RTÉ REPORTED A €16.8 deficit for 2011 but says its financial performance, on the back of the economic collapse and subsequent reduction in public funding, is ‘creditable’.
The figure is based on falling revenues of €351 million.
The broadcaster received €183.6 million in TV licence revenue last year, a reduction of €12.4 million on 2010.
Chairman Tom Savage said since 2008, cost reduction has become “the watchword” and that the consequences of a challenging commercial outlook “go to the very core of RTÉ’s remit”.
“This result must be seen as a creditable performance in the circumstances,” Savage wrote in the annual report. “Indeed, RTÉ would have reported a small surplus, were it not for the ongoing annual impacts of the 2010 national budget and the Broadcasting Act 2009. The deficit of €16.8 million is the result of continuing success in reducing the cost base.”
He added that cost control is not enough and “the scale of the problem calls for a fresh vision of how a national public service media organisation should serve Ireland in the coming years”.
Director-General Noel Curran said operating costs had been reduced by almost 20 per cent in the past four years – a figure he compared to the 6 per cent cuts secured by the public sector as a whole. He also made a commitment that RTÉ would break even in 2013.
In his opening statement, Savage reiterated the broadcaster’s apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds for the defamatory information broadcast about him on the now cancelled Prime Time Investigates programme.
“The board is determined to take all necessary steps to restore confidence in RTÉ’s investigative reporting. It is the most difficult form of journalism and serious risks attend it, as this experience shows.
Yet this genre of programming is essential in a democracy and we have confirmed its place among the editorial priorities proposed by the Director-General.
Highlights noted throughout the report included the General Election Debate, the All-Ireland Football Final between Kerry and Dublin, the State visits of Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II, the Rugby World Cup and the inauguration of President Michael D Higgins.
In a separate division, the RTÉ Guide went through another “challenging year” because of a “particularly turbulent magazine market”.
Circulation sales fell to an average of 74,832 per week, down about 10,000 on 2010 figures. Readership dropped about 12 per cent to 517,000 adults.
As of 31 December 2011, there were 2,093 employees, including 200 part-timers at the organisation – a 3 per cent decrease since 2010 as savings measures were implemented.