parents. (Irish Times report, 27 Sept)

The Judge will have a busy time.

If it is correct that 20% of cars are uninsured, the likelihood that tv licence defaulting may be greater.  At present some 1m peole pay.  This would mean that some 250,000 are not paying, about 20 years at 1,000 per month.  This will only deal with the year 2003.  (It won't be quite this bad, as many will pay up without going to court).

The charge is E150 per household.  So if you have 3 tvs in the one house and one person is the householder, there will be only one E150 to pay.

27 Sept 2003

Advertising/broadcasting of complaints

Section 24 of the Broadcasing Act 2001 obliges the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) to advertise all complaints.

This includes complaints against all TV stations and all Radio Stations, as well as RTÉ.  (Presently, complaints against RTÉ are given in the RTÉ Guide.  However, management do not seem very happy abourt this, looking on comment as troublesome rather than being welcome.  The size of the print reflects this).

Submissions were invited by the BCC as to what criteria they might use.  Responses were to be submiitted by Friday, 26 September 2003.

Further info from the Commission, phone 01 676 1097

27 Sept 2003

        Submission on Charter
Draft Public Service Broadcasting Charter (Sept 2003)

RTÉ's Statutory Mandate

1. The Statement of Commitments issued by RTÉ, the supposéd justification     for the public increase, makes no mention of any commitment to either the Irish language or religious activities.  RTÉ states these are subsumed into other programming.

The Draft Charter does not clarify this anomaly.

2. Mention should be made of the "desirability" of monitoring RTÉ, so that public service is supplied as provided for in the formal agreement with government.  This is referred to in the (soft-law) Communication C.320 of 15-11-2001.

The irony is that local radio stations, each having limited cover, are monitored by the BCI, while no-one is watching the national public service broadcaster, RTÉ!

(The reference to the "Transparency Directive" should, perhaps, be 80/723/EEC, and not 80/7223/EEC as quoted).

Guiding Principles

Public Service Remit

1.  "Reflecting " the democratic, etc, values: 

In News and current affairs, there is little evidence that RTÉ is "reflecting" values.  "Soaps", such as "Fair City", watched by some 500,000 each instalment, is another case in point.

The Draft Charter does not indicate what steps are taken to ensure that such programmes are "following" society, and not "leading" it.

2. Competition:
There is no indication that the "public service" element of the Station's income is granted without any competition.  This is now up by 50% and is valued at E100m per annum.

3.  "Media pluralism":

As can be seen from the RTÉ channels, TV3, and the national print media, there is no media pluralism to preserve.  It is appreciated that RTÉ is only partly responsible for this state of affairs.

4. "No editorial bias .."

Balance has been absent over very many years in almost all RTÉ news, current affairs and "soaps", eg:


    1. FMA monitored very many programmes, and asked the BCC to make a      judgement as is required by law.  This the BCC refused to do.
    2. Mr Anthony Coughlan brought a case to the Supreme Court in regard to uncontested broadcasts, and succeeded against RTÉ and the BCC.
    3. Mr Bob Quinn, a member of the RTÉ authority, resigned over RTÉ's conduct. (See his book Maverick, Brandon, 2001).

     RTÉ broke the law, knew they were doing so, and they succeeded.

     Taking of the life of the unborn child:

     1. In the case called the X-case, RTÉ helped to keep from the public that a material witness was not called, and a witness, who was believed to have been a former Director of Irish Family Planning Association, was.

    (Dr McKenna expressed a view to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution (APOCC) on Abortion, 2000, that the young mother in the X-case was not depressed).
    2. In May, 1998, several members of Youth Defence were charged in connection with a demonstration against the abortion policies of the Adelaide Hospital (now removed to Tallaght).   RTÉ gave extensive coverage to the charges, but little to the Appeal two years later, when almost all the charges were dismissed.

    3. In January 1998,  Youth Defence (YD) took a position in support of the parents in the C-case and queried the need to have the unborn child of the young mother killed.

