Tag Archives: Vanessa Foran

From top: Dee Forbes, Director general of RTÉ and Tony Hall, Director general of the BBC; Vanessa Foran

When RTÉ made their YE 201E available my quick scan had a predictable response; everything is as expected. Glossy, full of talk about themselves, the movements on the balance sheet to reflect the well-known sale of land, and of course Dee Forbes’ salary.

So rather than file it under a Broadsheet standard “nothing to see here” tag I decided to measure a few values against another national broadcaster reliant on statutory licence fees; the BBC.  One presents Financial Statements as Group, the Other as Consolidated. RTÉ have a Calendar Year End, the BBC have a March YE.

While scanning both I was indeed mindful to the size and reach of both organisations, alongside the licence fee income and the global reach of one, and the advertising income opportunities of the other.

Therefore, I only used total income over a full 12 month trading period as a denominator rather than split out, and convert into a single currency needed for a proper drill down. Which would be meaningless to a large degree anyway, as one would be including direct costs for special events ie. Brexit Referendum and both values are compiled from very mixed reporting periods.

So, in so far as a quick drive-by evaluation would allow, here some stats that might be considered as reasonable benchmarks within that industry.

Please also bear in mind, I have only picked off a few to run simple Ratio Analysis calculations against. The purpose of published accounts and reports of any organisation is to allow all stakeholders access themselves and form their own opinions, so here is what was interesting to me.

Some 95% of the BBC’s total expenses in the 12 months ending March 2017 was spent on Content and Delivery; in real terms, 5% is what comes out of their total income to run the organisation’s back office functions.

To put this in context; RTÉ reports a total Income of €337.6 million; of which €27.365m was spent on Acquired Programming; 8% if you are wondering. This does not include Sport Copyrights & Licences if you were wondering that too; 5.5% of total income by the way.

For those who might assume that Acquired Programming refers to content subbed in from local production companies and sub-contractors, let me also provide this figure – €38.62m for Direct Acquired Programme Costs; or 11.4% of total income.

Thankfully the RTÉ report provides an easily interpreted graphic to give you an idea of how many are employed by the Television dept:

An interesting question is how much of its overall programming hours are fulfilled by these Acquired Programming and Direct Acquired Programming expenditure items.

Meanwhile, to get a look at another suite of cost:total income tests here’s one of the old reliables; Executive & Board Renumeration.

Total Board costs as a % of Total Income: BBC .06% (.0006 of total Income) RTE .1% (.001). Dee Forbes’ 338k v Tony Hall’s 467K; one hundredth of RTÉ’s total income: one thousandth of the BBC’s.

That above should be digested alongside with this; Dee Forbes leads an organisation that in its last set of accounts reported €337.6 million income, of which 55% is Licence Fees, and employs (average WTE for year) 1,924 people.

Whereas Tony Hall is responsible for almost 21,000 employees (over 10 times more than Ms Forbes) and for an organisation that collects st£3.74billion from UK Licence payers and earns itself another st£1.2billion (again way over 10 times more than Ms Forbes.)

As a % of income and staff complement there is absolutely no arguing the value of money lapse just on this benchmark alone. But I would add that Tony Hall is probably being short-changed.

Yes, I know this is flame-throwing. But it is worth noting nonetheless that straight away the TV Licence Payers in the UK get significantly more out of their National Broadcaster than the Irish Licence Payer.

RTÉ is on a road to nowhere which only exposes the Irish Taxpayer to further financial risks. It needs to radically change every way it does business and at every level within the organisation. It continues to achieve cost cuts and they have the graphic to prove it:

But even this alongside the carving from the Land & Buildings on its balance sheet, they are only fooling themselves if they think realising cash here is all they need to do. The entity’s costs are still not under control when it is having to sell its silver rather than innovate.

Commissioning a new season of a series they have not already managed to sell on is pointless and not in any way strategic or wise programming; you can also read this as using tax payers’ money to invest further in a loss-making product.

They need to develop products they can export and they need to relocate from probably the most valuable real-estate in the country instead of this piecemeal selling off from Financial Year to Financial Year. But more importantly they need their own programming to win back their viewers.

