Call for independent producers to make all RTÉ TV except news and current affairs

Strategy for independent commissioning lacks ‘detail and ambition’, Screen Producers Ireland says, as it urges shift to new model by 2030

RTÉ's plan to increase its level of commissioning from independent production companies does not go far enough and instead all of its screen output, excluding news and current affairs, should be made by the independent sector by 2030, Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) will say in a report to be launched today.

The organisation said it welcomed RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst’s announcement last November in his strategic review that the under-fire broadcaster will boost the value of its independent programme commissions by up to 50 per cent by 2028.

“We considered, however, that this strategy lacked the detail and ambition needed to plan effectively for a rapidly changing audiovisual production and distribution landscape,” it has concluded.

SPI, which represents more than 200 independent Irish production companies, is instead proposing that RTÉ outsource 100 per cent of its screen content, with the exception of news and current affairs, and become what it says would be a “publisher-broadcaster fit for the challenges of the 21st century”.


Adopting a “hybrid-production model” similar to that in operation at TG4 and the UK’s Channel 4 would “ensure creativity and original programming [is] produced at a competitive cost”, according to the Independent Producers and a Changing RTÉ report.

In SPI’s vision, RTÉ would retain editorial independence and oversight, while working in partnership with the independent sector.

The model would allow RTÉ management to reorganise RTÉ News and Current Affairs so it can “prevail and prosper in a competitive future” and undertake a root-and-branch review of all divisions with a view to becoming a “smaller, leaner, more efficient national broadcaster enjoying full public confidence”.

RTÉ spent €43.6 million on independent television and radio commissions in 2022, most of which it was required to spend under statutory obligations.

But its level of commissioning from the independent sector has been a point of contention after its value halved from €80 million in 2007 to the statutory floor of about €40 million after the recession, barely recovering since.

While high-rating shows on RTÉ television including Dancing with the Stars, Room to Improve, Ireland’s Fittest Family and all of its post-watershed dramas are already produced by independent companies, the broadcaster makes several flagship programmes in-house, including The Late Late Show, soap opera Fair City and most of its live sport output.

SPI said it was putting forward its proposals to help map out “a transparent and orderly path” for future co-operation between the independent production sector and RTÉ.

It stressed that the future of RTÉ and its members depends upon the public service broadcaster receiving “secure” and sustainable multiannual funding from the Government as a matter of urgency and reiterated its endorsement of the Future of Media Commission’s recommendation that RTÉ's public funding be delivered directly from the exchequer.

The Government has long signalled its intention to reform the current licence fee model, but the Cabinet is known to be divided on how to proceed.

“Irish production companies are ready to provide their services to develop TV that is suited to today’s audiences at a better price point than internally produced programmes,” said Stuart Switzer, a member of SPI’s board.

“The sector is here for RTÉ. Now we need the Government to show up, too.”

SPI is also calling for the terms of trade on which its members do business with RTÉ to be updated for the first time since 2013, noting that the intervening years have ushered in “a seismic shift” in how screen content is funded and distributed as well as changes in intellectual property law.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics