MIONTUAIRISC NA FIANAISE
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Máirt, 2 Nollaig, 1980
Tuesday, 2 December, 1980
RADIO TELEFÍS ÉIREANN
Mr. Patrick J. Moriarty, Chairman; Mr. George T. Waters, Director-General; Mr. T. Vincent Finn, Deputy Director-General; Mr. Robert K. Gahan, Assistant Director-General; Mr. Gerard O’Brien, Financial Controller; Mr. Conor B. Sexton, Director of Personnel and Mr. Brian MacAongusa, Assistant to Director-General, of Radio Telefís Éireann, called and further examined.
Chairman.—We were dealing with advertising on the last occasion.
72. Senator Cooney.—There are a couple of further points on this subject. Statutorily, you are limited in the amount of advertising you may use. Are you using the full 10 per cent of your permitted time?
Mr. Waters—Yes, on RTE 1. On RTE 2 we are using about 65 per cent of the permitted time. On Radio 1, there is 100 per cent and about 80 per cent on Radio 2.
Mr. Gahan.—By arrangement with the Minister, we are permitted to exercise some freedom. We can go to the 7½ minutes maximum provided that overall we do not exceed 10 per cent of viewing time.
73. Senator Cooney.—At the end of a film, one will see a long list of names of people and their titles, running for half a minute or so, names that do not mean anything to the average viewer. Could that not be regarded as advertising?
Mr. Moriarty.—That is a good question.
Mr. Waters.—We have some obligations to the suppliers of our material. I am not sure of the actual arrangements but we have an obligation to show data at the beginning and end of, for instance, a feature film.
74. Senator Cooney.—What about home productions?
Mr. Waters.—There the credits are shorter.
Mr. Finn.—Before and after a theatre or film programme there are conventional lists of credits. Sometimes viewers of television programmes like to know who was responsible for lighting, costumes and so on. Even if the practice were discontinued, I do not think it would be a great help from the point of view of the advertising quota. There is still the statutory limitation. The only limit, of course, is the shortage of time.
75. Senator Cooney.—What does television advertising cost?
Mr. Finn.—We have figures for peak time advertising. The most popular segment is half a minute. Taking a time, from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m., Monday to Friday, the basic air time cost is £582, but surcharges may have to be added, 10% to 30% per 30 seconds.
76. Chairman.—The fact that you do not have 100 per cent of the advertising time taken up, is that because people do not take certain times, that they are not popular?
Mr. Waters.—Of course, peak times are more popular. I do not think we would want any additional advertising time— the 10 per cent is enough. If you put in more advertising time it would likely become intolerable. In the States they break every three or four minutes.
77. Deputy Deasy.—I should like to know something about specific advertisements. You have phased out tobacco and cigarette advertising and you are on the way to phasing out alcohol advertising. Can you tell us the exact schedule?
Mr. Moriarty.—The Authority have taken a decision to phase out advertising of beer. Spirits are not being advertised. At our last meeting we decided to review this in 12 months in the light of an educational programme which the Irish Brewers Association have promised. We have a much stricter code of advertising practice than UTV or the English network have. The brewers are at the moment developing a more responsible approach, in their view, to advertising. It is being discussed with the Health Education Bureau, with the Department of Health and the Irish Council for Alcoholism. We have decided to pause, to see what the outcome of all that will be. There is not general agreement on the effects of advertising alcoholic beverages, on TV in particular, on drinking habits. A recent report from the ESRI suggested that ceasing to advertise might not be in the overall interests of the country. There are many aspects to it which we would like to review again. The basic decision has been made to phase it out. The Authority intend to review this in a year’s time in the light of the developments which will have taken place and of the promise which has been made by the Irish Brewers Association that they are interested in promoting a responsible approach to the drinking of their product. This would be combined with an educational programme in relation to the dangers of alcoholism. The package which they would produce would be acceptable to the Department of Health, the Health Education Bureau and the Irish Council for Alcoholism. We believe when all that has been done, the Authority should look at it.
78. Deputy Deasy.—Could you tell us exactly what has happened so far? Has advertising been phased out completely?
Mr. Moriarty.—It has not been phased out but RTE have developed in the interim period which remains before it is phased out, a very strict code of practice in relation to the content of advertising on television. I will ask the Assistant Director General to give details of it if you wish to have more details. The whole approach to it is that it should be far more responsible and be less glamourous in relation to the portrayal of drink and the environment. It is a far stricter code than is applied in Northern Ireland by UTV, which is available to about 60 per cent of the people.
79. Deputy Deasy.—There seems to be a toning down of advertising rather than a phasing out. Is that correct?
Mr. Waters.—The new code came into operation at the beginning of this year. It is far stricter than anything we have ever had or than any of the other organisations have. Mr. Gahan can give you details of it.
Mr. Gahan.—This code which has applied fully from the beginning of this year, is really a development of what we have been attempting to do over a number of years. We have been concerned about avoiding an appeal to youth, so people appearing on advertisements must be at least 25 years of age. They must be reasonably representative of all adult age groups. In the past, you will recall, we tended to see mainly young people enjoying themselves. Advertisements must not feature making heroes of the young. Direct association of drink with sport or sporting activities is unacceptable.
Incidentally, the first phasing out of alcoholic drink we did was to remove it from all afternoon sports outside broadcasts. It was a feature some years ago of all-Ireland finals. Advertisements must not suggest that alcoholic drink is the direct automatic or only reward for success and work well done. Only one sequence is allowed where people are shown drinking alcoholic drink. There must be a mixture of people drinking and not drinking. We are also watching music which can make up for visual effects. There is quite a range of regulations which we believe are being obeyed very well by Irish industry. We have prepared on the executive side, for the information of our Authority, who are watching this, tapes to compare——
Chairman.—I will interrupt you here because we are moving into programming now. We are only dealing with advertising from the point of view of income. When we are dealing with programming you could deal with the content of advertising.
80. Deputy Deasy.—In the phasing out has your income from advertising been reduced?
Mr. Waters.—No, not so far because the number of advertisements is still the same except in relation to the afternoon sports advertising but we manage to fill those gaps with other advertising.
81. Senator Hillery.—In the light of your desire to reduce advertising to a maximum of 45 per cent of your total revenue, what steps are you taking in the long term to lessen your dependence on advertising?
Mr. Moriarty.—The Authority do not have a policy for lessening dependence on advertising revenue. RTE are set up to get approximately 50 per cent of their revenue from licence fees and the other 50 per cent from advertising. We do not propose to make any drastic change in that. There is nothing wrong in being dependent on advertising. I see nothing wrong in being dependent on advertising for the major portion of our revenue. As the Director General explained a while ago we have not quite filled up the quota we are permitted to have. The maximum we would be allowed would be 10 per cent across radio and television advertising. We have not quite filled that yet. We would be quite happy if we filled it.
Mr. Waters.—One of the difficulties in arranging broadcasting in a country with a population as low as ours is that you cannot expect to derive all your revenue from licence fees; otherwise they would be more than double what they are now. You have, therefore, to rely on other sources of income and advertising is the traditional one. From our point of view, it has worked very well for us over the years. We have been able to budget our income to plus or minus 5 per cent. If we could budget our income from licence fees with the same accuracy, we would be able to do much better. We find advertising a very good way of producing revenue. We do not feel that we should in any way reduce advertising.
82. Senator Cooney.—Do I gather that there is not much room for any significant increase in the level of advertising.
83. Senator Cooney.—I have been reading the various consultancy reports. The National Prices Commission suggested that there might be some room for improvement and maximising income from advertising by adjustments to the rate card and closer co-ordination between television and radio advertising sales departments to possibly make the rates a bit more sophisticated than those based on the three viewing times—the A, B and C times in the current rate card. Have you looked at that general area with a view to increasing revenue?
Mr. Waters.—We have. We are still looking at the whole question of advertising. For instance, the cost per thousand viewers to the advertiser in the Republic is much less than it is in Northern Ireland and certainly a lot less than it is in commercial companies in Great Britain. We try and sell packages, which is what the Prices Commission were saying, for both radio and television. We are doing this with some success.
84. Senator Cooney.—Have you actually started to do that?
Mr. Waters.—We have been doing it.
