The RTÉ board and management have presented their revised strategy proposals to secure a financially stable future for the company. The strategy seeks to map out a sustainable future where RTÉ can meet the strategic and financial challenges it faces, deliver on its public service remit and remain a relevant and valued part of Irish life. There is a broad consensus on the need to protect our public service media, perhaps now more than ever, and it is crucial to ensure that we maintain independent and objective reporting of domestic and international affairs.
Public Service Broadcasting: Statements
Does the Minister of State have a copy of his speech?
The Minister of State is not required to provide a copy. Can we get a copy?
It would be helpful. That is all.
It would be useful to have it.
We can try to organise that.
I thank the Minister of State.
I will keep going. It is accepted that all media, whether public service broadcasters or other local and national media, are experiencing profound financial challenges as the public and consequently commercial advertising revenues move away from traditional linear TV schedules towards content streaming services and social media. In the past, improvements in economic growth would have generated an increase in commercial revenues through advertising but this is no longer the case due to the shift towards digital advertising, of which Google and Facebook absorb an estimated 73% of revenue. RTÉ continues to face myriad national and international competitors, many of which are resourced to produce high-quality content and compete for premium content. In the advertising market, the challenge of UK opt-out channels remains, and there is an ongoing impact due to uncertainty on advertising spend caused due to Brexit.
These trends, alongside evasion rates and challenges relating to the TV licensing model, are having a critical impact on RTÉ's revenue and financial sustainability. Operating losses have been recorded in each of the last four years. RTÉ has been unable to grow its commercial revenue since 2014 while its costs have grown by €28 million. While revenue from the TV licence increased by €10 million over the same period, RTÉ's financial position has deteriorated.
In submitting its revised strategy, RTÉ has sought assistance and additional support from the Government. In August, the Government accepted the recommendations of the working group on the future funding of public service broadcasting for reform of TV licence collection. In line with the recommendations, TV licence fee collection will be put out to tender when the enabling legislation, the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2019, is enacted. This recently passed Second Stage in the Dáil. An amendment to the current legislation is required to allow a collection agent to be appointed by way of public tender and this will be brought forward on Committee Stage.
The working group's report suggests competitive tendering for licence fee collection has the potential to bring greater efficiency and effectiveness and thereby improve compliance. A five year contract for the service will be put in place, allowing the successful bidder the opportunity and incentive to invest in the system of collection and reduce the evasion level from its current rate. The Government has also agreed that at the end of the five year contract period, the licence fee should be replaced by a device independent broadcasting charge which would take account of technological change and enable the sustainable funding of public service content in the long term. It is estimated that 10% of homes access content on alternative devices for which one does not require a television licence under the current regime.
RTÉ is funded by a combination of licence fee income and commercial revenue. The only element of Exchequer funding is that which comes from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for free television licences. The recent budget was drawn up against the background of a hard Brexit, with the consequence that the Government was constrained in the choices it could make. RTÉ management has submitted its proposals which we are in the process of evaluating. As has been widely reported, the proposals involve reducing costs by €60 million over three years, reducing staff costs and staff numbers by approximately 200 next year. Service changes include the closure of the current studio in Limerick, although Lyric FM and a mid-west news service will be maintained.
The board and management have acknowledged the need for RTÉ to transform itself and address the challenges it faces to bring financial stability and continue to fulfil its role in the long term. There is no doubt that it will be extremely difficult and that RTÉ will need to balance staffing and cost reductions with the need to satisfy the demands of audiences and operational requirements. The board engaged external assistance to consider the strategy and has also met the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. NewERA was asked to consider the financial implications of the revised strategy and prepare a report, which has been received and is being assessed by the Department. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, met the chairperson and the director general earlier this year, as well as a delegation from the board in October to listen to its proposals. He will continue to engage with RTÉ on its proposals. Broadcasting legislation provides a role for the Minister where there is a variation in channels or new channels are being introduced, but, ultimately, operational decisions are matters for the board and management of RTÉ. RTÉ is committed to discussing the impact of the changes with those directly affected via their unions. The organisation recognises, however, that it must be financially viable, while also developing a strategy that will reposition it to take up opportunities in a rapidly changing media world.