Despite the close involvement of Youth Defence, and public discussion over a number of weeks, RTÉ restricted a representative of YD to 95 seconds from the public benches to explain their case.


Even as we speak, RTÉ is today promoting this lifestyle, to the detriment of children in particular.  Balancing views are virtually, if not completely, non-existent.

The Social Engineers, in their current experiment, may indeed be right.  But, as Aldous Huxley remarks, in his book, Brave New World Revisited, how do we know?

RTÉ bias has been dealt with at length by Family and Media Association (FMA).

For instance, in June 1999, FMA carried out an analysis of a RTÉ Prime Time programme.  The programme was biased against the unborn child: there was no balancing programme.  FMA were of the view:

1. "Fundamental imbalance is inexcusable and totally incompatible with the concept of public service broadcasting.
2. " the overall picture [over four years of monitoring] is that of a significant and continuous bias against the pro-life viewpoint.
3. "[The programme] cannot be dismissed as a once-off error of judgement .. " It has "scant regard for fair play, much less for   .. parity of esteem."
(Media Report, Winter, 1999-2000)

RTÉ is under a statutory obligation to be fair and balanced.  Yet it has no internal structures, including representation at Board level, to ensure that there is fairness and balance in what it, RTÉ, broadcasts.

3. The Draft Charter does not comment on the exempting of broadcasting from the Freedom of Information Act.

In addition, Freedom of Information should cut both ways.  For instance, it is possible that the public is not fully conscious of the implications of a particular union, the National Union of Journalists (the NUJ), believed to be the major union at RTÉ, having particular social policies.

This union, the NUJ, has a "closed shop" policy, a claimed "exclusive" access to the Gardaí, an official policy in support of divorce and the killing of the unborn child, a policy in support of the granting of the recent tv licence fee increase and, probably, other social issues.

Management has declared that union policy is irrelevant to what RTÉ broadcasts.  But are we to take it that union policy, within the workplace, is a dead letter?   It is appreciated that not all members of RTÉ staff are members of the NUJ, or that all members of that union at RTÉ support union policy.   NUJ official policy, nevertheless, remains.

The public should be aware of the views of those seeking to influence them.  With the best will in the world on the part of RTÉ, broadcasting  can convey a message very subtly.  This seems to be acknowledged in the Draft Charter in the case of children.

It seems, then, that the Draft Charter is seriously at odds with existing practice at RTÉ.   RTÉ may indeed soon be asked to mend their ways.  However, there has been no sign of this occurring.


The Draft Charter does not say what are "the responsibilities associated" with the "strong powers" of broadcasting on children and young people.

If adults find it difficult to ascertain the truth, how much more difficult is it going to be for those with little alternative knowledge or experience?

Children and young people may also be entitled to address complaints to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.  Again, how are children going to succeed when adults have failed?

See also Mr Bob Quinn's book, Maverick.   Mr Quinn was a member (ie a Director) of the RTÉ authority: on no occasion was he interviewed on RTÉ TV, and once only on RTÉ Radio.  Part of Mr Quinn's reason for resigning was the exploitation of children through advertisements on RTÉ.  The Draft Charter does not indicate any change in policy.

An Ghaeilge

The contradiction between the "rights" (if any) of a minority language in a market-led economy are unaddressed. (See also Iarfhlaith Watson, Broadcasting in Irish, Four Courts Press).

Social Inclusion/Physical, Sensory, and Intellectual Disability:
It is unclear if RTÉ intends addressing the bias against the unborn, who are not mentioned here.

Provision of Services

This seems to follow from what is indicated previously in the Draft Charter.   "Religion", however is excluded.  Is this omission intended?

The Charter should specifically recognise that atheism (or secularism) is a set of beliefs, similar to theism.  It is not a superior belief, or set of beliefs.


Included is the provision of details in RTÉ's Annual Report.