Mr. Gahan.—The present rate card is a very much more complicated one than we have had in the past. It is what is termed a pre-empt rate card and it is based on a Dutch auction system, whereby an advertiser, who is prepared to pay at a higher rate up to a certain period before transmission can, in fact, obtain the more popular spot. At its peak, this adds up to 50 per cent to the value of an individual segment. That has been in operation for two years and it is at its most sophisticated this year and will add most significantly to the value of our earnings from advertising. This is contained in our submission.
85. Deputy Deasy.—If you had to remove drink advertising completely, would it mean a drop in revenue from advertising or could you fill the void by advertisements from other sources?
Mr. Waters.—The answer in the short term is yes. It is problematic as to whether or not we could fill it in the long term, as we do not know. We hope that we would fill some of it. In the short term we would certainly lose revenue.
86. Deputy Deasy.—Have you got a figure for it as a percentage of your revenue?
Mr. Gahan.—It is 7 per cent of the revenue but it is not quite as simple as that. The advertising of alcoholic drink tends to be largely seasonal. It is strongly advertised during the summer when the general pattern of advertising is lowered. We tend to have a pattern of demand, with this time of the year being the time of highest demand. We could replace alcoholic drink advertising lost now in December, but we could not replace it across the summer months. It represents about 7 per cent and I suggest that we would lose about 4 per cent of the total.
87. Deputy Deasy.—Who determines your code of ethics when it comes to advertising?
88. Chairman.—I think that is actually dealing with the programming. I think we should move back to finance. Obviously, you have a problem about finance, in particular about the capital expenditure. To what extent have you considered or do you consider leasing as a solution to that problem?
Mr. Moriarty.—Leasing is one of the options we have considered. We are planning at the moment to extend the television block and one of the options we considered there, was the sale and lease-back arrangement which is quite normal in the office accommodation situation. In that particular case we did not come down in favour of it because we thought it was more expensive than other financing methods available. The members of the Committee seemed to be concerned on the last occasion that RTE would be put in a financial straitjacket by having to comply with the statutory requirement to repay the capital advances which we receive from the Exchequer and made a suggestion that if we did not have this obligation and if this amount of money borrowed from the Exchequer became equity capital, it would give RTE far more flexibility and more financial stability than it has at present. To clarify and summarise the views we expressed on the last occasion, we would like to put on record that it is our belief that the net effect of the arrangement to repay capital Exchequer loans, over a 30 year period, is not likely to be serious or have a serious effect on the finances of RTE. Our total Exchequer borrowing at 31 December this year is about £18 million and the proportion of capital repayment involved in that in the current year would be £93,000, which is a mere 0.2 per cent of our total turnover. In ten years time the capital proportion would be about £340,000, which would still be less than 0.5 per cent of our estimated total turnover. So, it would not be a great burden.
The other view we would like to express in relation to that aspect of it is that the broadcasting legislation has stated that RTE acts as a trustee in the public interest. We think there is a great independence in paying your way totally in a commercial way. We think that for any organisation there is tremendous self-confidence and discipline, perhaps, and motivation in having continuously to pay your way. We would see these as very important aspects of whether that amount of money is regarded as equity. It could very easily be represented that it was a hand out from the tax payers, a subsidy from the Government which private enterprise does not get. We feel rather strongly about that. The Broadcasting Review Committee in its 1974 recommendations said that RTE should be free to borrow within the amount provided by legislation either from the Exchequer or any other source but that all borrowing should be on commercial terms and should include provision for the repayment of capital. This is the principle on which RTE is based and which we would like to see retained. The reality of it all is that at the end of the day we believe there would be no financial advantage to RTE from not having to repay that capital or having to pay reduced interest on it. What happens in fact when we seek an increase in licence fees is that what comes in on one side goes out on the other and it is tailored to a strict interpretation of section 24 at present. The saving to RTE would not provide us with any more money.
The other point that members of the Committee were worried about was the level of licence fees arising from the present arrangement. It was suggested that there had been an increase in absolute terms and in real terms. In fact, the black and white licence fee was £7.50 in November 1971. The real value of that today is £8 at 1971 prices. Likewise the colour television licence was £15 when it was introduced in 1973. The real value of that today in terms of CPI is £16. There has been a minimal increase in real terms in licence fees while a tremendous expansion of broadcasting has taken place in that period. There has been a second television channel and a second radio channel and a tremendous increase in the amount of home-produced material. We think that in relation to our finances the immediate key issue is to get rid of the 22 per cent evasion of TV licences. That is the immediate big issue. There is £6 million involved in that which would work wonders for the finances of RTE. We think the more long-term issue is a more liberal interpretation of section 24 which would enable RTE to be totally self-financing, by interpreting section 24 to allow it all running expenses and an amount to provide for the financing of capital expansion in RTE. That is the long-term and lasting solution—the liberal interpretation of section 24 to ensure that licence fees approved would provide sufficient income to operate the system and to fund capital developments. Our great difficulty at the moment is the uncertainty about the interpretation of section 24 and the delay, the time it takes to get an increase in licence fees.
89. Chairman.—You mentioned the repayments over a number of years—were those based on the £18 million?
90. Chairman.—But did they include the capital expenditure you propose to incur in the next few years?
91. Chairman.—We probably would consider that you could deal with the £18 million, but on the other hand you told us of plans for quite considerable expansion and we would like to be convinced that you are also able to deal with that. Perhaps, without going into the details now, would it be possible to give us a table showing on the one hand the approximate capital expenditure you intend to incur over the next three or four years and on the other hand what that would cost, what you would have to repay over the period in which you normally do repay, and let us see if the table looks a reasonable one, one within your capability of repayment?
Mr. Moriarty.—To give a very short answer to that question, we will certainly submit the table with full details of what we intend by way of capital development over the next five to ten years and how the repayment of that would look in terms of our overall financial position. On our present £18 million the maximum repayment on that would come to 0.5 per cent of our revenue in ten years time. The capital expenditure we are forecasting and planning at the moment, the maximum repayment of that would bring that element of our costs up to 4 per cent of our income which we believe is well within the commercial limits of our ability to self-finance. That is the short answer but we will give the Committee facts and figures supporting that.
92. Deputy B. Desmond.—I am a little perturbed at the lack of precision. Largely due to a lack of time on the last day I did not find out the alternative methods of collecting the licence fee. There is £6 million outstanding and the current system, by any assessment, over a long period has been entirely unsatisfactory. Yet, we have not had a hard proposition from you about the alternatives. It has been suggested, for example, that there should be one common commencement date for all licence fees. Various propositions have been put up about quarterly payments, or that the collection of the licence fee should be taken from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and so on. I am worried that the Authority has not said: “This system is crazy, it is costing the Exchequer 8 per cent to collect the licence fee in terms of administration” and so on. Comment?
Chairman.—We dealt with that fairly comprehensively on the last day.
Deputy B. Desmond.—I did not fix my mind on an alternative.
Chairman.—Could we have a brief reply because I had hoped that question had been dealt with sufficiently on the last day.
Mr. Moriarty.—The great desire of the Authority in terms of public accountability would be that RTE be given full responsibility to collect this money and be held accountable for it, and for the efficiency with which they collect the money and use it.
93. Deputy B. Desmond.—Would RTE carry out the entire operation if they had the opportunity?
Mr. Moriarty.—Yes. That would be the ideal situation and then RTE could be held accountable for it. RTE could not be moaning and groaning to somebody else then about the effectiveness of another concern collecting licence fees. I am a realist and I can see that it would take a long time to bring that about. Legislation would be necessary to transfer the power to issue a licence from the Minister to a State agency. Secondly, negotiations would have to take place with trade unions and many others who have an interest in this matter. Negotiations would have to take place with the sub-postmasters who are now getting a commission from the Post Office. That would all take a long time. Rather than go for the ideal, we say that in the short term the solution is to make the present process more efficient by having a continuous follow-up for licences. A special unit should be set up to attach equal priority to this matter every week of the year and not, as at present, making a wild rush at this a few times a year. We believe that RTE should have some joint management of responsibility on an informal basis with the Post Office. We have a whole lot of ideas on how this system could be more effective, through instalment arrangements, by payment through banks, savings stamps or having the collection system done by computers. A lot of procedural steps could be taken to make it easier for people to pay, to make it easier to collect the licence fee and identify those who do not pay. There is an ideal way and there is a practical way of dealing with this matter immediately.
94. Senator Cooney.—Mr. Moriarty was asked about the use of leasing and he mentioned that one of the sources of capital was the use of suppliers’ credit. There is a very big figure in the accounts and that suggests to us that he is getting very long credit from lots of people. That in turn prompts the question: How much is it costing?