In budget 2019 the Minister secured an increase in overall public funding for broadcasting of €9.245 million, comprising the replacement of TG4's share of licence fee income of €4.245 million with Exchequer funding and a €5 million increase in the amount paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for television licences. RTÉ is receiving €8.6 million of the increased allocation in 2019. It builds on the increase in Exchequer funding for broadcasting in 2018, funded through a €1.64 million increase in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection's contribution for free television licences. In total, RTÉ has received an increase of €10 million in Exchequer funding in the past two years. TG4 was allocated an additional €443,000 in Exchequer funding in 2019, in addition to the additional €2 million in current and capital funding it received in 2018, bringing the total increase since the start of the five year period to €2.443 million. It was also allocated a once-off capital grant of €985,000 in 2018 to cover its expenditure in Bliain na Gaeilge.
The Government is committed to supporting other broadcasters and independent producers. The Sound and Vision scheme which is financed by 7% of television licence fee receipts and administered by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland assists in the funding of high quality programmes on Irish culture, heritage and experience, as well as programmes to improve adult literacy. It also funds the archiving scheme to preserve Ireland's broadcasting heritage and benefits the broadcasting sector as a whole by supporting independent production. In its latest funding awards made in March €5.738 million was awarded to 119 radio and television projects under the scheme. A sum of €5.1 million was awarded for 29 television projects, while 90 radio projects will receive €633,000. The Government recognises the profound challenges facing both commercial and public service broadcasters and is committed to charting a sustainable future for the sector as a whole.
I am speaking on behalf of my colleague, Senator Leyden, who, unfortunately, is out of the country but who would have liked to be here to speak about an issue in his brief. The Minister of State, Deputy Canney, is not normally responsible for dealing with broadcasting matters and is probably covering for the Minister, Deputy Bruton. We understand Ministers are often not available, but it is unfortunate that the Minister is not here. I ask the Minister of State not to take it personally as being against him since the matter being discussed is certainly not within his remit. At the conclusion of his statement he referred to funding for radio stations, while most of his contribution was related to RTÉ, even though the topic we are discussing is statements on public service broadcasting which includes other broadcasters such as TV3 or Virgin Media, as it is now calls itself, in the context of their news and current affairs content. How is it that Virgin Media is able to have an hour-long current affairs programme every night at a time when it does not seem to be within the capacity or willingness of RTÉ to do so? Perhaps it is a judgment call it has had to make. I read a comment made in the newspaper at the weekend. Catherine Fulvio had flown to and back from Portugal where she had learned how to cook something in Portugal. Perhaps that is an issue.
RTÉ is an important part of Irish life. Its news, sport and radio programming are important to people. Most of us will, at some point in the day, listen to it, whether to "Morning Ireland", "Today with Sean O'Rourke", Ryan Tubridy, Ray D'Arcy, Ronan Collins and so on. Lyric FM is a very popular station in many houses with which I am familiar. Many of us rely on RTÉ's website for factual information and news content that is, regardless of how we may sometimes perceive it in these Houses, far more neutral and less biased than that to be found on many of the news websites one might see in other jurisdictions.
It is worth commenting on RTÉ's archives which are both useful and interesting. Information on them pops up every so often. They are a window into what was happening in Irish society ten, 20 or 50 years ago.
I do not want to go back over all of what was included in the Minister's statement on the RTÉ 2024 document which I have in front of me and was emailed to all of us. It outlines how RTÉ is funded, how it has to change, for what it should stand and so on. It is an important document which outlines a strategy for RTÉ. I know that members of the board have waived their fees and that we will see pay cuts and job losses which are unfortunate in any organisation. RTÉ has generally enriched Irish life.
It is nothing personal against the Minister of State, but it seems that the Government has kicked the can down the road on the issue of the television licence fee and how we should examine how we should collect it and whom we should charge for it. I understand hotels and even prisons are paying very small amounts, with there being only one licence fee to be paid for those buildings. I stand to be corrected, but I do not think they are paying a licence fee per television set. It is the same in households, but in a household there will not be more than three or four at most. There will certainly not be 200 or 300. Therefore, the charging mechanism needs to be considered.
We will probably not receive a response on this issue today because the debate is to be adjourned at 6.15 p.m. However, if I am right and the debate is to be resumed the Minister, Deputy Bruton, will be here on the next occasion.
