TG4 will launch a new children’s Irish language television channel with €3.3 million worth of funding it received in Tuesday’s budget allocation. The new service, which will cover children’s news, entertainment and drama, and provide opportunities for independent producers, is predicted to create up to 200 jobs.
Funding for the Arts Council remains at €130 million for 2023, having risen significantly over the course of the pandemic to support a sector hugely impacted by restrictions.
Minister for Arts Catherine Martin said she was pleased “to have held on to the record level of funding”. This was a doubling of its budget from €65 million five years ago, she said. The Arts Council’s budget was €80 million before the pandemic.
At a budget briefing on Wednesday in Government Buildings on the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media’s 2023 spending, the Minister put it in context, “when we think of where we were this time last year”, noting that there were restrictions, masks, “nightclubs were closed and only 50 people were allowed in cinemas and theatres”.
There were significant Covid supports because of the hardships the sector was enduring, she said. “Thankfully, we can now go to a club or a concert at full capacity.” The sector is still on the road to recovery, she said, “so I felt it was vital to hold on to that €130 million. Of course I will always look for more, so I’m not saying that’s absolutely it”, referring to the level of Arts Council funding.
The department has allocated €6 million to support developing the night-time economy, which the Minister described as a priority. This includes €4 million in current spending, with pilot projects and “night-time advisers”, and exploring up to €2 million in capital supports for stakeholders.
An additional €7 million in capital is earmarked for artists’ workspaces, which have been under threat due to development and rent increases; roughly €2 million of that will be for “climate adaptation measures”, including a new scheme to be announced shortly.
A new children’s channel, Cúla4, is to be established as part of TG4′s largest-ever funding increase of €7.3 million. Some €3.3 million of this is earmarked for Cúla4, which will have a children’s news service, entertainment and education, drama and animation. It is planned to reflect diverse backgrounds of children all over Ireland, but particularly in Gaeltacht and Irish-speaking communities. The new channel will run 24 hours daily, 6am-8pm as the children’s channel, then becoming TG4+1 after 8pm. It could create 150-200 jobs in the sector, and will offer opportunities for independent producers. It is understood the new channel may launch from mid-2023.
The Arts Council welcomed its funding, with chairman Prof Kevin Rafter saying it would continue to help the arts sector recover from Covid-19 and deal with cost-of-living increases. “The council will continue to make the case — as it has done over the last two years — for an annual budget of €150 million to further develop the arts sector across the country.”
The National Campaign for the Arts (NCFA) also welcomed the continued culture investment. Chairwoman Angela Dorgan said it was “frustrating that [€130 million for the Arts Council] has not increased in line with the other spending increases included in Budget 2023.”
Ms Martin confirmed that Creative Ireland’s funding next year, to support communities, wellbeing and youth, remains at €10.5 million.
The new pilot Basic Income for the Arts scheme receives an additional €10 million in 2023, to cover a full year of the pilot (€35 million), involving 2,000 artists and creative arts workers.
Culture Ireland receives an additional €2 million to promote Irish arts worldwide.
Also as part of arts and culture funding is an extra €2.5 million for the National Cultural Institutions, €1 million extra for Screen Ireland, and up to €500,000 towards the Safe to Create programme, co-ordinated by Irish Theatre Institute, responding to harassment and inequality in the sector.
NCFA acknowledged the work of Ms Martin and her department officials, “who have listened to the unified voices of our sector”.