Mr. Moriarty.—In the equipment supply business it is normal practice when one invites tenders for the supply of equipment to seek proposals for finance arrangements also. It is not a question of awarding a contract to a Mr. X or to firm X and then looking for credit terms. It is a question of a total package of a supply price and credit terms. Suppliers’ terms tend to be long. RTE, the ESB or anybody else would not have any interest in them if they were not for a reasonably long period, up to eight or nine years.
Mr. O’Brien.—Seven or eight years.
Mr. Moriarty.—That is the norm. It is not that we are looking for extra credit. They are financing proposals that people put to RTE and to every other company that is buying major capital equipment at any time. One is not captive when one gets these proposals, because they are part of the total tendering situation.
95. Senator Keating.—Does the bulk of that originate outside Ireland?
96. Senator Keating.—Is the package designed at the beginning by the supplying company?
Mr. Waters.—Yes. We get much better interest terms in relation to equipment from firms in Great Britain than from firms in Germany.
97. Senator Cooney.—Does the figure in your accounts for credit refer to that type of credit on supply?
Mr. Moriarty.—Most of those credits are underwritten by export promotion financial institutions of those countries and they tend to be cheaper than going to commercial banks here.
98. Chairman.—You did mention the sale and lease back of buildings but in general I should like to know, do you take much of your equipment on lease?
Mr. Waters.—Very little.
99. Chairman.—Is it nearly all bought?
100. Chairman.—Is there any scope in regard to leasing?
Mr. Waters.—We use all the scope we can in relation to leasing and we make use of whatever export incentives there are in the country we buy from. By and large we buy our equipment. One of the difficulties recently was the fluctuation in foreign currencies. If one buys from Germany—the situation in relation to Great Britain is now more serious—the fluctuation in currency can, in the heel of the hunt, increase the cost.
Mr. Finn.—A good deal of our capital expenditure in recent years has been buildings. It is not possible to get this short-term facility we have been talking about, for such transactions.
101. Senator Hillery.—On the question of depreciation I should like to know, do the sums allowed make proper allowance for the true cost of replacement of assets?
Mr. Waters.—No, they do not. We do not apply current cost accounting yet to depreciation.
102. Senator Hillery.—When do you plan to introduce it?
Mr. Waters.—We probably will have to introduce it in 1980-81.
Mr. O’Brien.—SSAP 16 which is not really full cost accounting, will be introduced in 1980-81 but it is really for information purposes rather than the main accounts. It is open to argument whether licence fees, advertising rates and so on, are related to depreciation that would be shown up by the application of SSAP 16, which is the new standard of depreciation rates. If that were applied to RTE there would be a substantial increase in the charge for depreciation which would bring it nearer the replacement value of the assets being wasted and consumed in the business now. There may be a question on this in relation to the acceptance of the current cost accounting principle in the public service generally. That might come up. It was raised once before when there was an exposure draft on the subject in 1978 but the Department indicated that no provision could be made in the current licence application at that time for CCA until it had found general acceptance in the public service.
103. Senator Cooney.—If you had introduced it for a number of years past, would the financial outturn have been worse?
Mr. O’Brien.—It would depend on the level of revenue we were able to raise, obviously.
104. Senator Cooney.—Would there be more pressure for a licence fee increase?
Mr. Moriarty.—Yes, there would, but then again we would have to borrow less money.
Senator Cooney.—We will leave the books as they are.
105. Chairman.—How did it arise that you received interest of £500,000 in 1979?
Mr. Moriarty.—That was the year of the postal strike. We were not able to get invoices from anybody to pay bills and we had a lot of cash on hands. Our financial controller placed all this money on short-term borrowings where the maximum amount of interest was earned.
106. Chairman.—It was not a question of borrowing from the Government?
Mr. Moriarty.—No. It was a short-term situation.
107. Senator Hillery.—In regard to programme costs, you have a serious problem in relation to home production. How do you account for major increases in costs?
Mr. Moriarty.—I will leave it to my colleagues to deal with that in detail. All I will say about it is that there has been tremendous expansion in the activities of RTE. From my examination of the figures I would say that the cost increases that have occurred have been considerably less proportionately to increased output.
108. Chairman.—We have figures that suggest that the cost of making a home production of an hour’s duration is considerably higher now than it was in 1975. Would you like to comment?
Mr. O’Brien.—There are two factors. One is that the increase in the total amount of money allocated to television programmes, the big element, in 1977-78 was almost £3,000 for an hour’s programme on average. I have not converted these figures to real terms. I have figures to show that the real cost per hour of output in 1980 was 14 per cent higher than in 1976-77, that is one calculation of the total number of hours divided by the money allocated for these hours. In a period of four years the increase has been 14 per cent.
Mr. Moriarty.—We have a number of statistics which we can set out in the form of a memorandum for the Committee, if you wish to have it, in addition to the figures Mr. O’Brien has given. However, I should like to put a few typical figures to you.
109. Chairman.—We do not want to go too deeply into the figures. There are four figures here which make it clear that in 1975 there were 1,368 home produced programme hours and that has gone up to 1,810 and that the cost has gone up from £7 million to £11.5 million. That suggests there has been a substantial increase in the cost per hour. Would you like to comment on that?
Mr. Waters.—The average cost of a programme hour depends entirely on the mix of home productions. It can cost as little as £2,000 or as much as £10,000 or even £20,000. The average cost depends considerably on the mix of programmes in any schedule. In relation to programmes which we might have increased in number, for instance, current affairs programmes which we now have four times weekly, “Today Tonight”, the cost per programme has gone down. We are doing more of these programmes per year and accordingly the unit cost per programme goes down because there are a lot of common costs associated with such a programme. Therefore we will find that the real cost has gone down. In relation to the programmes we talked about last week, high cost productions like “Strumpet City”, there the costs are high, because the real cost is related entirely to quality.
Chairman.—You may be able to give us further figures by way of a memorandum.
110. Senator Cooney.—I should like to discuss The RTE Guide, which has been showing a continuing loss, notwithstanding the fact that it seems to have all the advantages that should help it to make a substantial profit. The editorial matter in it is very small, nearly all home produced, it has a captive market, and the sales have rocketed in the past year. One would have thought that therefore there would have been a substantial profit. What is wrong with it?
Mr. Moriarty.—The RTE Authority would share your view that The RTE Guide should be profitable. We are happy to say that in the current year it is expected to break even.
Mr. Waters.—Probably, the difficulty in relation to The RTE Guide is that the cover price always has been too low for a glossy weekly magazine of its kind. We have had one price increase from 15p to 20p and that will bring it on to a reasonable financial basis so that by the end of the year it will break even. At present we are just about breaking even.
Mr. Gahan.—The Senator said The RTE Guide has all the ingredients for profit but does not appear to have generated it. That is because it has experienced the same problems most print media have experienced in past years, increases in the cost of production, the cost of paper. We have held our cover price. It was not such a popular advertising medium for a long time; we did a lot of work on it to promote it as an advertising medium, and its advertising income has been trebled. It has a very high production content; it is all home produced. There is considerably more work in producing it than, say, some of the women’s magazines of comparable size.
Mr. Gahan.—Because of the short deadlines. It must be accurate with programme information. There are now two television and radio services and it must be of value to its users who are primarily people who do not buy morning or evening newspapers. Therefore it must be accurate up to Monday evening, and it is printed on Tuesday night. There is a high labour content. We have had paper price increases in the past year which brought us back down each time we had got over the hump.
Mr. Moriarty.—We do not want to appear to be defensive about it. It is our objective to make it a profitable venture. We believe it to be fairly solidly based now and that it can be made into a profitable venture.
112. Senator Cooney.—In the Stokes Kennedy Crowley report it is stated that the circulation in 1979 increased by 36.4 per cent over the previous year, that advertising increased by 57.2 per cent. I find it hard to take the point that the reason it is so expensive to produce is that it must be accurate about programme information. I get the impression that there is a last minute rush to check what the programmes for the coming week will be. I would have imagined that the programmes would be known more in advance. Would this be so?
Mr. Waters.—The information on programmes, particularly imported programmes, is usually not available until a very short time before the Guide goes to press. Even if it is only the details of one programme, you still have to hold the Guide until the information comes. Very often programme material comes with a very short time scale in relation to the actual programme.
113. Senator Cooney.—Is this the type of programme material which would enable you to write a description of what the programme is about?