It is important we examine why RTÉ is finding it so difficult, in conjunction with An Post, to collect the TV licence fee and why an estimated €35 million to €50 million per year is lost to the TV licence revenue fund, the bulk of which goes to RTÉ. Sky Sports and Sky Movies are able to implement mechanisms whereby they charge by subscription. They scramble the signal. If people want those channels, they pay for them. They get a code, a card or whatever it is in a box. Sky knows who they are and they receive the signal. If they do not pay for it, they do not receive it any more. I would be interested to know whether RTÉ has the ability or a willingness to charge for its content such that if people want it, they pay for it and RTÉ sees how they get on with it. This is perhaps not the normal public service model, but we seem to have one of the worst collection rates in Europe, per RTÉ's 2024 document. It states that collection in Italy transferred to electricity suppliers and it was possible for the fee to be reduced by 20% and evasion fell hugely. The document further states that in Denmark the licence fee will be phased out to become a public service tax via the state budget, in Norway it is the same, and in the UK the fee extends to BBC iPlayer. Should people be able to watch RTÉ Player without having some kind of verification? I cannot watch BBC iPlayer if I am in a different jurisdiction from the UK. People outside this country cannot watch the programmes on RTÉ Player other than the specific ones that have worldwide distribution. There is a way of blocking the signal and blocking people from watching content if one wants to do so. Perhaps we could have a TV licence system whereby one is allowed up to three or four television sets, broadcast devices or whatever one wants to call them per licence and then, if one watches content on an online player, an iPad or one's household television, if one has one, that is covered with the two or three other devices. Such a system would mean that people who do not pay will not be able to watch the service. I do not think any of us who pays the TV licence expects a whole load of other people availing of the service not to pay for it. It is no different from getting on a train or a bus and not paying one's fare; the rest of us ultimately pick up the tab. If everyone paid the fee, I do not think we would have this issue. In fact, we could probably drop the fee per household if all of us paid our fair share.
The Minister of State, Deputy Canney, will go back to the Minister, Deputy Bruton, I presume, with a transcript of what has been said here today. As a party, Fianna Fáil is very supportive of public service broadcasting, despite the fact that public service broadcasting may not always have been kind to Fianna Fáil or indeed anyone else in this House. Nonetheless we value the importance and usefulness of having reliable current affairs programming, reliable and timely sports information and so on.
The Government has been slow to recognise that, as we all know, Google and Facebook are sucking up a lot of advertising revenue. Brexit, which the Minister of State mentioned in his speech, has played a part in reducing revenues, and over time, to be fair to RTÉ, it has cut its costs by 23%, per its figures from 2008. It has had challenges with RTÉ Player in that it does not behave in the way in which many people would like it to behave. It has streaming issues and cuts out and so on. Many people have expressed frustration about this, but if they are not paying for it and they are getting a service, I am not sure they can be too frustrated.
I am glad that Lyric FM has been saved but I am sorry that Limerick has been the loser in that regard. We spend most of our time in this Chamber saying there is too much focus on Dublin, too much activity in Dublin, too many people in Dublin, a housing and schools shortage in Dublin and so on. However, rather than moving some jobs from Dublin to Limerick or from Dublin to Cork, the suggestion is that we do the opposite and move the jobs from a small area, Senator Byrne's area of Limerick, to both Dublin and Cork. I would like to know from the Minister of State the savings involved in this regard. There will still need to be a mid-western correspondent and there will still be some presence down there. However, this Government has been very slow to deal with the TV licence and to face up to the fact that TV3 cut jobs and Independent News & Media and local radio stations have also had issues.
I would be interested to hear the Minister of State's response. I thank him for being here. It is a useful and a very important debate. We need to face up to the fact that the TV licence needs to be structured in such a way that we get up to 99% or 100% compliance.
Tá fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach. Bhí muid ag súil go mbéadh an tAire, an Teachta Bruton, anseo, ach is ionadaí an-mhaith é an tAire Stáit agus is duine é ó mo cheantar féin, Contae na Gaillimhe. D'iarr mé trí huaire go dtiocfadh an tAire isteach anseo. D'iarr mé air teacht i mhí na Samhna 2017, i mhí Eanair 2018 agus i mhí Dheireadh Fómhair. I have asked that the Minister come before the House for a debate on RTÉ and public broadcasting on three occasions going back to November 2017. It is frustrating that it took so long to get a Minister here, but sin scéal eile.
