Sky to op­pose RTE fees at joint com­mit­tee meet­ing

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

The re­port, ‘The im­pli­ca­tions of re­trans­mis­sion fees for Ir­ish broad­cast­ing’, warned of “sig­nif­i­cant draw­backs”, such as in­creased consumer prices. It claims that un­in­tended con­se­quences could in­clude chan­nel black­outs. “Such black­outs have been a fre­quent fea­ture of US re­trans­mis­sion fee ne­go­ti­a­tions. In 2015 alone, there were 193 such cases of chan­nels go­ing off air, in­clud­ing one that lasted more than six months,” it states.

Bring­ing in fees could also drive con­sumers to plat­forms with­out Ir­ish chan­nels. “If pay TV be­comes more ex­pen­sive, some con­sumers will drop back to free TV — but this may be Freesat, rather than Saorview, re­sult­ing in a loss of view­ing for Ir­ish indige­nous chan­nels from RTE, TV3 and TG4 (and Eir Sport). This, in turn, would re­sult in a loss of ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue and (for RTE and TG4) greater de­mands for pub­lic fund­ing.”

The re­port sug­gests that the fee would weaken the case for the TV li­cence fee, which will be dam­aged by ‘dou­ble tax­a­tion’ and the un­avail­abil­ity of RTE chan­nels due to black­outs and a shift to Freesat. The dou­ble tax­a­tion ar­gu­ment sug­gests that in ad­di­tion to pay­ing the li­cence fee, view­ers would also end up pay­ing for RTE’S car­riage on pay-tv through in­creased charges in monthly sub­scrip­tions.

The re­port also warned that im­ple­ment­ing re­trans­mis­sion fees would prob­a­bly be com­plex and con­tentious.

“While fees be­tween free-to-air broad­cast­ers and plat­forms are rare in­ter­na­tion­ally, where they do ex­ist, they have of­ten re­sulted in ex­ten­sive lit­i­ga­tion and/or chan­nel black­outs,” states the re­port. “The range of pos­si­ble fees is very broad,


and there is no solid prece­dent for a reg­u­la­tory method­ol­ogy to set them.”

How­ever, RTE be­lieves that com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors, which make an es­ti­mated €560m in rev­enues from sub­scrip­tions in Ire­land, should pay some­thing for indige­nous Ir­ish con­tent.

Ais­ling Mccabe, RTE’S head of plat­forms and part­ner­ships, told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent: “There is no jus­ti­fi­able rea­son why plat­forms such as Vir­gin or Sky should get Ir­ish free-to-air chan­nels and con­tent for free and then charge cus­tomers to watch th­ese Ir­ish chan­nels — the most watched chan­nels on their plat­forms — and not give any fair value back to th­ese chan­nels to rein­vest in orig­i­nal Ir­ish con­tent.

“In ef­fect, the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion is cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where publicly funded me­dia and in­deed TV li­cence fee-pay­ers are in­di­rectly sub­si­dis­ing the com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties of hugely prof­itable in­ter­na­tional me­dia com­pa­nies in the Ir­ish mar­ket.”

She added that li­cence fee-pay­ers were “sub­si­dis­ing th­ese prof­itable plat­forms”.

“By chang­ing the leg­is­la­tion, RTE will have the op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate a fair pay­ment for the value we cre­ate for pay-tv op­er­a­tors through our orig­i­nal con­tent,” said Mccabe.

She added that RTE had strong re­la­tion­ships with pay TV op­er­a­tors and other plat­forms in the Ir­ish mar­ket.

“There is no hos­til­ity be­tween RTE and plat­forms,” she said. “This is just about get­ting value, on be­half of the li­cence fee-payer, for the con­tent we pro­duce, so that we can rein­vest in orig­i­nal Ir­ish con­tent.”

RTE said the fees pro­posal would al­low it to rein­vest in orig­i­nal Ir­ish con­tent, such as his­tor­i­cal drama mini-se­ries

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