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RTE loses €13m in 2018 as 1.55 million viewers tune in for Late Late Toy Show

Extra.ie logo Extra.ie 25/06/2019 George Morahan
a statue of Ryan Tubridy standing in front of a building © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

RTE admitted 2018 had been a ‘challenging year’ after making a loss of €13m, over half of which it attributed to its coverage of special events such as the visit of Pope Francis, the FIFA World Cup and the Presidential election.

Revenues at the national broadcaster rose moderately to €339.1m — €150m from commercial revenue and €189.1m from the licence fee — last year, against operating costs of €339.8m, including the €7.2m it spent on coverage of major events.

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RTE’s annual report shows that operating costs at the state-owned company have fallen by €99m or 23pc over the past decade, but that licence fee evasion remains much higher in Ireland at 14pc than in other western European countries.

Around 1.55m people tuned into last year’s Late Late Toy Show, making it the year’s most-watched programme ahead of Ireland’s grand slam-sealing win against England in the Six Nations (976,000) on Virgin Media and the team’s historic victory over New Zealand (927,000).

a large brick building with grass in front of a house © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia was fourth (924,000), with Daniel and Majella O’Donnell’s episode of Room to Improve (860,000) rounding out the top five, and the All-Ireland finals, another Ireland rugby match and news bulletins during Storm Emma completing the top 10.

The broadcaster’s sale of 8.64 acres of land at its Donnybrook campus two years ago earned €99.5m before tax, with moves made to enable the sale expected to come in at €10m. RTE said funds released from the sale will facilitate future investment, organisational restructuring and reducing borrowing.

a man standing in front of a birthday cake © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

RTE now employs 1,822 people, 98 fewer than in 2017, with further job cuts expected in the near future as part of plans announced two years ago to reduce staff numbers by 200-300 as part of restructuring efforts that are projected to save the company nearly €30m.

RTE director general Dee Forbes said: ‘We want to do more. We are full of programme ideas, but every day we have to curtail our own ambitions and the creative ambitions of the broader independent production sector due to our constrained resources.

‘The case for increased public funding for RTe has been made in numerous independent reports over the past five years, including the most recent BAI review conducted in 2018 which recommended an immediate increase in annual public funding of €30m for RTE.

Dee Forbes standing in front of a store: RTE Funding © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland RTE Funding

‘The case for reform of the TV Licence system has also been made in numerous reviews, however, to date, there has been no substantial response from government.’

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