The Irish public broadcaster is seeking retransmission fees from the two platforms that currently offer access to their platforms – and a lucrative top of the EPG slot.
RTE is following the lead of earlier campaigns by the BBC and ITV to attempt to charge pay-TV platforms for their content. Its looking to have “must offer” rules removed from the Irish statute books.
“We are of the view that allowing it to do this would negatively affect all parties, including, most importantly, Irish citizens accessing programmes they have already paid for via a licence fee,” Sky’s group director of policy and public affairs David Wheeldon told a joint Oireachtas communications committee.
“So for the avoidance of doubt, Sky would not pay RTÉ for its public service channels should RTÉ no longer be obliged to provide them for free. Of course, in such scenario RTÉ might decide voluntarily to withdraw from the main TV platform in over 40% of Irish homes in which case there can only be losers,” he said
Virgin Media Ireland chief executive Tony Hanway, agreed, adding that RTE mistakenly believed that it would receive a large windfall from the practice, ignoring the costs of managing the system.
But RTE’s Head of Platforms and Partnerships Aisling McCabe, described the notion of blackouts as a ‘red herring’. “The obligation to avoid blackouts is on both parties. RTÉ is not seeking anydiminution on its obligations to be fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory in its dealings with Pay TV Platforms, but simply to level the playing field for negotiations. While RTÉ is universally available for all Irish audiences on Saorview and OTT via the RTÉ Player, we are certainly not in favour of any disruption in service on Pay TV platforms which we don’t believe is in anybody’s interests. In any case, there are existing mechanisms that can be used to mediate between platforms where necessary. However, using these mechanisms would be very much a last resort.”