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Local radio gets rescue package to stay on air for Covid coverage

Bruton announces new scheme to save struggling stations

The Minister for Communications Richard Bruton has offered a lifeline for local radio stations by asking the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to redirect a €2.5 million fund into a special rescue scheme so they can continue to broadcast through the Covid crisis.

The Minister said this evening that he had asked the BAI to repurpose existing the Sound and Vision 4 Scheme, along with other measures that he earlier announced.

He said radio stations were stations providing “reliable, trusted information on Covid 19”.

“Our local and independent radio stations have a crucial role to play as we respond to the Covid 19 Pandemic. Communities everywhere rely on their local station as a trusted source of information and this is especially important now as we manage this pandemic.

“Earlier this week, on foot of my request to the BAI, it was announced that the Broadcasting Levy payable by the radio sector would be waived for the first six months of the year. This will save local radio and independent stations around €1 million,” he said.

“In recognition of the significant and immediate financial impact on the sector as a result of the fall-off in advertising revenue arising from the virus, I am today announcing that further support will be provided. I have written to the BAI to ask them to put in place urgent funding of up to €2.5million for the commercial independent radio sector through a repurposing of existing Sound and Vision funding towards a special round under that Scheme.”

He said he had also asked the BAI to report to him on the impact of these measures and the government-wide actions, on independent radio and to keep him updated on “the financial well-being of the sector in general in the current environment”.

Sound and Vision

The Sound and Vision Scheme is funded by the TV licence fee from the Broadcasting Fund and is administered by the BAI. It supports the production of high-quality TV and radio programmes on Irish culture, heritage and experience.

The Sound and Vision Scheme also provides for funding of the community radio sector in respect of their social benefit obligations. The Minister has asked that the Authority considers this is a matter of urgency and puts in place funding of €750,000 for community radio in 2020.

Commercial radio stations must now apply for the funding, with the “review and approval period for applications kept to an absolute minimum”.

Stations, along with other businesses, are also entitled to support of up to 70per cent of wage costs announced by the government earlier this week as well as the range of forbearance measures announced by Revenue and the banks.

Minister Bruton spoke to Eimear on KCLR Live earlier this week when he assured listeners that further measures would be announced to keep stations on air during the pandemic. You can listen to that interview here.

KCLR Live: Minister Richard Bruton Wednesday 25th March 2020