'There can only be losers': Sky says it will drop RTÉ if it's forced to pay for the channels

The state broadcaster wants legislation changed to allow it to charge pay TV operators.

By Fora Staff

SKY WILL DROP RTÉ channels from its platform if the state broadcaster starts to charge fees for its content to be included in pay TV bundles.

Under the current legislation, RTÉ, TV3 and TG4 are blocked from charging pay TV operators, such as Sky or Virgin Media, retransmission fees when their channels are included in paid-for packages.

However the state broadcaster has asked the government to amend the ‘must offer’ part of the Broadcasting Act in order to allow it to charge the companies.

In July, it submitted a report by media advisory company Mediatique to the Oireachtas communications committee suggesting that it should be able to charge Sky and Virgin €19 million and €11 million per year respectively for its channels.

Speaking at the committee yesterday, Sky’s director of policy and public affairs, David Wheeldon, emphatically stated that the Rupert Murdoch-owned company would not pay for RTÉ.

“There are no circumstances that we would change our approach and make payments for a free-to-air channel,” he said.

“We can’t pay for something that our customers don’t value from us and can get for free from elsewhere.”

Wheeldon added that RTÉ is trying to have its cake and eat it, adding “there could only be losers” if the public service broadcaster tried to charge pay TV companies for its channels.

RTÉ has been looking for ways to shore up its balance sheet after losing nearly €20 million last year. Director general Dee Forbes has floated an increase in the licence fee, as well as staff cuts, to address the deficit.

Not a threat

Fianna Fáil’s communications spokesman Timmy Dooley voiced strong objections to the Sky director’s remarks.

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“That doesn’t sit well with me as a legislator to be told that by Sky,” Dooley, who supports changing the act, responded.

Wheeldon apologised if his comments were interpreted as a threat but added that his company believes that customers “did not buy Sky to buy RTÉ”.

Representatives from Virgin, Vodafone and Eir also expressed firm opposition to the proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act.

Written by Ceimin Burke and posted on TheJournal.ie. Additional reporting Peter Bodkin.

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