Mr. Waters.—That is right. You will probably know the title but you will not know the details.
114. Chairman.—That may mean that the editor has a headache for a time but does it explain why it is not profitable?
Mr. Waters.—No. It is one of the factors. There is a lot of last minute work to be done in relation to getting it out. In relation to the figures, whatever about the advertising increases, we are in the position where every additional copy of the Guide costs us money rather than making a profit. The price of the printing and distribution occurs in the cover cost. That is not the case any longer because we have got the cover cost increased.
115. Senator Cooney.—If it does not make a profit this year will you continue with it?
Mr. Waters.—We see it as a service to the public. Even though it makes a small loss it is still desirable to have it as an information guide for the public.
116. Senator Cooney.—There was a suggestion in the NPC report that you should switch to off-set litho printing. Is that right?
Mr. Gahan.—That has been done and as a further measure we are currently having each element of its production checked again to see if by splitting up the various elements, which it is possible to use in this process, to have it set one place, printed in another and other work done in a third place, we might improve the costing. It has been largely a victim, despite its circulation, of costs. It is currently on the right side and we are confident, by keeping the pressures on, that it will, at least, be that way at the end of the present financial year.
117. Senator Cooney.—There was also a suggestion that you might publish the timetables for the BBC and other programmes. What is your opinion about that?
Mr. Gahan.—The difficulty about that is getting copyright. There was a recommendation in the Annan Report that there should be a freeing of the copyright in BBC and IBA programmes. This has not happened. We have made separate approaches to the IBA and the BBC and they refused us permission. We agree that if we had that information in any form, it would be a great help, particularly in the Dublin and the east coast area.
118. Chairman.—It is amazing that they have refused. Surely it would be in their interest to be able to say that details of their programmes appeared in The RTE Guide and that their programmes were being watched by people in those areas?
Mr. Waters.—They publish the TV Times and the Radio Times which carry information on their programmes and they sell those magazines here. I believe that is the basic reason why they do not allow us to publish details of their programmes.
119. Chairman.—But they have nothing like your circulation. Is not that so?
Mr. Gahan.—They are jealously guarding this extra circulation. You will be aware of the Saturday night advertising of the British newspapers, which seems excessive for our market. That extra boost to circulation is very important to them.
120. Senator Cooney.—The figure for debtors in your 1979 accounts shows a big increase over the 1978 figure. Why is that?
Mr. O’Brien.—This was for the year to the end of September 1979 when, at that stage, we were at the end of the postal strike. Some of this would be debts from smaller agencies and people who are direct advertisers. There was an increase in our debtors at that time representing this particular uncollected aspect of the accounts, which accounts for approximately £0.6 million. A factor of the working capital we were talking about earlier is that the total of advertising sales in 1979, purely from the increase in sales alone, added £0.7 million to the debtors based on the same number of days credit at the end of the year as against the previous year. There were some other small factors in the general number of debtors. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs owed us £170,000 in connection with licence fees. This was actually a balance in relation to the payments which are made in advance on foot of the full licence collection.
There were a few other small items, one of which was film rental advance payments to companies against contracts not actually executed of roughly £100,000. There was a small item of £65,000 to do with what is known as vision circuits which had increased as well. This was a volume increase in sales. The increase in debtors was £0.7 million due to a straight volume increase in our sales, £0.6 million uncollected accounts, arrears due to the postal strike and £117,000 due from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in relation to licence payments. There were some other small items as well. All the items, except the £0.7 million, were really exceptional and have since disappeared.
121. Senator Cooney.—Has it regularised itself in the 1980 accounts?
Mr. O’Brien.—Yes, it has.
122. Senator Cooney.—The Stokes Kennedy Crowley report gave forecasts for 1980 outturn. Have they been achieved?
Mr. O’Brien.—They made a forecast of a loss of £500,000.
123. Senator Cooney.—Was it not a surplus?
Mr. O’Brien.—The figures for the year ended September 1980 are not completed but we have the pre-audited figures. At the moment we are showing a small surplus, somewhere in the region of £100,000 over all taking the nett for RTE Relays. I am not too sure of the balance sheet figure for this year.
Mr. Moriarty.—The significant change from what Stokes Kennedy Crowley had was that the licence fee collection came to £300,000 less than we expected. That would have altered the figure so that instead of talking about a surplus of £500,000 we would be talking about a modest surplus of £200,000.
124. Senator Cooney.—In the 1979 accounts the total figure for travelling expenses incurred in RTE for the year ended 30 September 1979 was £2,853,296. I am sure there is a very good reason for such a huge figure for travelling expenses. I am sure television and radio people have to travel a lot but nearly £3,000,000 seems a very high figure. What is the 1980 figure?
Mr. O’Brien.—It is approximately 25 per cent higher, which is mainly due to inflation. One of the things we have to look at in relation to the accounts for the year ended 30 September 1979 is that we had almost the first full year of RTE 2 which was not included in the previous accounts. We also had four months of Radio 2, not that there was a great deal of travelling there. One also has to take into account that the cost of petrol and cars has soared. There is also the high cost of air fares. When we sent television crews abroad in 1979 it cost a lot more money than it did in the previous year. There is a big factor there for inflation. In those particular accounts for the year 1978-79 as against the previous year there must be something in the region of well up to 20 per cent, due to inflation alone. I calculated earlier when doing our budget for the year last September that the sort of inflationary factor, if we allowed it—of course we did not—would be 27 per cent.
125. Senator Cooney.—Without submerging us in figures, would it be possible to have some form of break-down of those expenses because obviously RTE will have to look at control of costs? It would be interesting to know if there is any room for trimming any of those expenses. While one has to avoid being subjective, I did hear on the radio somebody finishing a programme saying “Bye-bye now, I’m off to London to do a couple of interviews”. I do not know how valuable those interviews were or whether they could be got over the telephone or whether—
Mr. Moriarty.—We will give you a break-down but I have a few figures here. Between 1976 and 1980 continental air fares jumped. Overnight hotel charges went up both in Ireland and on the Continent. As regards subsistence, long before I had anything to do with RTE, apart from being Chairman of it, I was asked to go to Denmark for something like ten days to make a programme. The only thing I can say is that we were put up in very monastic apartments and we did not have any generous subsistence or expenses. My personal observation of RTE before I came there and since, is that the rates of subsistence and travel comply with a reasonable norm in this country. I would accept what management tell me, that there is very good control over costs, the number of people who travel and so on. Certainly, we can provide a detailed analysis of that figure which you say comes to nearly £3 million.
126. Senator Cooney.—I do not suggest that the level of subsistence is extravagant but might there be an excessive amount of travelling?
Mr. Finn.—I have just taken a quick extract of the figures for travelling in 1979 and I get the figure of £1.5 million, so perhaps we should do some analysis. We have travelling for television, travelling for radio, travelling for Raidió na Gaeltachta, travelling for transmission and engineering, travelling for sales and promotion and travelling for central services. I get the figures as travelling for television, £849,977; for radio, £243,973; for Raidió na Gaeltachta, £64,518, so that the total for Schedule I would be £1,158,468. On Schedule 2, I get travelling expenses on transmission and engineering services. £293,799; for sales, £20,047; for central services, £59,572, giving a total on that Schedule of £373,418 and a grand total of £1,531,886. So, it is not £3 million; it is about half of that, but the point is still valid. Apart from the fact that we have a lot of people who have to travel to locations, this is not as if it were just personal travel expenses but all the cost of running, operating and maintaining the entire RTE fleet, outside broadcast vehicles, reception verification vehicles, general delivery vehicles and service vehicles of all kinds. So, the figure of about £1.5 million is for travelling costs and maintenance of a large transport fleet. Of course, the Senator’s point is still valid.
Chairman.—It seems that it is something around £1.5 million. It is still a very high figure.
127. Deputy B. Desmond.—Have you any idea what the figure is in 1980, an unaudited figure?
Mr. O’Brien.—I think we should include that information in the break-down.
128. Deputy B. Desmond.—Can you show also whether it is up or down?
Mr. Waters.—It will certainly be up. I would think about 20 per cent.
Chairman.—If there is nothing further on finance we can move to staff.
129. Senator Hillery.—Could I begin by asking about manning levels? It seems from the figures before us that staff in RTE has increased by about 40 per cent between 1975 and 1980. Are you worried about this growth in staff members?
