RTÉ turn down my FOI request about RTE.ie

Sent this request in which was rejected because the information was “commercially sensitive”:

(a)Details of revenue generated via the RTE.ie website for 2008 and the first 6 months of 2009.

Specifically I would like details on the revenue generated via:
Google Adwords and The Google search engine interface on RTE
Banner Ads
Other advertising areas including the online shop/store

(i)Details of revenue generated via the 2FM website for 2008 and for 2009 up to the “relaunch” of the 2FM website in March 2009
Specifically I would like details on the revenue generated via:
Google Adwords
Banner Ads

(ii) Details of revenue generated via the 2FM website after the realunch of the website around March 2009
Specifically I would like details on the revenue generated via:
Google Adwords
Banner Ads
Content sales including music/videos/ringtones etc

Here’s the reasoning for the refusal:

RTÉ as you know is funded through a combination of commercial revenue and licence fee revenue. Up until recent legislation RTÉ could not use licence fee revenue to fund its On Line activities (Under the 2009 Broadcasting Act this is no longer the case). What this has meant is that up to now RTÉ.ie had to be funded entirely from commercial revenue. RTÉ competes with many other media bodies to secure commercial revenue for its On Line activities. If RTÉ were forced to release details of this activity it might prejudice RTÉ’s ability to raise the revenue required to fund its extensive On Line operations. I cannot see how this could be regarded as in the public interest.

RTÉ.ie is part of RTÉ’s Publishing division. In the Annual Report for 2009 (available on the RTÉ website) the revenue generated by Publishing is detailed. Revenue from Publishing is €14.9m. This figure includes revenue generated by RTÉ.ie.

Section 31 of the same Act provides an additional reason to refuse your request. A record may be withheld if its release might have an adverse effect on the competitive position of a public body. Releasing the information you have requested could lead to a loss of competitiveness by RTÉ as other organisations involved in the provision of On Line services would have access to information about RTÉ whist RTÉ would not have access to the equivalent information from its competitors in this field. The same public interest test applies as for section 27 with the same arguments applying.

13 Responses to “RTÉ turn down my FOI request about RTE.ie”

  1. Luke says:

    This is the reason I would like RTE to be either a gov funded body or a commerical enterprise not a mixture of both. Would prefer the BBC model to be applied to RTE, no adverts.

  2. eru says:

    Perfectly acceptable reasoning. What’s your beef?

  3. Rob says:

    eru, the thing is, our money goes into RTE, being part government, part commercial prevents FOI requests like this. Why should it be? We should be able to request FOI requests on any government body. So the “beef” I’d imagine is that RTE sits in the middle, getting the benefits of both worlds with none of the downside.

    I agree with Luke, it should be one or the other, preferably (again agreeing with Luke) like the BBC model.

  4. eru says:

    I know. I’ve to pay a TV license this month and I pay tax. What I’m saying is that RTÉ’s response is a reasoned response. In essence they are protecting our Tax input (public interest) by not giving out information that other commercial entities in the same business don’t have to give out either (maintain a competitive position in the market). Makes sense to me.

    It would be nice to know the information but it’s not essential.

    I’m probably wrong but Mulley seems to be trying to make a story out of nothing here.

  5. The 2fm website cost 230k and the idea of the shockingly shit redesign was to sell songs. It is within the public interest to see if they have made a crap job of it or not because the websites even if commercial would not exist without the content created by taxpayer money. While the websites might not be paid for by taxpayers directly, the content and work done by taxpayer’s money that enables the websites to exist and make money is. The websites provide some unique content but most is a result of work done on Radio1, 2FM and so forth. I’d like to know are 2FM and RTE Publishing doing their job correctly, the same way I’d like to know if companies funded by Enterprise Ireland are using taxpayers money correctly. I’ve not seen anywhere where RTE.ie has licenced content from RTÉ. I’ve also not seen any ability by a third party to be able to run the RTE websites or tender for their running. We can get access to Gerry Ryan’s salary yet we don’t see 2FM saying that it hampers their commercial negotiations with sponsors if people know how much his show costs to run.

  6. Interesting thing would be to find out what licence fee RTE enterprises has agreed to pay RTE proper for use of their content. This should be foi-able.

    There are really big questions to be asked about the public service remit in relation to 2FM. It is very hard to know exactly what they are supposed to be providing over and above what the commercial stations provide.

  7. UnaRocks says:

    RTE always turn down those kind of revenue requests. There’s lots of information out there RE: money in Montrose (salaries, budgets, programming costs etc) but anything to do with generating revenue, be it advertising online or off is generally marked as confidential.

    I’m sure you could probably make a reasoned estimate at the amount of revenue generated by finding out what the traffic on both websites was.

  8. Barry says:

    If I get some time I’ll have a look at estimates on revenue based on the figures on their website and some knowledge of the market.

    Regarding the “BBC Model” – The website is only ad free in UK and I think on the UK editions, worldwide it carries advertising – probably because the content is referenced worldwide and has a global readership that it makes sense to monetise the traffic.

    Is it possible to request the same stats for irishrail.ie ?

  9. You should get some idea of revenues, etc. for RTE enterprises from the filings in the companies registration office. This might also give you some idea of the license fee.

    I think that RTE would have a tough time keeping details of its dealings with its own subsidiary confidential if you appealed to the end of the FOI line.

    One particular area is news. I think RTE would be under pressure to disclose the financial workings of its news.

    Even if you didn’t get the money amounts, it would be interesting to know something about the terms.

    irish rail is not an FOI-able body, so you are unlikely to have much luck with that.

  10. “Would prefer the BBC model to be applied to RTE, no adverts.”

    BBC have ads now.

    I’m not actually surprised that they’re being so cautious about talking about it. Google tends to prefer that its publishers don’t go into much detail.

  11. (I should clarify that BBC only have ads for non-UK users)

  12. mick dillon says:

    This dual funding model starves other websites of advertising revenues , RTE.ie have dropped CPM rates drastically in recent months to hover up what bit of advertising is out there and this is putting competitor websites which don’t have the luxury of a license fee to rely on under server pressure. Personally I think our tv license money would be better spent on rolling out a decent broadband infrastructure across the country. This will also force RTE to face the same commercial realities as everybody else when competing for advertising.

  13. lydia says:

    The BBC uses licence payers’ money to fund their own ads. They were actually worried about airing the latest ones featuring Radio 1 dj’s such as Fearne Cotton, in case the public (rightly) questioned this mis-appropriateness of funds. These individual ads cost over 300,000 euro to produce. You decide.