In an interview with TV3 in January 2001, Mr Bob Collins, then Director General of RTÉ, said that RTÉ would be "dramatically  more open and transparent".    Mr Collins made similar statements to the Forum on Broadcasting, 2002.

In seeking Management Accounts since, RTÉ has stated that they did not intend going beyond the Annual Report.  If anything has changed, this is not mentioned in the Draft Charter.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the statements of RTÉ to TV3 and to the Forum, were not serious, but were only intended to get RTÉ "past the post".

Submissions on the Draft Charter

While it is appreciated that this may be of limited concern, one would have the gravest doubts of the value of "submissions".

 Are such submissions read?  If so, by whom?
 Are they made available to the public?
Do they influence policy?  That is, do they change in any way what has already, if only tentatively, been decided on?
Do those making submissions have any further role?
It appears that some 12,000 submissions made to the Interdepartmental Working Group on Abortion, 10,000 following the Green Paper on Abortion, 1,600 to the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, 250 to The Crisis Pregnancy Agency, an unknown number on Adoption and to the Forum on Europe.  These are only some that spring to mind.   In the case of the killing of the unborn child, it is believed that at least 90% of the 22,000 submissions were ignored.

So what purpose do submissions serve?

One can only think of the reputed answer of Dean Rusk to JK Gilbrath, that his proposals were,

"insofar as they had any merit, fully considered before being rejected".

Purpose of the Charter

It seems that the purpose of the Charter is to make the "people of Ireland" feel that RTÉ is responsive to their needs.

The people pay half the cost, whether they like it or not.  The station, however, is owned by the staff.  There is no competition for the public service element.  If anyone has a further say in how the station is run, it is the advertisers.  It is the view that, the "people of Ireland" are irrelevant, and are at best regarded as passengers, who have, on occasions, to be humoured.

The draft does nothing to clarify the relationship between the media (in large measure RTÉ) and the government of the day.  The question that has been raised remains, ie, is the government running RTÉ, or is RTÉ the government.

It seems, then, that this Draft Charter is a PR exercise.


12 September  2003

The Charter

The Draft Public Service Broadcasting Charter may be obtained at the website of the Departmennt of Communications, etc :

or Word:
or below.

Submissions on the Charter  are sought by Friday 12 September

You may e.mail your submissions to charter@dcmnr.gov.ie

Written submissions should be sent to:

Michael Murphy
Broadcasting Policy
Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
29-31 Adelaide Road
Dublin 2

Some comments on RTÉ on this website.

Department of Communications, etc website:

Draft Public Service Broadcasting Charter

What is the Charter

The purpose of the Charter is to provide an understanding to the people
of Ireland of what is expected of RTÉ in return for the significant
public funds provided to RTÉ from the proceeds of the television licence

Broadcasting law requires RTÉ's radio and television services to have
the character of a public service, to be offered free-to-air and to be
universally available, where practicable, to the whole community of the
island of Ireland.

Building on RTÉ's statutory remit the Charter is a statement of
principles that clarifies what is expected of RTÉ as the national public
service broadcaster, including RTÉ's accountability to its audience.

The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will keep
the Charter under review so as that it can reflect change in the nature
of Irish society along with changes in the broadcasting environment. A
formal review will be carried out within five years at a maximum.

RTÉ's Statutory Mandate

Under the Broadcasting Authority Acts (1960 - 2001) RTÉ is required to
provide a comprehensive range of programmes, in Irish and in English,
which reflect the cultural diversity of the whole island of Ireland. RTÉ
is specifically mandated to provide:

·       programmes that entertain, inform and educate
·       programmes of news and current affairs
·       coverage of sporting, religious and cultural activities
·       coverage of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament

In fulfilling this mandate RTÉ is required to cater for the expectations
of the community generally as well as the expectations of members of the
community with special or minority interests and in every case to
respect human dignity.

