Free the News: RTE replies to my request for footage access

Letter received today from RTE’s Legal Department to my solicitor.

Dear Sirs,

I refer to your letter of the 26th May seeking access on your client’s behalf to RTE News footage. The position is as follows.

RTE has made an offer to certain newspapers in respect of use of its news output. That offer is for a trial period only, if availed of by any of those newspapers. At the end of the process RTE will then consider its position generally including whether it will proceed at all with offering content to third parties, and if so, under what terms and conditions.

I hope that this clarifies the matter.

Yours faithfully etc

I think this does clarify matters quite a lot.

What is most clear is that RTE’s management has not thought this project through. It is behaving as though the footage which is in its possession were the private property of a private individual- to be handed out or held back at the whim of its owner. However, the state owned and funded national broadcaster may not act capriciously.

By RTE’s own admission the licence fund payment from the state was used to fund the news footage as part of RTE’s public service remit. By favouring one set of commercial entities over others (both newspapers who are not members of the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) and other commercial entities which are not newspapers, such as The Journal.ie) it is distorting the market for Irish news and current affairs online.

RTE meets the definition of an emanation of the state, under EU law. This interference leaves the state or its emanations open to the risk of a complaint to the European Commission that it is providing state funded aid to one set of commercial operators in the market over others.

In addition, there is the question of whether non-commercial licence fee payers, such as Tuppenceworth here, ought to be excluded from a scheme which is providing access to the public service footage on such favourable terms to commercial entities. I think this is morally and politically unsustainable.

This will be the subject of my solicitor’s reply.

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