The most watched show in YE 2017 was the Late Late Toy Show; which at least is their own format, albeit older than me, probably.  But its viewership is not loyal since the Toy Show is followed in the top 10 by a series of GAA All-Irelands and World Cup Play-Offs; all of which they have to compete for. Notably, the only scripted show in last year’s top ten was Mrs Brown/s New Year’s whatever. That probably makes my point.

If you are interested there is one measure between the two that is exactly spot on and nose to nose; both reports are a 192 pages long.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip /a>. Vanessa will be on Broadsheet on the Telly tonight at 10pm.

Footnote: Vanessa writes: The BBC Management and Talent personnel don’t seem to suffer from the shyness their counterparts in RTE do when it comes to declaring their income. Here  is a tidy and well-presented transparent document detailing everyone employed or engaged by the BBC in Year Ending March 2017 in the 150K brackets.

From top: Independent News and Media head office, Talbot Street, Dublin; Vanessa Foran

Further to the shenanigans – on multiple fronts – at Independent News and Media…

Vanessa Foran (her off the telly!) writes:

The Company is committed to maintaining the highest standards of corporate governance and the Directors recognise their accountability to the Company’s Shareholders in this regard.

That is the opening line on the Independent News and Media plc’s corporate governance statement.

The current Board of Irish News and Media now consists of nine individuals.

Which breaks down into eight non-executives directors, who would more commonly be known as NEDS (which means they are not employees of the Company) and one executive director.

The latter joined late last year, INM CEO Michael Doorley, and is one of six members who have just joined the Board, with the remaining five commencing in March of this year.

So from a Board composition of nine, these six already form a healthy quorum and yet have all only arrived in the last seven months.

To recognise the real weight of this information, consider this; five directors who form a majority, and this includes the chair who has an additional vote in the event of a tie, were not in situ at the Year End that is about to go before the shareholders for their AGM.

Surely it is fair to say without causing any angst amongst serial litigants and industrial trolls, that there is a majority who do not know, or actually, are not supposed to know of the matters at board that led to the protective disclosure to corporate enforcement.

Therefore, I must ask the question; and I will admit first that I am disappointed no one else has already; why are INM objecting to Inspectors coming into the organisation?

It is my opinion that it is of huge importance that any breeches, matters of concern and weaknesses within the organisation should be identified for this new Board.

Furthermore, and in my opinion and in my experience, this level of investigation will allow those charged with the governance of the organisation not only to address and rectify breaches, but to ensure that such behaviour is not repeated.

Rather than have them inherit risks and doubt, why not get a full root and branch investigation? It is the only way to eliminate the doubt and uncertainty about this Company’s future; and the future is what governance is all about. Ensuring the Company is a solid going concern and all its activities are in the best interests of all the Shareholders, regardless of percentage held.

Which presents another question; why haven’t the Irish Stock Exchange supported the ODCE’s application to appoint inspectors?

Other responsibilities of the board include Risk Management and protecting the assets of the Company. How can they be certain they, as directors, are satisfied they have identified all the risks the Company is exposed to by historical behaviour.

I most definitely would not be comfortable taking any assurance from any internal reporting, or indeed any external reporting from parties engaged by this Company; I want to know for sure all the breeches and risks have been identified, remedied, costed and provided for, and that policies and procedures are in place so that they are avoided in the future.

As former Chair Lesley Buckley stepped down (in March) John Bateson stepped in. The former was the nominee of the largest shareholder in the Company, while the latter is no stranger to a known associate of that Shareholder, and who also happens to be a significant shareholder in the Company….. As Bodger might say,: ‘join the dots‘.

You might also be interested in knowing that another director, Triona Mullane, one of the 2012 inductees, is a founder of a company that received investment from a gentleman that has been referred to as the largest shareholder.

I am not, not for a second, doubting Ms Mullane’s or anyone’s credentials, competence, experience, or ability to perform at board level in a PLC.

However, the most important asset I have as a someone who works in professional practice is my independence which includes the perception of that independence.

As a director you are responsible for the welfare of the company, followed by the shareholders, and you must make decisions in the best interests of the company, at all times, and you must never allow that be questioned or mistrusted.

So I will ask again; Why are INM objecting to the appointment of inspectors?

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip /a>. Vanessa will be on Broadsheet on the Telly tonight at 10pm.