RTÉ is also mandated to facilitate or assist contemporary cultural
expression and to encourage or promote innovation and experimentation in

While RTÉ can decide whether programmes are to be produced in-house,
commissioned or acquired, it has a statutory obligation to commission a
prescribed value of programming from the independent production sector.

In addition to the obligations provided for in national legislation RTÉ
also has obligations set down under European legislation, most notably

·       the Television Without Frontiers Directive (89/552/EEC as
which requires RTÉ to ensure, among other things, that at least 50% of
its programming on television, excluding news, sports events and games,
is reserved for European works, and.

·       the Transparency Directive (80/7223/EEC as amended) ) which
RTÉ, among other things, to maintain separate accounts in relation to
costs and revenues associated with its public service and commercial

Guiding Principles

Public Service Remit
· RTÉ as the national public service broadcaster shall reflect the
democratic, social and cultural values of Irish society and the need to
preserve media pluralism

· RTÉ at all times shall strive to reflect fairly and equally the
regional, cultural and political diversity of Ireland and its peoples

· no editorial or programming bias will be shown in terms of gender,
age, disability, race, sexual orientation, religion or membership of a
minority community

Regional Emphasis
· news reporting and public affairs coverage shall be undertaken from a
variety of perspectives; events should not be assessed and reported from
a Dublin perspective alone

· RTÉ Programming shall reflect regional diversity and include a
significant range and proportion of indigenous programming made outside
the greater Dublin area

·       in its programming, RTÉ shall ensure that children are respected
young citizens with a valued contribution to make and a voice of their
·       RTÉ acknowledges the strong influencing powers of broadcasting,
particularly on children and young people. In its programming RTÉ will
have regard to the responsibilities associated with this.

An Ghaeilge
·       in reflecting the bilingual nature of Irish society RTÉ will
support the use of the Irish language in everyday life through the
production of suitable programming

Social Inclusion
· RTÉ programming shall be socially inclusive and shall reflect the
lives and concerns of all social strata in Ireland

Physical, Sensory and Intellectual Disability
· RTÉ is obliged to take into account the needs of those with a
physical, sensory or intellectual disability. RTÉ will take measures to
increase the accessibility and relevance of programming to such audience

· in its programming and editorial content, RTÉ  will strive to resist
gender stereotyping

· in its programming, RTÉ  will respect the sanctity of an individual's
private life, unless a compelling public interest demands otherwise

Provision of Services
In terms of services RTÉ commits:
§ to broadcast schedules on all its channels which establish a benchmark
for quality, range and diversity in broadcasting on the island of
·       to the key genre categories of national and international news
current affairs (including coverage of the Oireachtas), arts, business,
children's programmes, drama, education, entertainment, features,
history, music, science and technology and sport
·       RTÉ's sports' programming will reflect the demands for national,
regional, minority, amateur and local sports in Ireland today
§ to schedules which are high on original content and which provide a
showcase for home production.  In particular, RTÉ will encourage an
approach to production, which recognises originality of idea and
§ to recognise the bilingual nature of Irish society
§ to recognise the special needs of children as part of the audience
§ to recognise the particular contribution of regional and local
§ to develop content, which can be available to its audience across all
delivery platforms
§ to national and international news of high quality journalism and
impartiality, as a cornerstone of its schedule.  RTÉ's news coverage
must be accurate, impartial and objective: this will help set the agenda
for informed democratic debate in Ireland
§ that as Ireland's national public service broadcaster, it should,
through its programmes and its public activities, encourage and equip
its audience to play an active role in their communities.  In so doing,
it has a responsibility to reflect the full range and diversity of
cultures within Ireland
§ to continue to honour its commitment to independent producers and to
encourage the creativity of independent productions
§ to maintain and develop the RTÉ website to the highest standard
§ to continue to nurture its performing groups so that their music can
be widely heard and appreciated through broadcast, public performance
and recording
§ to ensure a well managed and accessible audio-visual archive which can
enrich the Irish national heritage
§ in the case of its programming, to maintain and cherish its freedom
from political control or influence and from all other vested interests,
whether commercial, religious, social or cultural