I served on the board of RTÉ for two years before coming into the Seanad. It was a privilege to work on the board and under its chair, Moya Doherty, and the team that was there. They are very committed people. Having said that, RTÉ needs to be made fit for purpose, which it is not at present. My colleague, Senator Horkan, made the point about the licence fee very clearly and very well. RTÉ has been beating the drum for probably 20 years or more, asking why it does not get the licence fee it is due. Roughly 13% or 14% of those who should pay do not pay; 86% or 87% pay. What it is about Ireland? How is it that it is always the same people who pay and in many cases the same people who do not pay? One is penalised for compliance, and now we are looking at giving more money to RTÉ. I am not saying I am against this, but who is paying the money in? It is the same taxpayers. We must create equity for the majority of people - 87% - and RTÉ, in fairness to it, has been crying out for that. That 13% amounts to roughly €25 million per year. In 2018, RTÉ lost €13 million. It would have a profit of €12 million even the way it is if the whole lot were collected. I believe that compliance in the UK is something like 98%. I am delighted the Minister of State said in his statement that, based on this legislation, there will be a collection process and that it is going out to tender. At present An Post delivers that service at a cost, I believe, of roughly €12 million per year, which is quite significant. I could be corrected slightly on that because it is difficult to get real, good, accurate, evidence-based information.
I will share a few thoughts on RTÉ's income and expenditure. In 2015 its commercial income was €155 million. This represents a fall of €1.5 million on the figure for last year. Licence fee revenue in 2015 was €178 million and has risen to €189 million. Total income in 2018 was almost €340 million, and RTÉ made a loss of €13 million in the same year. As I said, if it got that €25 million in licence fee revenue in, it would be in profit. It is important to state that RTÉ does not get all the licence fee revenue, but it does get the bulk of it. I am also told that Lyric FM costs approximately €500,000. Lyric FM is a very important flagship for the people of Limerick. I am not from Limerick but I can fully associate with the people of Limerick when they say they need that flagship there. One of RTÉ's key raisons d'être or mandates is to go out into the regions rather than retreat into Donnybrook. The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra costs, I believe, approximately €4 million per year. That has been reshaped to some degree as well. That was landed on RTÉ's lap a good few years ago by the Government of the day, which said, "Ye deal with it." RTÉ was not given extra funding for it. It is a national orchestra. It is for the benefit of the Irish people, culturally and otherwise. That needs to be looked at and properly supported. The sale of land in 2017 was, I believe, worth approximately €110 million. I do not know what is happening to that income. Is it going back into the State coffers or being used by RTÉ to help it to right-size its business model?
To respond to a point made by my colleague, Senator Horkan, in 2017 roughly 65% of households had signed up for pay TV in Ireland. That tells us something. I am speaking from memory, but I think RTÉ's viewership share is approximately 32% to 35%. If it keeps going the way it is going, which is the last thing I would like to happen, that will fall to 20% or less.
The national broadcaster is absolutely integral and critically important for us both as a society and as a country.
I cannot understand how RTÉ is not making a decent profit. I will give a few examples of the 2018 profits of some other State and semi-State bodies. Dublin Port had an income of €90 million and made a profit of €47 million with 163 staff. ESB Networks brought in €1.5 billion and made €355 million profit with 3,440 staff. The Irish Aviation Authority had a turnover of nearly €200 million and made a profit of €32 million with 685 staff. Dublin Airport had a €900 million turnover and made €133 million profit. Coillte has a turnover of €330 million, which is similar to RTÉ's €340 million, and last year it made €162 million profit. Who says State bodies and agencies cannot make a profit? They can and do, and we are very proud of that. RTÉ could and should be making a profit. There has never been as much demand for information, TV, and so on as there is at the moment. RTÉ can have a captive audience. It would not be complicated to rightsize it, and there is a bit of rightsizing to be done. While RTÉ has internal issues and problems, 100% collection on the licence fee is critically important.