Mr. Waters.—No. We must realise there has been a growth in services in that time. We had the second television service, the second radio service. We have extended the hours of Raidió na Gaeltachta. I think we also introduced community radio in that period. There has been a tremendous growth in activity in the organisation. By and large, our manning levels compare extremely well with other broadcasting organisations. Generally, we are not overstaffed.
Mr. Moriarty.—If you compare 1977 with 1979, radio was increased by 146 per cent, Raidió na Gaeltachta by 54 per cent and television by 69 per cent. All that increase was absorbed by whatever staff changes have taken place. We can give comparative figures to show how we compare on various indices with other broadcasting organisations and by and large, our position from a manpower-productivity point of view.
130. Senator Cooney.—Are you up to the maximum number of personnel now?
Mr. Waters.—We have less than our establishment because we stopped recruiting.
Mr. Sexton.—We are down about 50 on the approved establishment.
131. Senator Hillery.—What is your full establishment?
Mr. Sexton.—It would be about 2,350 excluding RTE Relays but we are not doing any external recruitment at present.
Mr. Waters.—It might be interesting to look at some figures from other broadcasting organisations. Denmark have 60 per cent more staff than we have and they have only one television service. Finland has 50 per cent more. Norway has 40 per cent—I am trying to take countries that are perhaps equivalent to ours. Sweden has 210 per cent more; Switzerland 40 per cent more and Turkey has 25 per cent more. One would have to look at all the services those organisations provide in order to draw a comparison but, by and large, I am sure our staff numbers are well within reason.
132. Senator Cooney.—Have you any policy for trying to reduce staff? Wages is your biggest single item of expenditure.
Mr. Waters.—We have benefited from the economies of scale. In introducing new services we did not have to increase the staff proportionately. We have had to use the existing staff more productively but there are relatively few areas in which productivity can be introduced.
133. Senator Cooney.—The National Prices Commission on the question of reducing staff, mentioned that the production of a record programme on radio currently calls for a producer, a sound operator and a presenter, but there are operator-controlled consoles in RTE which would allow the presenter to carry out all three functions himself. Are there many areas like that where there are more people doing the job than are really necessary?
Mr. Waters.—In relation to the introduction of Radio 2, the second service, the operational procedures are quite different from Radio 1, mostly due to the nature of the programming we do on the new station. However, we do have the operator consoles in operation and that would reduce the staffing requirements.
134. Senator Cooney.—Do you hope through natural wastage to move to a similar situation on Radio 1?
Mr. Waters.—The programming on Radio 1 is quite different from Radio 2. The preparation of programmes and so on requires more input than for Radio 2. I doubt if there is much scope for reduction on Radio 1. There may be one or two areas where it may be possible to get some reductions but they would not be that substantial.
135. Senator Hillery.—It has been represented to the Committee that there is an excessive number of producers, that a number of them are becoming plateaued. Is this so?
Mr. Waters.—In television we have an increase of 50 per cent in home originated programmes since the introduction of RTE 2. In comparison with 1975 there has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of producers. The output per producer is nearly the same. In radio, on the other hand, the number of producers has increased by 32 per cent and the number of home produced hours has increased by 100 per cent, because of the nature of the type of programme we are doing. The answer to the question is that we do not have an excessive number of producers. All the producers in the organisation are now nearly fully occupied.
136. Senator Cooney.—Have you a full complement of producers now?
Mr. Waters.—We may have one or two vacancies.
137. Chairman.—What was the staff figure you gave earlier?
Mr. Waters.—It was 2,350.
Mr. Sexton.—In connection with producers it should be noted that the volume of the work producers have to do will vary depending on the schedule. The nature of the schedule we are now running on RTE 1 and RTE 2 is such as to keep all producers fully occupied. The demands in some areas are very intense. I am thinking of programmes like “TodayTonight” which runs four nights a week with some studio productions and some film productions. Such programmes make heavy demands on the producer corps. Those who did plateau in recent years have been fully reactivated again in less pressurised departments, such as agriculture or religious programmes. We have great difficulty in covering all our requirements.
138. Deputy B. Desmond.—As a result of the 1978 change in structure in RTE there is now a Director General with a Deputy Director General and an Assistant Director General immediately under him. In terms of the organisation chart I should like to know the precise functions of the Deputy Director General and the Assistant Director General. On either side of the Director General one would normally expect a Deputy Director General. In the case of RTE can you tell us how that structure came about and the functions of both people? There is nothing personal in the request for this information.
Mr. Waters.—The directorate general work together but the Deputy Director General tends to take responsibility for the output divisions, the television programme division, the news division and the facilities that go with them. The Assistant Director General takes responsibility for the service divisions, engineering, sales, personnel and financial control. That is a method of lessening the load on any individual. I take direct responsibility for radio programmes and Raidió na Gaeltachta, as well as the corporate activities in the organisation.
139. Deputy B. Desmond.—How many assistants are there to the Director General?
Mr. Waters.—There are three at present and they all have specific functions.
140. Deputy B. Desmond.—What are their functions?
Mr. Waters.—One of the assistants to the Director General takes responsibility for corporate planning, management services and our computer unit. The second one, Brian MacAongusa who has just returned from a spell as Ceannaire of Raidió na Gaeltachta, has taken up responsibility in relation to commercial developments within the organisation which, hopefully, in the long term will help us to produce more finance. The third assistant to the Director General is responsible at the moment for educational development.
141. Deputy B. Desmond.—Presumably, the Authority defines the areas and I should like to know how effective the system is. It was said that the Authority felt there was a great need for improvement in the overall top structure. Can you say if that change in the structure is effective?
Mr. Moriarty.—In the radio-television programme areas a reorganisation was carried out last year with very definite objectives. We see the organisation now as very satisfactory. The main tasks of the organisation have been clearly identified. Responsibility has been assigned to various individuals and they are all reporting directly to the Director General, who is responsible to the Authority. It is an effective organisation structure. In any organisation structure it is possible to have models of the relationships between the board and the different structures within that organisation. Ours is a fairly standard organisation structure. More important than the organisation structure is the type, ability and competence of the persons in it. The Authority is quite satisfied with them all. We do not have any criticism of the system and we would not like to bring any major changes about in the structure.
142. Deputy B. Desmond.—Has the structure now settled down?
Mr. Moriarty.—There are a few posts to be filled. The Secretary to the Authority was promoted recently to Assistant Controller of TV Programmes and his job has been advertised. In the reorganisation which took place earlier this year, we provided a post of Director of Television Production. That job has been advertised. It has not been filled yet. The reorganisation has settled down totally.
143. Deputy B. Desmond.—On the matter of inter-staff communication, the Director of News, for example, reports directly to the Deputy Director General who in turn reports to the DG. Is that line of operation deemed to be satisfactory?
Mr. Moriarty.—Though you can represent such formal lines of communication on an organisation chart, far more important are the informal relations and communications that take place in an organisation. By modern standards RTE is not a big organisation. The bulk of the 2,000 people is located in the one site in Donnybrook. In such a situation there can be far more informal relationships and knowledge of what is happening in the place. You could not represent that adequately on an organisation chart.
144. Deputy B. Desmond.—In terms of liaison between the divisional directors—the Head of Production Facilities with 500 staff, the Director of Engineering with a staff of 600, the Director of TV Programmes with 345, and then the two big divisions in radio—how is the liaison maintained? Is there a middle management consultative structure?
Mr. Waters.—Yes. We have a number of corporate committees within the organisation which meet regularly to discuss topics which apply to them. First of all, there is the senior management committee consisting of me, as Chairman, the Deputy Director General, the Assistant Director General and all the divisional heads. We meet once every fortnight. There is an editorial committee, which I chair, which meets every Friday morning, attended by the Deputy Director General and the heads responsible for programming. There is another editorial meeting under the chairmanship of the Deputy Director General on Tuesday morning to review current affairs programmes. There is a manpower committee, a finance committee which meet regularly, a television development committee, which includes the Director of Engineering, the Head of Production Facilities and the Director of Television Programmes. There is a radio development committee which includes the Director of Radio Programmes, the Director of Engineering and the Head of Facilities in radio. There are several committees throughout the organisation.
145. Deputy B. Desmond.—To what extent are producers involved up line, so to speak?
Mr. Waters.—They are represented by their Controllers or the Director of Television Programmes.
146. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is that adequate?