In the delivery of its services RTÉ will have regard to the manner in
which it addresses the requirements of people with disability

In terms of accountability RTÉ:
§ will publish in advance broad frameworks for its schedules with
commitments as appropriate for the individual channels
§ will, at the end of each year, report on its performance against
targets set; these reports being subject to independent review
§ will provide details in its annual report of the cost and revenues
associated with each of its services
§ will keep detailed financial records in a manner that will enable the
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, or a party
appointed by him, to evaluate RTÉ's performance in fulfilling its
statutory remit
§ recognises, encourages and welcomes the public's expression of views
on RTÉ's performance and will establish an Audience Council as a means
of enhanced communications and will also ensure that all complaints are
logged, acknowledged and investigated.
§ will introduce a Code of Fair Trading to clarify how its activities
will operate in a broadcasting landscape which has competing interests
§ pledges to deliver to its audience the highest level of value for
money in return for the public investment in its programming.   It will
offer that value in terms of its quality schedule and the efficiency
with which it conducts its business
·       will provide details of Irish language programming and other
language services in its Annual Report

end of Charter.

11 Sept 2003

How much is in it for RTÉ?
(Revised 5 January 2003)
Each colour licence  fee:
Description Existng   Existing  (plus infl.) Approved  (incl infl.)
£ £ Euros Euros Euros Euros
Total licence fee 
Inflation: 20.7% , mid-1997 to mid-2002 (per CSO 3 Jan)
"Innovative" public          service   broadcasting   nil      nil       -7
 Sub-total      107      143
TG4 (Some E3m als paid by taxpayer)
National orchestras  (say) 
 Collection costs (9%) (An Post)       6        9          14
(10% reducing to 6%)(say)(hopefully!)
Total deductions 
Nett available to RTÉ 
 Increase in RTE fee         income, allowing for inflation 
(on E67) 


What the increase means to RTÉ:

1.  The above shows the net income to RTÉ from each licence fee.  It  is a net of E100, an increase of 50% over the previous net amount, allowing  for inflation.

2.  On the basis of approximately 1m residences with television sets, and  inflation at 20.7% , RTÉ will gain E33m.  This will bring its total grant from the public to E100m as above.  (The remaining E50m is for TG4, National orchestras, levy, etc).

What the increase means to the Individual:

1.  The increase is from E89 to E150 for each residence, ie, an increase of E61 (69%) as follows:.

E18  for inflation (20.7%),
E 7  for levy,
E 3  other, and
E33 increase in income for RTÉ (in addition to inflation).

2.  The last increase was from £62 to £70 in 1996 (colour).  The interim  increase to E107 (£84.50) in 2001, is not taken into account.

RTÉ's case:

1. RTÉ got about 40% of its income from advertising, this in competition with TV3, UTV, newspapers, etc.

It argued that to ensure independence of politians and advertisers it required:

1. Licence fee income to restore the contribution to 50%, and,
2. Index-linking of Licence fee income.

3.  It suffered a severe downturn  in advertising income (as did everyone else) following the attacks of 11 September 2001 in  NY.  Either it reduced its activities, as did newspapers, or it received more in income.

4. It did both:  but the question remains whether its reduction in activites was comparable with that of competitors.  Was it carrying  "fat" against the rainy day?

Also, was the increase in the Licence fee and its index-linking a "reward" for its support for the Government in the Nice re-run?

If so, the public paid for its own indoctrination.

3 Jan 2003, revised 5 Jan 2003

Based of part of  Submission to Forum on Broadcasting, 16 May 2002 (opinion):

Notwithstanding the ... freedom of states to define the scope and content of public service and the way it is organised, the Commission has issued a communication (C320 of 15 November 2001) which calls for transparency on these aspects in order to assess the proportionality of state funding and to control possible abusive practices.  Three conditions are specified (emphasis added):

1. The public service (whatever the content) of a public service broadcaster, in this case RTÉ,  should be clearly and precisely defined.