Rollingnews

From top: Taoiseach leo Vardkar and Minister for Education Richard Bruton; Vanessa FORAN

Vanessa Foran (her off the telly) writes:

I wanted to post some follow up thoughts to the Bank of Mum & Dad segment on Broadsheet on the Telly last evening.

I have to repeat how disappointed I am that the popular Leader of a Country with a national housing and accommodation crisis, that just happens to be running alongside a decade old mortgage arrears crisis, would promote methods for saving for a regulatory deposit that includes the sourcing of funds from parents, and from working overseas.

Only this morning that latter point slipped up on its own banana skin with Minister of Education and  Skills Richard Burton deciding to limit Career Breaks for Teachers. The next National Shortage is already appearing in your blind spot by the way: teachers. (I hardly need to mention nurses, hospital consultants and hospital beds, but it looks like I did anyway.)

In addition to reminding the electorate that young people starting out should look at better paid opportunities overseas. our current Taoiseach is conveniently ignoring an already known obstacle to our economic viability; we have a Labour shortage.

He also failed to bring to your attention that once these future first time buyers get declared Non-Residential, there is also the possibility of a tax implication from remitting funds from Countries Ireland does not have a tax agreement with.

What irks me just as much is that this very Government had an opportunity to promote sensible saving for all first time buyers, regardless of family means, in the last budget; Allow these  first home buyers savings accounts be exempt from DIRT Tax.

Or even create a type of National Home Buyers account with the NTMA, like that of the Solidarity Bond or the old SSIA (Incidentally, I have already promoted this initiative myself to a post Budget Breakfast Meeting hosted by members of Fianna Fáil).

Family Home Mortgages can come off the rails so easily and with no warning. The healthier the deposit, including the source, the more viable the mortgage is, and the more capable it is of surviving an unexpected financial crunch. That is a fact no about of spin and quirky congenial laddish remarks can cloak.

Yet Leo Varadkar himself is advising his own generation and the one coming up behind them, to rely on Mum and Dad, and to head off overseas rather than actually stay here, work and develop careers here, contribute taxes here, and more importantly, save their tax paid income here.

I am one of those who may one day be one of those Banks. But will I get a bail out too?

I am of the generation whose own retirement is within 20 years, I do not have a viable pension plan beyond a State Contributory one.

If Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael are to continue to encourage younger taxpayers to go abroad as a means of getting on the property ladder here, then who do they think will provide the Social Welfare funds when its my turn for that €200 a week?

From my own perspective here as I type off these final words, I cannot deny I am more narked about the shallow leadership displayed in the Oireachtas, and in Leader’s Questions no less, and the narrow minded long-term planning of Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael.

The very least we should expect from a Taoiseach and Government who are provided with a well funded Communications Unit, along with brigades of Special Advisors is some disciplined and sensible messaging.

Our Taoiseach and his Government could have at least tried to be seen to promote equal opportunity, from access to secure homeownership to quality education, and the many many other basic pillars for an equal, fair, healthy and civilised society to all our children; no matter who they are, or where they are from.

Promoting the Bank of Mum and Dad has actually confirmed to me who is really gaming the system.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip

Previously: You’re 100 Per Cent On Your Own Son

From top: Watching Tuesday’s budget speech in a Arnott’s; Vanessa Foran

Accountant Vanessa Foran (her off the telly) writes:

By now you will be already familiar with the main contents of Budget 2018.

I’m just going to mention some key items that got my attention; some contractions, some ironic, one that got my agreeing nod and another that deserves its “are ye taking the piss!”

The Vacant Site Levy isn’t quiet the Revenue Generator the Minister for Finance is telling you. In fact, not a single cent has been earned from it yet since Alan Kelly (yes Labour) came up with it. Of course, it’s worth driving it up even further, since that action doesn’t cost them anything and doesn’t consume resources.

But the levy conditions are so wide it is easy to navigate a work-around. Additionally, most of the Sites on the registrar (and for the site to be subject to this levy, it must already be on the Local Authority Register of Vacant Sites) are increasing in value at a far steeper pace than 4%. Dublin and the surrounding commuting areas are already running ahead with double digit growth values.