Mr. Waters.—I think it is. There are other relationships between the Controllers. The Controllers will meet their producers in RTE 1 or RTE 2, or Radio 1 or 2. There is adequate consultation at that level. I should like to give some figures which were asked for earlier. In 1975-76, the hours per producer on radio was 110, in 1980-81 it is 169 on average on home produced programmes. On television, 197576 the number of hours was 19 per producer. In 1980-81 it is still 19. That does not mean that each producer does 19 hours— it is an average; some might produce only four or five hours a year, but others would produce far more. On average, the number of hours per producer has not changed very much. The Director of Television Programmes is an ex-producer; the Controller of Programmes in RTE 1 is an ex-producer; the Controller of Programmes in RTE 2 is an ex-producer; the Controller of Programmes in Radio 1 is an ex-producer, and in Radio 2; the present head of Raidió na Gaeltachta is a producer and broadcaster.
147. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is there a plateauing at a certain level?
Mr. Waters.—I would not accept that at all. All of the people I have been talking about are very active, creative people, and I do not think there is any question of them plateauing.
148. Senator Cooney.—On the question of productivity, you have given us figures for producers, but with regard to staff levels generally, in 1975 there were 1,600 and in 1979 it was 2,200 odd. There were 1,370 home produced hours in 1975 and 1,810 such hours in 1979. Would that suggest there have not been economies in scale in relation to home produced hours, indeed that there has been a slight disimprovement?
Mr. Waters.—In relation to overall staff, there is considerable productivity. A lot of the support services cover the two television channels and the two radio services. We have installed a second network for Radio 2 and for RTE 2. We have extended the number of our transmitters considerably, but the staff in that area has been increased by only 18 per cent. Not only do they still maintain the transmitters, but they installed the whole network. That could be done because of the increased productivity of that staff.
149. Senator Cooney.—Have you any difficulty with what I might call restrictive practices—that certain people might not do certain things?
Mr. Waters.—There is always that problem. In any organisation one cares to examine, there are always grievances in regard to trade union conditions that certain people will do certain tasks and that others cannot.
150. Chairman.—Would it not be less acceptable in the case of RTE? Most restrictive practices have grown up over many years and are understandable for that reason. RTE is a relatively new organisation with relatively new techniques, and one would hope that restrictive practices would not grow to the same extent.
Mr. Moriarty.—That could be expected, but television broadcasting had been in existence across the water long before RTE came on the scene, and the practice of manning and all that sort of thing had been well established. What is happening here is not very different. Many of our people were recruited from that area. We started in a given field as to how we would structure our manpower in regard to equipment which was standard world wide.
Mr. Waters.—Another important aspect is that the change in technology in television since we started our service has been tremendous. We have gone from a monochrome service to a coloured service. The equipment has all changed from the initial valve type equipment. There have been tremendous changes in technology. I do not think our restrictive practices are any worse than those of anybody else. In fact, I believe we do not have the same problems as many other people have.
151. Senator Cooney.—Have you ever quantified them as to how many heads of staff would be involved surplus to your real needs?
Mr. Waters.—I do not think we have ever tried to put it into that precise form because obviously it will vary from area to area. I do not think it would be excessive. Perhaps the Director of Personnel might have something to say about it.
Mr. Sexton.—We do not really have a serious problem of restrictive practices in the organisation. We employ a lot of traditional crafts in RTE. We employ carpenters, painters and electricians. They jealously guard their crafts exactly the same way as they have done in all sorts of other industries. Broadcasting is no different in that sense. We could not get a carpenter to paint a set or if we could we would have a walk out of painters. Likewise, we could not get a carpenter to do electrical work. If that is the kind of restrictions you are referring to then we certainly have them. They are accepted as legitimate craft protection procedures. In the broadcasting service generally we do not have any serious problem of restrictive practices. The number of additional staff that would be employed as a result of this would be minimal.
152. Chairman.—You are not generating a new area of restrictive practices.
Mr. Waters.—No. We are in negotiation all the time with various staff bodies to improve matters and also to introduce new equipment. The technology is changing and there are opportunities for different types of activities. We are in negotiation almost continuously.
Mr. Sexton.—The Director General touched on a point which I should amplify. He referred to the transmitter area. We have a situation there where technicians do operational work, maintenance work and installation work. There is tremendous flexibility involved in that sort of operation, which we could not really have planned to have ten years ago. We have it now and we have it for over four years. Consoles were mentioned in the report. It was felt some years ago we could do this sort of thing and eliminate a sound operator. We are doing it and a sound operator has been eliminated from that area of work where it is possible to drop him because of the nature of the programming. We have restrictive practices in the sense that you cannot use anybody other than a journalist for a certain type of work. We accept that this is a legitimate position and people have to be trained for specific needs. We try to train people for the particular areas of work in which they will be employed, not turn all sorts of people into multi-purpose individuals which can be counter-productive in many areas.
153. Deputy B. Desmond.—Have you done any manpower studies in the two main areas? You have 600 people in the generating area under the engineering director and 516 people under production facilities. That kind of work is common work in a number of countries. Have RTE through their international affiliations done the relevant manpower comparisons? Can you give us some indication of this?
Mr. Waters.—We are a member of the European Broadcasting Union who have recently done a statistical study of operational practices in all the member countries. We have come out very high in the league table in relation to productivity. On average, other organisations spend twice as long as RTE in the studio doing a particular type of production. In the case of a film they spend about two-and-a-half times as long and take twice as long to edit it. In relation to programme production we have, necessarily, had to do that type of thing because our resources are much less than that of other organisations. From the very beginning, we have had to get more output from our studios than was ever intended. The studio centre at Donnybrook was built in 1959-60 to accommodate 12 hours of home production per week. From the very beginning, we have been doing 20 hours simply because we had to meet the competitive situation of the British channels.
154. Deputy B. Desmond.—Are you ever asked why it takes 132 people to produce the news and what is your reaction to that type of question?
Mr. Waters.—We get it all the time. The answer to that type of question is that it takes that many people to do a good news bulletin. There is not that number on the job.
Deputy B. Desmond.—I accept that.
Mr. Waters.—It has to be remembered that we do more news broadcasting than any other broadcasting organisation in Europe. That is a fact. We do more hours per day and more hours per year than any other organisation. This is partly because we have the two radio services and two television services, but we also have to produce news in Irish. We do the nuacht bulletin on radio and television. In relation to the number of people we employ in the news division, our output is quite good.
Mr. Finn.—A comment that is regularly put to us is that we are tripping over each other and what are they all doing? We can demonstrate it with accurate figures and we have looked very closely at this because personnel accounts for a very substantial part of our operation. As the Director General said we have looked at this on the basis of international comparisons and we come out reasonably well on those. We are better than a large number of other European organisations. Television is an extremely complicated sequential type of operation. It is not like an assembly line where you send something down the line and various people do various things and they keep on doing the same things. It is an amalgamation of all sorts of inputs from all sorts of areas. Very often the work has to be done to a deadline. There is no use in saying if we leave that until tomorrow we will not have to bring in somebody specially to do it and it will be done in some particular way. There are deadlines to be met. It is a very complex production process. It also has to operate 365 days a year. That places particular demands on us.
We have, if there is sickness or holidays, to fill the schedules. The news still has to go out. It would be unthinkable to us to say that there would be no nine o’clock news on television tonight because there has been a lot of flu in the news room. That kind of situation is met fairly regularly and we have to cope with it. I am not saying that we have an influenza epidemic among the staff all the year round. We believe there are special elements in the television production process. Broadcasting is a labour intensive business. A piece of the news bulletin involves an extraordinary number of people from journalists, film editors, operators, technicians and so on. I know it looks to the viewer as if the news reader who is giving out the news has somehow collected it, scripted it and will now give it out. We all know it is a much more complicated process than that. It involves a lot of people.
Mr. Waters.—In 1976 the National Prices Commission asked a firm of consultants to take a look at our operational practices and compare them with two other broadcasting organisations of comparable size. Their conclusion was that we were certainly not any way worse in our operation than they were and that our staff numbers were reasonable in comparison with theirs.
155. Senator Cooney.—Do you intend to fill the 50 vacancies that you are short of your complement?
Mr. Waters.—Not immediately, no. I don’t think we can afford to do that until such time as our revenue is improved.
156. Chairman.—Are there some vacancies that you would have to fill?
Mr. Waters.—Yes; there might be a few posts that you might not have to fill, but generally speaking nearly all posts are necessary. Practically every day I have to deal with requests for posts.
