The programme for Government has expanded the remit of the public service broadcasting commission to become a future of media commission to consider the future of print, broadcast and online media on a platform-agnostic fashion. The programme for Government calls for a report within nine months on the measures that need to be taken to ensure there is a vibrant, independent public service media for the next generation. It notes that the current funding model for public service broadcasting is inefficient and the commission will publish recommendations.
The commission is being established by the Department of the Taoiseach in liaison with my Department, and the terms of reference and membership were approved by the Government on 29 September. The goal of the independent commission is to identify what the Irish experience has been in delivering the above aims through public service broadcasters, or broadcasters, print and online media at a local, regional and national levels, and the challenges created for these media by new global platforms and change in audience preference for the delivery of content. It will consider the extent to which the current models of delivery are appropriate for the next ten years and review the best practice in other comparable jurisdictions, particularly across the European economic area, in terms of providing future-proofed models for meeting the above public services in light of changing audience expectations, in particular the preferences and behaviours of younger audiences.
Within this context, the commission will examine how these aims can be delivered in a way that is sustainable, give greater security of funding, ensure independent editorial oversight and deliver value for money to the public. It will also make recommendations on RTÉ's role, financing and structure within this framework. It is expected that the commission will engage in a wide-ranging consultation with all relevant stakeholders and sectors to ensure that all relevant perspectives are considered in its work.
In light of its remit, I expect that the licence fee will be among the issues examined by the commission. I believe it is important to allow the commission the time and space to undertake its work and any recommendations made about the funding model and licence fee will be considered by the Government. In the meantime, An Post, which acts as my issuing agent for licence fee collection, will continue to sell television licences and free licences will continue to be issued by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to qualifying applicants under the household benefit scheme.