Dee Forbes has been a little over two years as the Director General of RTÉ and yet on stage yesterday in front of a roomful of industry stakeholders she gave a bravura performance filled with the measure of excitement you would normally get before you knew what potholes there were to avoid in a new role.
She did not gloss over the challenges created by ‘decades of underinvestment taking their toll’ but she was very clear in the picture of RTÉ being as relevant to audiences today as it ever was.
“We have had to invest in order to compete against global competitors,” she told us.
The money gained from the sale of land could only be invested in capital projects but there have been plenty of them to fund. The equipment needed to turn out full HD broadcasts of staples like Fair City was first on the list and a new news studio, ten years on from the last refresh will be unveiled shortly.
There was much talk of the new RTÉ Player which we will see in December having been high on the development agenda for two full years.
It will be better curated, better suited to the needs of a changed audience with box sets and over 3,500 episodes of content available on demand.
It will also be a home to new strands of content, specifically commissioned for that same new audience and delivered by whatever means the audience chooses to consume as opposed to the ways in which the broadcaster chooses to deliver.
“Because we have grown up with RTÉ there is a danger that we will take it for granted.”
“There has been a generational shift in the way people engage with us and we have worked hard to put ourselves in the right position to deliver in the new environment.”
“We are there for Ireland at times of crisis like in the storms. When everyone else was rightly at home safe we were at work bringing the news as a great public service broadcaster is bound to do.”
“We are also there in times of joy and what a pleasure it was to broadcast Ireland beating New Zealand ten days ago.”
“The things that spark a national conversation are the reason we exist. To bring them to as many of the people as we can reach and to be there as their first port of call for an honest and trusted telling of the way it is.”
We also got to hear from the executive team charged with delivering that new vision of what RTÉ is all about.
Aoife Byrne spoke about the new Player and the difference it would make.
Adrian Lynch pointed to the fact that we were competing with a Netflix spend on content this year of $8.8 Billion but that we were holding our own.
Hilary McGouran will be charged with delivering the new approach and the new infrastructure surrounding News. She recognised the changing dynamic of news that when people tuned into the six one news, as 2.2 million pairs of eyes have this week, that they already know what has happened. They are tuning in to find out why.
In Early 2019 Entertainment for Business will carry a series of interviews with the people behind the transformation of RTÉ for a modern, digital age.
No wonder Dee Forbes is excited.
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