Scott Williams Chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland expressed disappointment at the lack of vision from the various political parties for the development of the independent broadcasting sector in Ireland.
“A strong and vibrant broadcasting sector is the backbone of every democratic society and in Ireland we have a particularly strong tradition of radio listenership. Today’s JNLR figures confirm this strength with 2.411 million people listening to independent radio every day. Independent radio holds a 67% prime time share, which means that two thirds of all radio listening is to independent radio. Independent radio is at the heart of every community and with more than 1500 people employed in the sector it is critical that the Government of the day support its continued development”, he said.
“We welcome the fact that Fine Gael, which at this stage is the party most likely to lead the next Government, has at least included reference to Independent Broadcasting in its election manifesto. However, its proposals are ill defined and do not go far enough.
The proposals on the reduction of the broadcast levy imposed on radio stations to cover the cost of the BAI, for example, provide no clarity as to the level of reduction which could be delivered, the timeline for cost savings and when or how the savings would arise from the merger of the BAI and ComReg. We believe it is vital that a dedicated broadcasting regulator remains in place and that broadcasting continues to be treated as a separate sector.
“The manifesto also proposes changes to the TV Licence fee but does not offer any hope that taxpayers will no longer be required to subsidise RTÉ’s operations. The licence fee gives RTÉ unfair competitive advantage and we have raised this issue many times. RTÉ’s dominance cannot continue to be funded from the Exchequer to the extent it has in the past.
“We welcome Enda Kenny’s commitment in an interview on Galway Bay FM yesterday that, if elected to Government, he will review exchequer funding to RTÉ as part of the work of the next Government in the context of how public money is awarded and how money is spent.
“I am disappointed that the political parties appear to be under estimating the importance of our sector. I am calling on the new Government to engage fully with IBI to understand more thoroughly the issues facing the independent radio sector.