Correspondence recently obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed a degree of tension and disagreement between An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, and Chairwoman of the board of RTÉ, Moya Doherty.
In the strongly worded letter, the Chairwoman castigated Mr Martin for failing to implement a key recommendation of the Future of Media Commission, which called for the abolition of the controversial license fee, and its replacement with public funding. She accused him of 'deliberately undermining' the national broadcaster.
Ms Doherty's calls for a new funding model based on general taxation appear to have had some resonance, with Jack Quann of Newstalk reporting that a caller to Lunchtime Live had opined that the Finnish system of tax-funded public broadcasting was fairer than the Irish 'fee' model. The caller, from Finland, argued that the Finnish funding model was much fairer, as poor and working-class people paid little or nothing given the graduated nature of Finland's progressive taxation system, while wealthier people contributed a proportionally larger amount. He argued that the Finnish system also comes without the logistical and fiscal burdens of enforcing fee payment, as it is automatically deducted from incomes.
Mr Martin has not committed to abolishing the license fee altogether, but his Government has established a group to examine reform of the fee collection model. The Government's engagement in discussions of reform is interpreted by some as a step in the right trajectory, with Ms Doherty welcoming some of Mr Martin's commitments to changes in later correspondence with him.
While reform of the licensing fee system is on the table, controversy still surrounds RTÉ's funding model, and calls for a more radical overhaul of the national broadcaster remain ubiquitous. The correspondence published by The Irish Times appears to have exposed a degree of tension in the relationship between the executive and the national broadcaster.