2. The public service should be formally entrusted to the broadcaster by means of an official act.

It is also necessary that the public service be actually supplied as foreseen.  To this purpose, it is desirable that a body or authority of the Member State independent (from RTÉ) monitors its application.

3. The public funding should be proportionate and be limited to what is necessary for the fulfilment of the public service mission.

(See Circular C320 published in EU Official Journal 15 November 2001)

The twin concerns are therefore, firstly, to permit a vehicle for the maintenance of cultural values, and secondly, to ensure that if subsidy is necessary for that purpose, that there is transparency in competition vis-a-vis commercial/independent broadcasters.

Monopolistic tendencies affecting all media are a further concern.

The monitoring of RTÉ's public service programmes by an independent body will be something new.  It will be interesting to see if such monitoring is carried out for quality in line with the European Broadcasting Union's criteria (including impartiality, etc, and access), as well as for quantity.  If the high principles of public service are to be taken seriously, then such monitoring will be necessary.

Many countries - and no doubt also their public service broadcasters - are believed to view with suspicion the qualification of television broadcasting as a service within the EU Treaty and the application to it of competition law. (Per Ingrid Nitsche).

16 May 2002 (emphasis added)

Note that the above applies to "new" aid.
See also Ingrid Nitche, Broadcasting in the European Union --The Role of Public Interest in Competition Analysis, Aser Press, 2001.

31 December 2002

The "Audience Council"
According to the Minister, Mr Ml Ahern, RTÉ may get an "Audience Council".

This is to make RTE more accountable to the public, as is required by the Minister.  It is in exchange for the granting of a licence fee increase, payable by the general public towards the cost of running RTE.  Little mention is made of the EU requirement of RTE, C320, updated 15 November 2001.

This "Council", together with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, will help to assure the public that RTE is always fair and above board.  They  will not have to rely on the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, which in any event, does not apply to the broadcasting function of RTE.

They can continue to rely on RTE as the by-word for the truth.  It is a "core value", central to its mandate as "public service" broadcaster.  It will also contnue to "constantly bear in mind," as it is required to do by s.17 of the Broadcasting Act, 1960,  "the national aims of restoring the Irish Language and preserving and developing the national culture...".

This "Council", will be chosen with the same great care as, for instance, the Board of RTÉ itself, the Broadcasting Complaints Comission, the Board of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, the Commission on Artificial Human Reproduction, the Human Rights Commission, et al.

A feature of the appointments is that they are likely to be experts in their fields (ie, connected with the Industry), and so will have the appearance of being totally disinterested parties.

They are unlikely to be taken from a list supplied by Geneva.

We look forward to an Independent voice speaking up for our national "public service" boadcaster.

31 December 2002

Three cheers for Licence-holders
On  Thursday, 29 August, the Government, at a Cabinet meeting, appears to have sanctioned an inrease of E88 to E150.

At the same Cabinet meeting, Government ministers were told by An Taoiseach,, Mr Aherne, to "get out and engage in  the issues".

Just  who were the going to engage with?

The didn't call to my door.

The Re-run of the Nice Referendum was held on Saturday, 19 October, in the course of  which the Government, aided  by IBEC and others, and a fund of E1.25m for the Yes side, (against E0.250 for the No side), succeeded in convincing the electorate that Yes was better.

The Licence fee was increased officially by  the Goverment on 11 December 2002  from E88 to E150.

18 Dec 2002  (Also under "OffTheRecord: Re-run of Nice")

One cheer for the Government!
The Government has decided that the Licence Fee for the possession of a television set is to be increased from E88 to E150, an increase of 70%.
It is granted on condition that the affairs of RTÉ become more transparent.

One cheer for the Government.

One of the benefits of being a part of the EU is that common rules are applied.  The Government is expected under European Circular C320 updated 15 November 2001 (concerned with competition), to monitor independently "public service" programmes of RTÉ, so that there is proportionality of state funding, and to control abusive practices.

