Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) notes the publication of the NewERA report entitled “Review of RTÉ for the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources”. As a key stakeholder in the television industry SPI calls on Minister Alex White TD to implement Phase 2 of the report, which includes “Further consideration of in-house production and independent commissioning through a review of a WoCC based approach in conjunction with relevant stakeholders.”
We further request that an comparative cost benefit analysis is undertaken, of independent versus in-house RTÉ programming, as was originally envisaged when NewERA were appointed for this review.
Screen Producers Ireland would welcome the opportunity to participate in a full cost benefit analysis of independent production costs and RTÉ in-house production costs to address the question which the NewERA Report has failed to answer.
The NewERA Report acknowledges the fundamental flaw in the Cost Per Hour (CPH) exercise as undertaken: “The analysis above (CPH) takes into account all programmes produced. This may not be a fair comparison given the very different mix of genres produced in-house or independently commissioned. There are a number of programmes genres which are only produced in-house or only commissioned and therefore cannot be compared on a ‘like-for-like’ basis”.
NewERA point out: “However, there are many factors to be considered in weighing up the relative efficiencies of in-house and independent commissioning, and a desk based analysis is unlikely to be able to get to the core of the efficiency debate. An information gap naturally exists and replicating competitor behaviour and tensions is arguably impossible.”
SPI believes it is imperative that there is a transparent method to judge value for money for the licence fee payer. This should include consideration of not just the cost of the programme production but also where the programme sits on the schedule, audience ratings, production quality and value, awards and public recognition and cross-platform performance.
TV Audience Ratings are one element of the cost-benefit analysis where independent productions have consistently scored highly. In 2013, 9 of the Top 20 Programmes broadcast on RTÉ1 were independently produced Irish productions (e.g. Love/Hate; The Voice of Ireland; Operation Transformation; Raw; At Your Service). SPI believes that programmes made by independent producers are cost-effective and deliver for Irish audiences.
The independent production sector offers diversity of ideas, innovative and quality programming content, transparency and accountability for every euro of the licence fee spent on programmes commissioned by RTÉ.
We call on the Minister to instigate an alternative approach to the production of television programming for broadcast on RTÉ and to increase the Statutory Spend on independent commissions based on a robust cost-benefit analysis.