Advertising is another issue, on which it was very difficult to find information. My understanding is that RTÉ is allowed nine or ten minutes of advertising per hour, and uses about six of them. Private broadcasters have approximately 18 minutes of advertising an hour.
That is double.
It is double. I ask the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to lead on this issue. If the Government extended the amount of advertising allowed to RTÉ, it could increase the revenue by between €25 million and €50 million a year. That would restructure it.
This next point is my most important one and I ask the Minister of State to impress it on the Government. I am very concerned about local radio. Local radio stations also have a public broadcasting remit within our legislation with which they must comply. We must provide them with some of the licence fee being collected, as they are not getting a penny of it. They provide a critically important public broadcasting service to me, to the Minister of State and to people in Dublin, Limerick and all over the country. We need to create some form of equity because the current set-up is anti-competitive and unfair. We should press the button on that, not next year but the year after, and give them fairness because they are seriously struggling and are working off peanuts in many cases. I hope the Minister of State actions some of the points I have made. We are all on the same page here as we all want a strong public broadcaster.
There are great people working in RTÉ. I am concerned about the staffing, and about the SMEs that provide production services and so on to RTÉ. What will happen to them? Will they lose out again? They have lost out significantly in the past. There are a few thousand of those, mainly around Dublin but also around the country.
The Minister of State is very welcome here today. It is important to have this debate and I am delighted that it has been put on the agenda. It is unfortunate that we will not be able to finish it today because it is such an important issue. The proposed cutbacks at RTÉ were first leaked on "Prime Time" not long ago. I will focus on the situation at Lyric FM, as I am from Limerick and the area means much to me.
I agree with all that has been said about RTÉ already. We need to find ways of streamlining it and making it more cost-efficient. I encourage the Minister of State, the Minister and everybody else to work on that. Mentors, or some other outside company, might have to come in and work with RTÉ management and help it come up with new ideas.
I have gone back over some recent newspaper articles, particularly those relating to Lyric FM. A number of years ago, Lyric FM lost half its staff. It now has 20 permanent and five part-time staff. This is not just about the lives of 25 people; it is also about their families because many of them have homes in Limerick, and their children attend local schools and so on. The proposed closure of the Limerick studio would therefore have a knock-on effect on 50 or 60 people.
While it has been suggested that something will put in place for the news correspondent, it will be like a kiosk. At the moment, if other stations, such as RTÉ Radio 1 or RTÉ 2FM, need to broadcast from Limerick, they use the facilities at the Lyric FM studio for both television and radio. The proposed kiosk might facilitate one or two people but will not be a studio. There are many purpose-built studios in Limerick, including ones in Limerick Institute of Technology, the University of Limerick, UL, Mary Immaculate College and Troy Studios. There are many cultural aspects on offer in Limerick. I was delighted that, at a special meeting of the council last week, it was suggested that the council would lead in putting it up to RTÉ. It was also suggested that it would bring onboard the third level institutes and business people, and that we would fight the proposed closure of Lyric FM in Limerick as a group. The staff in Lyric FM will not feel they are on their own, which is important. People have been supportive of them, not only in the mid west, but nationally as well. A briefing with the staff of Lyric FM was held in Leinster House today, at which it was great to see support from both across parties and across the country. It was a boost for the staff to see people coming out and supporting them.
Culture is very much part of our heritage in Limerick, in the mid-west and in Ireland. Lyric FM provided that offering of culture. While it is proposed to disperse the station between Cork and Dublin, it will not be the same thing. Lyric FM built up cultural links in Limerick with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, choirs and different groups, many of which came from around the country to perform at the station. It worked in co-operation with many cultural groups. Those links took a long time to put together and it will now be very hard to keep them going. It is equally hard on the staff.
I understand that RTÉ has to find a way of cutting costs. However, UL, which will be joined by the local authority and other groups in Limerick, has made a proposal to allow it to use the Lyric FM facilities. That proposal must be taken seriously by RTÉ, but UL has not received any response to date. It costs €800 to run each programme on Lyric FM, while it costs on average €1,400 an hour for each of the other stations. There is a big cost difference there.
