Brexit, Google and Facebook are hurting Irish broadcasters' ad revenue

Oireachtas Committee warned that local programming will disappear...

Brexit, Google and Facebook are hurting Irish broadcasters' ad revenue

Picture by: Gareth Fuller / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Brexit and other global events are hurting advertising income for media organisations already feeling the pressure from the digital age, according to RTÉ's Director General.

Dee Forbes told an Oireachtas Committee hearing that the likes of the UK's decision to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump in the US are negatively affecting the already tight margins of media outlets.

Forbes stated:

"While digital expansion and increasing competition amplify the commercial challenges, they have been made much more difficult by Ireland's recent economic difficulties and the current uncertainty thrown up by unpredicted political events.

"Advertising has improved over the past couple of years but Brexit is now having a direct negative impact.

"Television advertising has been severely hit both here and in the UK."

She also discussed the uncertainty surrounding future incomes for broadcasters as the digital age dramatically affects audience behaviour and expectations.

"Audiences now expect, and can now get any media they want, free of charge, when they want it, on multiple devices. The internet is powering all of this change and as broadband speeds increase and price decreases the pace of change will increase further."

According to Forbes, Facebook and Google combined now account for roughly 80% of global digital ad revenues, with those companies investing close to nothing in original content:

"Indeed their entire business models are built on selling targeted advertising around other people's work, with little or no compensation for the original producer."

The Director General went on to say that the current TV licence fee system is no longer fit for purpose and called for a household-based licence "decoupled from any device" to be introduced.

At the same hearing, the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) warned that its members are nearing a time when they can no longer afford news, sports and current affairs programming.

The IBI said that we are at a tipping point and access to a new fund is needed. Addressing the cost of collecting the licence fee and tackling evasion could free up as much as €50 million for all broadcasters.

IBI chairman Jon Purcell said:

"It would mean that we would be looking towards syndicated models of programming. And so the unique local flavour [where the likes of Clare FM] currently have fully developed and fully staffed broadcasting outlets in their local area which reflect their area, that's what's at risk."