RTE Response to Mark Paul Irish Times

The letter below, authored by RTÉ’s Chief Financial Officer, Breda O’Keeffe, was published in the Irish Times on Saturday 23rd November in response to an article written by Mark Paul in Friday’s Irish Times, print and online.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to an article by Mark Paul entitled ‘Time to stop hyperventilating about RTÉ’s finances and take some calm decisions’ in yesterday’s Irish Times, both print and online editions.

Any serious analysis of RTÉ’s finances through recent Annual Reports and published and audited accounts would clearly show that RTÉ has been running deficits for the last number of years and that this is not sustainable.

RTÉ’s deficits are real and a result of reduced operating profit, which has fallen from €21m in 2013 to -€1m in 2018, and has little to do with depreciation as alleged by Mr. Paul.

RTÉ’s revenues have severely contracted over that period due to factors largely outside its control – Ireland’s economic crash; digital disruption; the uncertainty caused by Brexit and a broken TV Licence system. Many of these factors have affected all media in Ireland and beyond.

In relation to costs, RTÉ has exercised significant cost control resulting in its 2018 costs being almost 25% lower than a decade ago.  While RTÉ’s costs in the last 3 years have increased modestly by 6%, this reflects the increased costs of making programmes, competitive rights costs – all of which outstrip typical inflation – and significant public service obligations.

As a result of deficits RTÉ has a much weaker balance sheet today than it had 10 years ago with reduced net assets limiting its ability to withstand further financial pressures.   Any assessment that borrowing levels of €50 million are modest where there is low / negative operating profit is simply incorrect.

RTÉ has prepared a detailed and fully costed revised strategy which has been independently assessed by PwC. The strategy has been further assessed by New Era at the request of the Minister of Communications. RTÉ remains in discussions with the Government about its plans and the future funding of public service media in Ireland.

Finally, contrary to Mr Paul’s assertions, RTÉ has communicated clearly in recent weeks that it has no plans to introduce compulsory redundancies as part of its proposed cost reduction measures.

Yours, etc.

Breda O’Keeffe,

Chief Financial Officer, RTÉ