I am aware of Screen Producers Ireland's role as the representative body for independent producers. Both Public Service Broadcasters spend millions of euro each year on independently produced programming. This is vital in supporting a vibrant independent sector, including in the regions. Section 116 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides that RTÉ make specific amounts available each year for the commissioning of television and radio programmes from the independent production sector. In 2017, RTE spent €39.7m on independent productions. TG4 commissions the majority of its Irish language programmes from independent production companies throughout Ireland. In 2017, the broadcaster spent over €21.6m on independent productions, which was 88% of its annual programme budget for that year.
In addition, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is responsible for the administration of the Broadcasting Fund which includes the Sound and Vision Scheme. This scheme, which is financed from the TV Licence fee, provides funding in support of high quality programmes on Irish culture, heritage and experience, programmes to improve adult literacy, and archiving of programme material. Revenue from this fund can be applied for by independent producers and broadcasters for specific projects of a public service nature. In 2017, €12m in funding supported 63 television and 176 radio projects.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment examined the longer term issue of the future funding of public service media. The Committee published their report at the end of November 2017.
Following consideration of the recommendations made in that report, Government approval was received in July 2018 to establish a Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting. The Working Group, which is chaired by my Department, is currently deliberating on a number of options for the reform of the TV Licence Fee and its collection. It is due to report to me by the end of March.