The objective of Irish broadcasting policy is to maintain access for the people of Ireland to high quality Irish radio and television services. The Broadcasting Act (2009-2020) establishes the role of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The BAI has responsibility for regulating particular aspects of the public service broadcasters, ensuring quality of public service, transparency and accountability in use of public finance and in accordance with Irish and EU law. The public service broadcasters, Radio Telifís Éireann (RTÉ) and Telifís na Gaeltachta (TG4), are licensed by the Minister of the Department for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The publicly funded broadcasting services are autonomous in relation to day-to-day programming and editorial decisions. However, the legislation enforced by the BAI requires RTÉ and TG4 to reflect the cultural diversity of Ireland in programming.
The Broadcasting Act (2009) introduced three reporting requirements for RTE: Public Service Statement, Statement of Strategy, and an annual statement of performance commitments. RTÉ’s public service obligation under the Broadcasting Act and the Public Service Broadcasting Charter is to serve the whole community including a broad range of interests be they cultural, generational, regional or international. They are required by statute to spend a certain minimum amount of EUR on independent productions. The Public Service Broadcasting Charter specifically includes “arts” among the key genres of programming that RTÉ is expected to include in its schedules.
In the case of the independent broadcasting sector, there are no legislative provisions relating to the makeup of programme schedules other than in the case of news and current affairs. Licenses to broadcast in the independent sector are awarded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. Proposed programme schedules are amongst the issues considered by the Authority when assessing applications for licenses and are then reflected in a contract where a license is awarded.
The provisions of the EU Television without Frontiers Directive apply to both public and private television services in Ireland. The Directive requires that, where practicable:
- 50% of programming should be made up of European works; and
- 10% of programming time (or budget) should be produced by independent producers.
These quotas apply to programmes apart from news, sport and current affairs. On the national level, independent broadcasters are required by statute to devote a minimum of 20% of broadcasting time to news and current affairs. There are no specific quotas in the case of public broadcasters but RTÉ’s statutory mandate requires comprehensive programme scheduling.