This moves me easily on to mention the Commercial Stamp Duty rise, also by 4%; and I am advised, also attaches to the Buy-To-Let Stamp. If this is the case, then it is hardly the incentive to attract more Residential Landlords to commit further investments in the rental sector, or even encourage new Landlords into the business.

Since I am on residential letting; HAP. The Housing Assistance Payment has not delivered any additional units into the Private Rental Sector. Not one. No additional Rentals have been created according to the statistics and data.

Yet your Government is laying another €149 million into HAP. However, if no additional properties are becoming available for qualifying Tenants, it will remain unspent. Maybe this is the plan, a pretend spend to announce in the many responses to the Housing Crisis.

I would add to that and say that there was no new Housing Initiative announced beyond NAMA now advising the Commercial Sector. You can digest that at the Private Sector, and let me record again that I strongly disagree with the Private Sector being the supplier of Social Housing.

The top topic now, even before Brexit, is Social Housing. Yet everything we’ve heard in the last 48 hours was announced weeks ago. That part of your Budget was recycled material that was given a new suit.

By the way; Brexit is getting a €3 billion Management fund. Yet our own Rural Affairs barely saw a €13 Million top up. So your Broadsheet-on-the-Telly friend Johnny Keenan may have to wait a bit longer for some decent broadband.

That might be a familiar and handy dig at the lack of investment outside of Dublin. But you simply cannot promote Rural Relocation as an option to Homeless Families unless there is infrastructure that can be relied on.

The same issue applies to Small Businesses and Start-Ups. If there was any genuine interest in decentralising part of the Dublin based activity and business then perhaps part of that €3 billion should have been allocated to a Rural Affairs led Development Fund.

This pretty much sums up the attitude of this Government to the general public to be honest. I have already remarked my disgust at the labelling of workers on the Industrial Wage and below as “Middle Income Earners.”

These are the Working Poor and not the Squeezed Middle that Campaign for Leo would canvas them as.Continued use of this “Squeezed Middle” allowed this Fine Gael Budget give them pretty much nothing that would enhance their day to days.

Yet the Hotel Industry get to keep their cosy VAT rate of 9%. This is my “are you taking the piss.” I am required to collect VAT from my clients, who are most likely insolvent and or at risk of losing their homes, at 23%. Yet anyone can go away for a Spa Weekend in a 5* and only pay VAT at 9%. There’s one contradiction there. A luxury non-essential service is at 9%. And Insolvency is at 23%.

Additionally, and this may not be public knowledge as it doesn’t get into the press releases and spins, but the Hotel Industry already got a full re-Rating (they now pay reduced Rates) and it wasn’t reversed either in this Budget, despite the obvious fact that this industry is clearly back on its feet.

If I had the means I would engage an Economist to study how much the Hotel Industry got to retain as profits because of their reduced Rates; to actually put a price on how much is being denied to their respective Local Authorities.

One thing to trap from this is that the Hotel Industry must have very good Lobbyists working for them.

Here’s another contradiction; the Budget promoted a 5% Unemployed rate to near full employment over the 12 months. This spells out as a possible Labour Shortage to me and yet Employers PRSI was increased.

This is absurd, and will lead to more Contractor arrangements. USC and PRSI, both EE and ER must be overhauled and rebuilt before it is touched again. Continuing with the current yet historic Social Insurance framework is not working and it is not value-for-money for the taxpayer.

Anyway, steam now vented so onto something which will see tangible benefit over the next 12 months. The additional €75 million into a now rebooted National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF.)  As a former Hospital Financial Controller, I know this is a magnificent boost, and I promise ye reading this that the NTPF can make a huge impact into those waiting lists.

Incidentally, this was a Fianna Fáil demand as part of the Confidence & Supply agreement with Fine Gael.

At a budget event yesterday, I learned from Sean Fleming TD that this budget is the first balanced budget in 10 years. But don’t get too confident, there is still a National Debt of €44,000.00 sitting on your head. €44k per head. The 2nd heaviest in the world. We are not in debt as much a Japan, although I’m inclined to envy their indigenous industry profile; Toyota, Honda, Nissan etc.

Fianna Fáil will insist that their Confidence and Supply agreement with this Government is bringing Stability to the country, and it is serving the country well by getting more spend into Services, and less into Tax breaks, which is hardly a secret Fine Gael ambition.