157. Deputy B. Desmond.—We have received several submissions which suggest, to quote a phrase, that women are discriminated against within RTE particularly at executive level. Professor Fogarty has been quoted that he felt that women were seriously under-represented in most job grades in RTE. He felt as far back as 1978 that RTE could do more to encourage career progression of women. What is your response to that?
Mr. Moriarty.—We also in the Authority have had a lot of representations in relation to what appeared in the newspapers recently on this question. No more than any other institution in this country, women in RTE have not utilised this weapon or perhaps they have not had the same opportunities in the past as perhaps they should have. The previous Authority, before I arrived there, had recognised this fact and had set up its own internal study group to find out what exactly the position in the organisation was, what the problems were, what the objectives should be and what action should be taken. This is a committee that has taken its work very seriously and it is expected to report to the Authority before the end of this year. The Authority cannot pre-empt or anticipate what recommendations it will make but you can be absolutely certain that they will be taken seriously and to the extent to which it is within the power of the Authority to improve the present situation and to record progress along the line that nobody would disagree with the objective of providing more and better opportunities for women of talent who are undoubtedly available, we will take whatever steps are necessary to bring about a major improvement. I would ask the Director-General to say a little more about this because the position is not as bad or as static as one would be led to believe.
158. Chairman.—Is there an improvement since 1978?
Mr. Waters.—The expert on the position of women in RTE would be the Director of Personnel, but I think we were among the first to give equal pay to women; one of the first to start maternity leave; we were among the first to introduce retention of women after marriage. We have a problem in relation to the number of women who apply for posts in RTE, whether publicly or internally advertised. Over the past two years we have had 22 executive competitions and I think this is what Professor Fogarty was talking about, women in executive positions. In relation to nine of these competitions there was not one woman applicant. Where males were successful, there were 181 male applicants as against 13 females; so the proportion was all on the male side. Where females were successful there were 172 male applicants and 89 females in the competitions. One of the problems is that women do not seem to come forward for executive positions whether in the public arena or within the organisation. The Director of Personnel might like to expand on that.
Mr. Sexton.—We had 22 executive competitions in two years and many of these were advertised externally, not just internally. Despite that, at least nine of them produced no female applicants. Despite that, four of the executive posts were filled by ladies during that period and fourteen of them by men. There was a total of 13 female applicants in respect of executive posts filled by men up to that time. I do not think that situation is much different from other organisations of a similar size. There are not many female engineers, female accountants, or female systems analysts or people with these qualifications in the market. Therefore even advertising externally does not bring in the applications. We would be excessively self-righteous if we said that everything in RTE was perfect, but the criticism of RTE is not entirely warranted at times. Perhaps we are our own worst critics in this regard. The Committee set up in RTE is examining the matter for the past 18 months or so, but many of the problems centre on the apparent failure of women to make the Producer-Director grade. That is seen as a very high profile post in RTE and one of the recent informed reports published on the matter emphasised that there had been no change in this regard since 1978, which, in fact, was a complete misrepresentation in that early in 1978 we had three, or four in the latter part of the year, female Producer-Directors. We now have 12 and we have made a very specific point of trying to encourage recruitment of female producers in order to strike a better balance in the organisation. We have many more female journalists employed now than we had in 1975. Five years ago we had three female journalists in the organisation: we now have 15. We are making efforts within the organisation. We have been monitoring all the competitions over several years, the number of of female and male applicants, the number of females called for interview, the number of males called for interview and we have been encouraging interview boards to give females every reasonable opportunity, if the people concerned have the qualifications, with the result that more women are being successful in these competitions and they are gradually working their way up through the ranks in the organisation. I would expect a continuing improvement in that regard.
159. Chairman.—Are you attempting to be totally objective or are you trying to slightly redress the balance?
Mr. Sexton.—We are attempting to slightly redress the balance despite the fact that there are a lot of men in the organisation who feel that they also are under-privileged in terms of the promotional outlets provided for them.
160. Deputy B. Desmond.—In the sixties I recall a preponderance of women in posts in RTE as production assistants, secretarial assistants and in general clerical jobs. To what extent now is there a deliberate effort to try to encourage, by means of in-job training, some people to emerge from this large group to be Producer-Directors?
Mr. Sexton.—We have currently approximately 75 female and two male production assistants. About two years ago, for the first time, a male production assistant was employed. We have been trying to break down those sort of barriers and where there were formerly all female grades to open them to male personnel also. In the reverse situation, to make technical operational type jobs more available to women, was something else we tried to do. We have been having some success in this regard. The problem in relation to a group like production assistants is that the vast bulk of them were recruited to the organisation through the secretarial typist grade. They had qualifications which took them forward through secretarial grades. The logical jumping off point was into a production assistant’s role. Many of them plateaued in that area because the competition for Producer-Director posts is extremely intense. There is external and internal competition and it is just not possible for many of them to succeed in that area. In spite of that, some do succeed. One production assistant came forward in the recent competition we had for ProducerDirector earlier this year. In all, two have made the grade in this regard but most are not qualified or cannot stand up against the competition they have to face. There are hundreds of candidates for the external competitions. Despite the fact that they are on the inside track, production assistants sometimes are not successful against other female candidates from outside the organisation.
161. Deputy B. Desmond.—Is there any positive discriminatory practice whereby there are confined internal competitions to enable such women to have an opportunity of blossoming on the inside track even though many outside applicants may have enormous competence?
Mr. Sexton.—Out of the most recent competition we appointed seven Producer-Directors. That competition was confined entirely to staff. Three women were successful. One was a production assistant, another a designer and the third a radio producer. There is a lot of competition from the women within the organisation. It is not only the production assistants who strongly compete for these posts. We erred, if we erred at all, in favour of the women on that occasion. Three out of the seven posts went to women, the highest proportion ever for a competition of this type.
162. Deputy B. Desmond.—How do you respond to the submission we received in regard to leave of absence? The present policy of withholding three weeks’ pay after three months leave until a return to work according to the RTE group should be discontinued. How do you respond to that?
Mr. Sexton.—It is a valid comment. It arises from the agreement we reached in regard to maternity leave. As the Director General indicated we were among the first to have a formal maternity leave arrangement. Part of the agreement, which we negotiated at that time with the relevant trade unions, was to the effect that women who were given three months’ maternity leave would be paid for 75 per cent of that time and the balance would be withheld until they returned to work. A practice had been developing in the organisation of taking maternity leave and not resuming work at the end of it. We left an incentive to return again, particularly for trained staff, to fill posts which would be difficult to fill otherwise. We have not any immediate plans to change that situation.
163. Deputy B. Desmond.—But would you be amenable to reconsidering that?
164. Deputy Deasy.—Where do you get your skilled staff from? Where do they train?
Mr. Sexton.—It depends on the skills we are talking about. If we are talking about operational staff they are almost 100 per cent trained in RTE. They include camera, sound, and lighting staff. Operational staff in television or radio are trained within the organisation. Producer-Directors are trained within the organisation, as are Radio Producers. Skilled staff, such as designers, are recruited from graduates of the National College of Art and such places. We employ technicians who have completed a technician’s course at Kevin Street or the colleges of technology. It depends on the skill we are talking about.
165. Deputy Deasy.—Is your intake of women at the lower level much less than the intake of men?
Mr. Sexton.—Yes. The problem originates in the fact that the vast bulk of women are recruited into RTE for the secretarial-typist grade. It is difficult for them, after they have been recruited, to get into the operational grades. There are a small number of opportunities that occur but most staff appointed to those grades come from outside following an external competition. There is some movement in this regard. For instance, in the operational area at present we have 28 women. Most of them would be quite young and new to the organisation. That represents a considerable increase in the numbers of women employed in those grades in the last three years. I am referring to the cameras, sound and lighting. We have one or two female technicians, an entirely new departure.
166. Deputy B. Desmond.—In reference to the recruitment and training of women as radio and television presenters—I am thinking of people of the competence of Marian Finucane — I should like to know how one can ensure that people of such competence are brought forward in a continuous fashion. How do you manage to do that?
Mr. Sexton.—It depends on the job that is involved. We have competitions regularly for radio announcers, some of whom work their way into presenting programmes at a later date, but the vast bulk of presenters are recruited specifically into the organisation on a talent-spotting basis. A competition is held and if it seems that a person has the kind of special talent we are looking for, we give them some in-house training but not a great deal. Many of them are tried out on the air after limited training. There is a considerable turn over in that area. Others, such as Marian Finucane, who came in as a researcher, develop very well. She was given an opportunity on air and took it very successfully.
