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.