I’m not party to any deals made in Leinster House or their Party Offices, but I will say that this Budget is not a pre-election one.

Tinkering around with a fiver here and there, and not adding anything to the pint is about the height of the populist giveaways. However, it is worth me mentioning that your TDs will get to enjoy their pay rises from January 1st while Social Welfare recipients will be waiting until April.

That behaviour really bugs me as an accountant. Everything included and passed by the Dáil in the 2018 Budget should all commence on the 1st January. The top ups now being earned from Tuesdays Midnight, will all be recorded into this Financial Year 2017.

I will sign off with a note of comfort, my additional 200 EITC will at least be enough cover for my Diet Club Orange and Sunbeds over the next year.

I hope to see ye tonight and feel free to ask questions.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners. Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip

From top: RTÉ Television Centre; Vanessa Foran

Accountant and insolvency expert Vanessa Foran (her off the telly!) kindly agreed to have ‘look see’ through RTÉ’s recently published Annual Report for 2016.

What she saw will make you TORCH your remote.

Vanessa writes:

If anyone was watching Broadsheet on the Telly last Thursday night you might remember I had a look at the RTE Annual Report for Broadsheet, but unfortunately we didn’t get to it on the broadcast.

I would like to fill you in on two particular areas that got my attention: The distribution of the Licence Fee income and payments to the directors.

First, a look at allocation of the licence fee.

In 2016, Licence Fee Income was reported as €179.1 million.

Of that 57.4% [€102,803,400] was allocated to television (RTÉ 1 & 2).

Of the €25.7 million allocated to private providers, 14% of total taxpayers’ finance, €22.6 million of it is paid to suppliers outside of our national broadcaster’s jurisdiction or, if you like, Tax Take area.

That’s €22.6 million = 12.6 % of the Irish taxpayers’ 2016 contribution to our national broadcaster.

Money that could go to up and coming screen writers, pilots, animation development, wildlife programming – all sorts of Irish stuff. It might even introduce some new faces to the RTÉ canteen, which I feel confident and competent enough to assume is something we would all like to see.

As a viewer myself, and a taxpayer, I would prefer to see more of this, the above, even if it is awful, than see RTÉ pay for and host repeats of shows I can already get on ITV or TLC, or YouTube.

For comparison, as that’s a requirement of any accountant’s report, the sum spent by our national broadcaster on acquiring programming from Irish suppliers was €3.1 million (1.7%)… €3.1m v €22.6m…1.7% v 12.6%.

[Note: If information that this money was spent on getting into the Rio Olympics and other events, becomes available, then I will reverse my opinion but, as I write this, I am of the opinion that sporting events and such are in the RTÉ Sports and Current Affairs allocations].

Meanwhile, the report’s Governance Section contains the directors’ emoluments….

RTÉ Authority chair Moya Doherty is paid twice what her fellow directors get paid.

Is Ms Doherty worth 100% more than anyone else? Argue that among yourselves but I would have to state, without any apology, that €3,100 plus mileage etc, per meeting, is outrageous.

And while it pales the other sum of €1,600 per head, €1,600 is still outrageous. It is an abuse of taxpayers’ money in my very humble opinion

And it’s all multiplied by 10.

The sum of €41,000 is also recorded for mileage and subsistence (up ten grand from previous) for directors. This is €41,000 of expenses.

Interestingly, there is good attendance at meetings, but with this kind of stipend per meeting why wouldn’t there be?

Charities and your local credit unions are forbidden from paying their directors any fees so why should RTÉ?

Why, in receipt of €179,100,000 from taxpayers, should RTÉ be allowed pay a multi-millionaire €3,100 to attend a meeting? And, repeat it, month after month for 10 meetings a year?

A hospital would never get away with that.

Also, Aengus MacGrianna is the staff representative on the board, and gets this €1,600 (aka a €16k annual top-up.) Why is this coming from RTÉ? Why isn’t his union paying it?

Perhaps the Broadsheet commentariat could decide the answer to this and my other questions between yourselves. But do let me know the outcome.

Vanessa Foran is a principle at Recovery Partners.  Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @vef_pip

Earlier: Muck And Brass