The present arrangements by the Government, therefore, make a  virtue of necessity.

16 Dec 2002

The Government's decision
On 11 December 2002, the government decided to increase the annual fee per residence for the possession of television apparatus:

Existing fee is E88
New fee  is E150

Increase =  70%, approximately 14 times the rate of inflation.

The increased fee is conditional on greater transparancy by RTÉ.

In the meantime, see Comment 2 and Submission to Forum.

12 December 2002

Report of Commission
Comment 2:
The Forum report (a) overlooks two key points:
1. RTÉ is not accountable to anyone.

2. There is no competition for the public service/transmission of values element, valued at some E90m per annum (b).

RTÉ has indeed produced some good work, and it is necessary to have someone having an eye on what the Government is up to.

But this is greatly overshadowed by the slow indoctrination carried out over the years. In my view, RTÉ is run from the shop-floor.  The front-bench (of all parties) are more afraid of RTÉ, the media in general (and the EU),  than of the people who elect them.  Government is a partnership of such front-bench staff (elected) and of the media (unelected).  The rest just follow orders.

Security of jobs is maintained through exploitation of the term "public service" (c).   There is an illusion of impartiality - an illusion assisted by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission - and a notion that RTÉ is responsible for "transmission" of values and heritage.  RTÉ will have little difficulty in dealing with "Charters" and such like, as hitherto (c).

There is little point in throwing more (of the public's) money at the same people.  RTÉ, in my view, is unreformable. It is similar across Europe (d).

Difficult as it may be, a radical solution is required (e).


(a) Available on the website  http://www.dcmnr.ie/
(b) Based on current E90 licence fee (gross), set to increase by 70% to E150 per residence.
(c) Government Green Paper on Broadcasting 1995, and RTE's response to it (both in part at http://indigo.ie/~imr/).  See also various PR letters issued by RTÉ.
(d) Ascertainable from Broadcasting in the European Union, 2001, by Ingrid Nitsche, TMC Asser Press, The Hague.
(e) My submission on the website  http://www.forumonbroadcasting.ie, and through http://indigo.ie/~imr/

28 Sept 2002

Comment 1:
It is significant that the Government should discuss the Forum on Broadcasting at the same cabinet meeting as the order to Ministers to get out and engage in the issues concerning Nice II.

It seems the public is to pay (in the way of increase in the licence fee to RTÉ) for propaganda in support of Nice II.

This is far more significant than the Bin Charges, yet no one is taking it on board.  I wonder why?


21 Sept 2002

Submission to Forum

Full submission: (Link to Websiite of Forum on Broadcasting: 12 pages Word).

See also: Forum on Broadcasting website.


1. Competition for apprximately 5,000 T.V. hours, public service per annum.

(Current subsidy of E10,000 per public service hour).

2. Election of T.V. presenters by people for public service broadcasting.

3. Abolition of Section 18 of Broadcasting Act 1960, as amended, and Broadcasting Complaints Commision.

(Broadcasters entitled to be partisian as er newspapers, and this be be kept known to the public).

Full submission  already submitted on 16th May 2002.
(Link to Websiite of Forum on Broadcasting: 12 pages Word).
Alive requires to be added to list of Catholic publications.

Supplentary submission 26th Junne 2002.

21 Sept 2002

Inquiry into
"public service" broadcasting
RTÉ & the Licence Fee

The concept

In the course of his article last week Tom McGurk speaks of an "urgent need" to defend the concept of public service broadcasting.  An urgent need to examine, yes.  But, defend?

The technical and financial reasons that once justified a state monopoly have now all but gone.  What we are left with is the state's desire to have available to it the much quoted "instrument of public (ie, government) policy".   This element has been substantially transformed into what I believe to be an unwholesome partnership between the elected and the unelected, a partnership that, in my view, does not have as its first priority the public interest.  So much for the concept.

