Dee Forbes took on the role of director-general of RTE in July 2016 knowing Ireland’s public broadcaster faces significant challenges.
About 46% of its revenue is from commercial sources, and competition for advertising is fierce. Some 50 channels compete for advertising in the country, led by RTE’s indigenous rival TV3, owned by Liberty Global.
About 54% of RTE’s funding comes from the license fee, but 8% of households have no television set, so do not have to buy a license, and another 15% evade buying one. Forbes is lobbying the government to introduce a universal charge on every household, regardless of what device they watch TV on. She would also like it to consider imposing a levy on the internet service providers.
Forbes is working on a new five-year strategy, but she has already started to speak about how RTE should tackle its tough predicament. Co-funding with foreign broadcasters is one area she is keen to pursue, and she has cited RTE’s co-production of “The Fall” with the BBC as an example of this. A plan to sell the RTE campus will bring in up to Euros 50 million ($52.7 million) for capital expenditure, particularly in technology.
Forbes would like RTE to take more creative risks, and to strengthen its drama, arts and culture output, foreign news, and children’s shows. Although she grew up in Ireland, Forbes has spent the past 26 years working in London. She started as a media planner at Young and Rubicam before joining Turner Broadcasting as a sales executive, and went on to head up its U.K. division. She then spent several years at Discovery, eventually leading its operations in Northern Europe.