The Irish Chamber Orchestra hosted an event in the University of Limerick last Thursday evening and people from different choirs and cultural organisations came out in full force just to say they stand with Lyric FM. I do not believe the proposal to close Lyric FM only came up in the past 12 months. The cultural CEO of RTÉ has never even set foot in the Lyric FM offices in Limerick, which sends out a message in its own right. RTÉ will make proposals about cutbacks, the unions and so on but as there is such a huge groundswell of support for the staff, it is important that we also work with them, both cross-party and cross-county. We must come up with proposals, not only for saving Lyric FM in Limerick but for cost-saving measures as well.
Dee Forbes stated, in an article in the Irish Independent in September of this year, that she had proposed moving Lyric FM to Carraroe in County Galway and I am sure Senator Ó Céidigh would have been pleased to hear that-----
More than welcome.
-----but that the board did not think it was going to be viable. It is disappointing that there has not been any communication and that the staff in Lyric FM heard about this through Twitter, an email and "Prime Time". That was sad. Lyric FM has been in Limerick for the past 20 years and that was an awful way for the staff to find out that their jobs were in jeopardy. They may have the option of moving to Cork and Dublin but we must also consider climate change. Are they all going to pile into cars and drive up and down the road or will they use public transport? It is not going to be viable for the staff so there are going to be job losses. They are looking for 200 to 300 voluntary redundancies across RTÉ. Maybe Lyric FM should have been given the option of being part of those voluntary redundancies. I should refer to Lyric FM in Limerick, rather than Lyric FM, because the station is not closing, it is just moving to Cork and Dublin.
I feel strongly about this and I appeal to the Minister of State and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, to get involved in this because people's jobs are in jeopardy here and there will be knock-on effects. Culture is strong in Ireland. Galway will be the European city of culture next year and Limerick was the national city of culture. There are so many cultural organisations, located in every town, village and city in Ireland. This is only the start. If Lyric FM is being dispersed to Cork and Dublin, is RTÉ trying to close it down in the long term? I firmly believe RTÉ was going to close it down originally but that when RTÉ saw people were supportive of Lyric FM, it said it would move the station to Cork and Dublin. RTÉ has drawn a circle. It is looking to keep Lyric FM in Dublin and Cork and do away with the mid-west.
Senators Horkan and Ó Céidigh referred to balanced regional development, which this is going against. Six out of every ten jobs created in Ireland in recent years were in the regions. We must have balanced regional development and this is totally going against the grain of what the Government is trying to achieve.
It is always nice to see the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, and he is a man for whom I have great respect but to be honest, I am disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Bruton, is not here because he is the decision maker. I want to be very direct in the next point and I accept the good wishes and goodwill of everyone in terms of keeping Lyric FM in Limerick. This is a political decision in the first instance by RTÉ to close down Lyric FM in Limerick. As the trade union representative for those workers said to us this morning, Lyric FM is Limerick, as 80% of the station's output comes from Limerick. People have invested in Limerick and built lives there.
We need the Minister to make a political decision and what disappoints me is that, during a Commencement debate last week, the Minister said something I had never heard him say before. He said he was not across the detail of this proposal. I disagree with the Minister on many things but I salute him that, whenever he comes into this Chamber, he is across every aspect and detail of his brief and always has been but that is what he said last week.
The Minister went on to say that this does not appear to be within his remit. He gave the same answer in the Dáil last week. I am extremely concerned that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment seems to think he can fold his arms and accept that Lyric FM will close in Limerick. I am here to say, on behalf of all the people of Limerick, we will never accept the closure of our national station. Fine Gael will never be forgiven and it will never be forgotten if Lyric FM closes under its watch; that cannot be allowed to happen. It makes no sense from a financial perspective.
I asked the staff of Lyric FM this morning if consideration was given to moving people out of Dublin to the cheaper location of Limerick. It is amazing that the Lyric FM staff have not been given any of the financial details behind these decisions. They are still in the dark. We heard that, horrifically, they found out through the media about the plans for the station but they still do not actually know any of the financial data behind these decisions. As a Member noted in the Dáil last week, the Minister appears to be uninterested. That is also my impression and it is not good enough.
Sinn Féin's position is very clear on this: we will lead a campaign to keep Lyric FM in Limerick. We will not accept the excuse that these are matters within the remit of RTÉ. The Minister has a role to protect RTÉ as a national broadcaster and that must include Limerick.