The cost

Then there's the cost.  RTÉ's net income from licence fees has been E56m (£44m) per annum, and they are seeking to have this doubled to E112m (£88m) per annum.   There is certainly an "urgent need" here to ask why is it that there are no competitive tenders for such major recurring public expenditure.

One must welcome, then, Minister de Valera's initiative in setting in motion a much-overdue "forum on the future of public service broadcasting".  It is however, likely be hindered on the one hand, by RTE's exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, and helped on the other hand, by Bob Quinn's (former Authority member) entertaining and penetrating new book, Maverick.

And is it possible for the forum to achieve the examination necessary in the timeframe of four months, or will it be a cover for handing over the money?

We shall be watching.

More at Irish Media Review website (http://indigo.ie/~imr/)


Published in The Sunday Businness Post, 24 March 2002.

18 March 2002

Notice inviting submissions
The following notice (undated) appeared in the print media in April, 2002, (emphasis added):

Establishment of Forum
The Minister with responsibility for Broadcasting, Deputy Síle de Valera,  has announced that a forum is to be set up to examine the future of public service broadcasting in Ireland.  The Forum will be under the chairmanship of Mr Maurice O'Connell, Governor of the Central Bank, and is expected to report within 4 months, by the end of July 2002.

25 March 2002

Call for a Public Inquiry.
RTÉ and the licence fee

In a recent article by Mr Charlie Bird (Irish Times, 10 July), he called for a debate on RTE, which of course is to be welcomed.

He suggests, however, that the first people to engage in this debate must be the RTE workforce, who, he says, are not happy with the increase now granted.

Might I humbly suggest that, on the contrary, the debate would need to be something more than an extension of the RTE canteen debate he mentions, with the customers merely as onlookers?

What is needed is something altogether more fundamental.

The public currently pays a licence fee to RTE amounting to a net £44m per annum, a figure RTE would like to see doubled.  Regardless of any change in the licence fee, it would be absurd to contemplate continuing, willy-nilly, the granting of this major contract to the same organisation, year in year out, without competitive tenders, and without objective assessment of performance.

Two basic issues need to be examined:

1. Do we need public service broadcasting?  If so, what do we want from it, how should the objectives be achieved, and how much are we willing to pay for it?
2. How has RTE performed in this regard?

Rightly or wrongly, RTE has evolved into the principal interlocutor between government and governed.  In order to avoid any discussion on its performance becoming an RTE-controlled PR exercise, the public would need to be put in possession of rather more information than is presently available.

They would need to know:

1.  How does RTE operate;
2.  What has the public got for the £1.5bn paid to this organisation over the last 40 years;
3.  Has RTE handled its position of power in a responsible manner; and, most importantly,
4.  What is its real relationship with the government of the day, ie, does RTE work for the government, or is RTE the government?

The only way of getting at all this, and thus creating the condition for an in-formed public debate, is to establish some form of independent public inquiry.

The task before us couldn't be more important to the health of our democracy.  That task is not just about selecting either a national entertainer on the one hand, or a Praetorian Guard on the other.

The task is to select a national watchdog, committed to working fairly, objectively and professionally on behalf of the people, and only the people.

Further discussion on this may be found at website Irish Media Review: http://indigo.ie/~imr/.


Published in  The Irish Times, 2 Aug 2001, and other newspapers.  Forum on Broadcasting set up in March 2002.

24 July 2001

Some links
Forum on Broadcasting

Dept of Communications, etc
(17/19 Leeson Lane, Dublin)
(This Department took over responsibility for Broadcasting wef June 2002)

An Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gaeltachta & Oiléan
(Department of Arts, Heritage, Arts, Gaeltacht & The Islands)
"Dun Aimhirgin", 43-49, Bóthar Mespil, Baile Átha Cliath 4
Fón:  647 3000      Facs: 647 3101    Email: eolas@ealga.ie

European Commisssion:


11 May 2002