RTÉ Director General suggests doubling of licence fee. What planet?

RTÉ Director General suggests doubling of licence fee. What planet?

I found it a bit strange some months back to hear the incoming Director General of RTÉ, Dee Forbes, saying on Newstalk radio that the television licence fee would be good value even if it was doubled. Ms Forbes later disclaimed any suggestion that she was seeking a doubling of the licence, but the comment, in my view, revealed yet again that our public service broadcaster has very high regard for itself.

It has always seemed odd to me that any organisation in receipt of public funding can pay massive salaries to its top names without any reference to comparative payscales or any objective performance assessment. In my comments to the Seanad on 28th March last, I mentioned that some countries managed with no TV licence fee at all, and others, such as Portugal and Greece, have very low fees.

RTÉ still has a way to go to provide the fairness and balance that the taxpayer deserves when it comes to its current affairs (and light entertainment) treatment of a range of social issues. There is no evidence that the station ever reflects on its history of bias on key issues, despite occasional findings by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to that effect.

We do need public service broadcasting. But since much of RTÉ’s output is not public service in nature, and while concerns remain over its commitment to fairness and balance, there is no justification for replacing the licence fee with a ‘public service broadcasting’ charge, as some Government Ministers have threatened. And RTÉ would need to be much more accountable than it has been to date before it gets any increase in the licence fee.

For comments I made on diversity in RTÉ on 13th July click here.