167. Senator Cooney.—On budgeting Stokes Kennedy Crowley produced a report which was somewhat critical of the effectiveness of your budgetary control procedures, principally in so far as budgets are prepared on actual costs for the previous year with an allowance for additional costs and inflation. They suggested that zero-based budgeting would be better, that each year’s expenditure budgets should be built up item by item afresh annually. Do you agree with that recommendation and, if so, has it been implemented?
Mr. Moriarty.—The “in” word in budgeting at the moment is zero-based budgeting. A lot of people talk about it but do not know now difficult it is. With an accounts department that is costing £500,000 a year it is pointless to talk about zero-based budgeting. You are not going to get rid of the accounts department and start from zero as if you never had it. It is a very handy slogan about budgeting but it is extremely difficult to operate. Just because it is a slogan and is recommended does not mean we should rush wildly for it. Stokes Kennedy Crowley have a number of criticisms about how budgetary control is exercised. Management have assured the Authority that steps have been taken to implement various recommendations that have been made. That was one of the values of that study: it brought in from outside somebody with an objective view, who could have a look at the whole thing and make recommendations. Steps have been taken whereby the Director General, the Financial Controller——
168. Senator Cooney.—I do not think we need to go into it. Has the principle been accepted?
Mr. Waters.—The average outturn over the years has been 1.84 per cent over budget.
169. Senator Cooney.—That is assuming the base was right? Is that not so?
170. Chairman.—Professor Fogarty concluded in his report that RTE have lost control over their grading structures, that they were conceding unjustified claims to trade union pressure and that the result was the payment of wage increases to individuals considerably in excess of national norms. What is your comment on that?
Mr. Sexton.—I do not accept that.
Mr. Moriarty.—That would not be the view of RTE. It would not be acceptable in RTE. He said there had been considerably less wage drift in RTE than in other organisations. RTE are an organisation that must have talent and it must motivate people, apart from the motivation of reward. All promotional jobs in RTE are advertised among all staffs in the organisation. Interview boards are set up and selections are made by boards which are representative of a cross section of the management within the organisation. From what I have seen in the eighteen months I have been associated with RTE, a lot of care is taken in the selection of persons for promotion. As far as I could see, people of outstanding merit have been appointed. I would not accept that people have rocketed up through the grading system on an individual basis to satisfy trade union claims. There is a very rigid discipline for filling posts. Mr. Sexton might like to give a more specific answer to the criticism.
Mr. Sexton.—I do not think Professor Fogarty said that. He indicated that it had been alleged to him that that sort of thing had happened, but that he had done an analysis of grading movements in the organisation and the effect of those in terms of salaries and so on. He made comparisons of wage drifts in RTE and other organisations and in the community generally and he concluded that RTE had not anything to be ashamed of in this regard—that their record had been very good. I am not sure how this misunderstanding arose.
Chairman.—Perhaps we had better check again.
171. Senator Hillery.—It is correct to say that Professor Fogarty commented that management lacked a clear cohesive policy on staff relations and that in consequence there had been long delays in clearing grievances. That was in 1978. Since then has the Authority developed an effective policy on staff relations?
Mr. Sexton.—He said that in personnel there was a clear cohesive policy that might not have been understood and accepted fully throughout the organisation and that it was necessary to develop an organisational doctrine in regard to these matters, but that as far as he was concerned, personnel knew where they were going and were clear on what they were seeking to achieve. Therefore, we argue that means the organisation has an effective staff relations policy, even if we take Professor Fogarty’s report. We have continued to develop that policy from that point. We have acknowledged that there is a lack of information and indeed of interest in certain areas of the organisation. Managers who primarily are concerned with making programmes are very difficult to galvanise into action on these matters until they directly affect themselves. This is a continuous educational programme we have been engaged in. In the past two years we have engaged in a series of supervisor courses to acquaint people of their responsibilities as supervisors in these areas, and to get them to understand clearly the personnel function within the organisation as a whole. We think we have made substantial progress in this regard.
Mr. Moriarty.—Mr. Sexton might amplify that by listing the various activities, involving a trade union officer, consultative committees——
172. Chairman.—Could that be done by way of memorandum?
Mr. Sexton.—I should like to say briefly that Professor Fogarty made a certain number of recommendations, none of them very earthshattering, but he did not find anything miraculous that he could recommend to solve many of the problems we had. He recommended that we should have encouraged the development of the RTE trade union group by facilitating the employment of a wholetime officer. This we have done. I think he is behind me listening at the moment, so perhaps I had better be careful! He took up duty in April last—the office is funded by a grant from RTE and the person concerned has been seconded from his post to enable him to concentrate fulltime on the activities of the group. We have discussed with the group and their officers the setting up a joint committee on things like staff development, training in safety, welfare and so on. We are waiting to get these things off the ground. As soon as it has been done we can deal with these matters in a more co-operative fashion, involving trade union and staff representatives in the future. We are completely open to that line of approach. Recently we recruited a staff development officer whom we hope will be in a position to give career guidance within the organisation to both men and women. This will help to develop promotional outlets for staff in all areas and at all levels. We have also set up a magazine called Access which appears regularly fortnightly. It has a completely independent editor chosen from within the staff. It reports on all sorts of activities, including industrial relations matters. It is open to comments, letters and interviews from staff representatives in all areas of the organisation.
173. Deputy B. Desmond.—How do RTE respond to the RTE group of unions in relation to industrial relations and the matter of the Labour Court?
Mr. Sexton.—I would favour some form of industrial relations tribunal within the group. Professor Fogarty recommended the setting up of some such body and that it should be set up preferably under the chairmanship of a Labour Court conciliation officer. We share that view and probably we will be proceeding along that line in the next year or so.
174. Deputy B. Desmond.—What worries me is that Professor Fogarty is fading into distant memory and we are now approaching 1981. Things tend to happen slowly in Ireland. What are you doing about the matter?
Mr. Sexton.—They tend to happen fairly slowly but we indicated willingness to have a wholetime officer approved 18 months ago. It took a long time for the unions to organise the process of selection and to conclude that there was sufficient support within the unions to warrant this sort of appointment and then to agree on the person concerned. A lot has begun to happen in the current year. It has been only since 1 April that a wholetime officer has been available. The National Agreements and Understandings in the past nine or ten years have given a definite role to the Labour Court in relation to the resolution of certain problems, special pay claims and so on. Therefore, there is a clear mechanism for dealing with many of these issues which might or might not have difficulty in operating side by side with an industrial relations tribunal. Despite that, we would see great advantage in having such a tribunal on occasions.
175. Deputy B. Desmond.—What is RTE’s response to the Worker Participation legislation?
Mr. Sexton.—The Chairman and the Authority might have a view which they would like to offer in this regard. I am not opposed to the idea of worker-directors. I am sure that they solve a great many problems. I do not believe that they are the solution that is needed to many of the problems affecting Irish industry, RTE in particular. I believe we can have a lot more consultation below board level within the organisation and this has been developing. There is now a regular process whereby the trade union officers meet with the Director General and the senior executives and discuss any matters which are of interest to them. They are free to raise on the agenda any items they choose. In particular, we are extremely happy to discuss with them financial problems facing the organisation because these must influence the activities of the unions and the staff. We have been at great pains to spell out in very considerable detail the financial situation as it affects us and is likely to affect us over the next several years. We are not hiding anything from the unions in this regard.
176. Deputy B. Desmond.—Are you the largest organisation not to have workers at board level?
Mr. Sexton.—We are the second largest.
177. Deputy B. Desmond.—What about the regular group executive/management meetings? Have they been successful? I am talking about the regular quarterly meetings with the RTE management.
Mr. Sexton.—They are very useful. The climate which existed in RTE in 1977-78 does not exist today. We were going through a difficult period at that stage. Since then we have had enormous expansion in our activities in the introduction of a second television channel and a second radio channel. We could not have achieved that without a tremendous amount of staff co-operation despite the fact that there has been a growth in staff numbers. We could not have achieved it without the acceptance of tremendous technological change. That is a feature of life in RTE. By and large we get co-operation from staff at all levels and all unions in this area. The current situation is considerably better than it was three or four years ago. The quarterly meetings are a contribution to this situation.
The witnesses withdrew.