By Rachel D’Arcy, Sarah Ruane and Mary Kate Hickey
Spending on young people’s programming by RTÉ decreased steadily from 2013, The City can reveal. This news comes as it was announced that in-house production on Young People’s programming is set to face the axe. RTÉ announced in November that from 2017, all their young people’s programming will be outsourced to independent production companies. However, that decision has been postponed temporarily while discussions with staff continue.
In figures released to The City through the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (FOI), Young People’s programming saw a 15% decrease in spending from 2013 onward. There was a 4.3% decrease on spending in the young people’s sector within RTÉ in 2015.
While young people’s broadcasting will continue to be shown on RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Jr, production of RTÉ’s own young people’s programming – such as Swipe TV and Two Tube – will be abandoned by the state broadcaster amid claims that outsourcing will provide ‘greater value for money in a challenging financial environment’.
In terms of broadcasting time, young people’s programming saw a cut in their hours broadcast during peak time for the station. In 2014, RTÉ broadcast 24 hours of children’s television, which reduced to just 15 hours in 2015 – a 37.5% decrease.
“RTÉ is not reducing its commitment to young people’s programmes, nor is it reducing spend,” the broadcaster stated. Even though young people’s programming will be outsourced, RTÉ claims that they are not going to outsource children’s programming abroad. Rather, they will be allowing independent production companies and animation companies within Ireland to pitch new ideas and programmes to their young viewers.
RTÉ Trade Union Group (TUG) are not happy with the recent revelation claiming that the decision was made without any consultation with trade unions.
“There is no justification for the manner in which this decision was taken and this cavalier attitude to unions and staff only compounds the bad decision,” said TUG Chair, Shirley Bradshaw.
Another person who has publicly voiced their outrage over the decision is Paula Lambert, the voice of Bosco and daughter of Wanderly Wagon’s Eugene Lambert. Ms. Lambert described how cutting children’s TV was always the easy option for RTÉ in the past.
“It brought back incredibly bad memories for me. I remember Wanderly Wagon was axed and how it was done, and it hurt my dad back in the day. It happened with me with Bosco and it just brought back all these memories of how badly people are treated by RTÉ,” she said.
Following the TUG statement, RTÉ accepted that there had been insufficient consultation before the announcement and that further talks would therefore have to take place. These discussions are set to take place before January 31 2017.
While 2013 saw the introduction of RTÉ Jr, a channel specifically for children, which featured programming indigenous to RTÉ as well as acquired content, from this year onward RTÉ Jr will show programming entirely acquired from independent sources.
Most of RTÉ’s programming saw a decrease in 2015, however, factual television such as Nationwide saw an increase of 56 hours in 2015 compared to the 2014 figures.
As well as a decrease in broadcast hours, RTÉ’s spending on programming fell as a whole in 2015. RTÉ spent €1,149,000 less on television programming last year, a small 0.79% decrease. In house productions by RTÉ were down 7% in 2015 compared to 2014, however programming commissioned and acquired by the broadcaster increased by almost 17% in the same period.
Even though there was a decrease in spend, RTÉ’s financial income increased in 2015 compared to the previous year. They received €178.9m from the television licence fee in 2015, up 0.16% since 2014. They also had an increase of 3.7% in their commercial revenue over the same period. At the end of 2015, RTÉ had a cash, and cash equivalent, figure of €22,746,000, up 34.6% increase from the previous year.
Young people’s programming within RTÉ has still been cut despite the overall increase in income received, and in cash and cash equivalents, with more time and money being invested in factual programming over the years. It is yet to be seen where RTÉ will invest the money in the coming year.