In recent years, the broadcasting sector has faced severe financial, market and structural challenges, including the impact on advertising revenue arising from Brexit and the migration of advertising to online services. This has impacted on the capacity of all broadcasters, including RTE, to produce high quality Irish content and to commission such content from independent producers.
In July 2019, the Government accepted the recommendations of the Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting that TV Licence Collection should be put out to public tender for a five year period to reduce the evasion rate. This process will be initiated as soon as the enabling legislation, the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, which passed Second Stage in October 2019, has been enacted. At the end of the contract period, the licence fee will be replaced by a device independent broadcasting charge to take account of changes in how Irish people consume content. These reforms will generate additional funding for public service broadcasting.
In addition to the reform of the public funding model, and in line with the commitment in my Department's Statement of Strategy, there will also be a review of two provisions of the Broadcasting Act, 2009.
First, there will be a review of the proportion of TV licence funding allocated to the Sound and Vision Scheme under the Broadcasting Fund with a view to assessing whether it should be increased. At present, the Broadcasting Fund amounts to 7% of net TV licence receipts, currently €14.5 million. This scheme, which is administered by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, supports the production of high quality TV and radio programmes on Irish culture, heritage and experience and is accessible by independent producers and commercial broadcasters.
There will also be a review of the minimum amount of funding that RTE is obliged to make available under Section 116 of the Act, for external commissioning of radio and television programming. Notwithstanding its financial difficulties, RTE continues to meet the statutory minimum amount of such funding which in 2018 amounted to €39.7m. The review will examine if this statutory minimum level can be further increased which would provide an important additional stimulus for the independent sector.