Fianna Fáil bye-election candidate for Carlow – Kilkenny Bobby Aylward has called for greater support to be provided to the network of local radio stations operating across the country. Mr Aylward says the Government should explore the possibility of allowing local radio stations to access more funding raised through the Licence Fee.
Mr Aylward commented, “Local radio stations provide an invaluable service to communities throughout the country. They reflect the heartbeat of local communities largely ignored by the national broadcasters and facilitate important discussion and debate about what is actually happening in our towns, villages and rural areas. They report on local sport, politics, crime and are one of the most important lines of defence in the battle against rural isolation that is affecting people all over the country.
“However despite providing this invaluable public service, many local radio stations are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in an environment with rising costs and increasingly aggressive competition for advertising revenue by national broadcasters.
“The Government needs to recognise the public service that local radio stations provide across the country. One option open to the Government is to allocate a greater proportion of money raised through the Licence Fee to support local radio stations.
“The basic point of the Licence Fee is to support our national broadcaster in providing a public service. However, local radio stations also provide a critically important public service and it seems reasonable that a portion of the Licence Fee funding should be shared. Indeed, as the Government’s neglect of rural Ireland takes a grip of small towns and villages across the country, the public service provided by local radio is becoming ever more important.
“The state stood by RTÉ when it was going through difficult financial times and I would be hopeful that RTÉ would be willing to return this goodwill by facilitating a greater portion of the Licence Fee to be shared with local radio stations. In recent years our national broadcaster has become ever more sophisticated in its exploitation of commercial opportunities, so I am confident that if the will was there this could be facilitated. If elected to Dáil Éireann in May, it is an issue I will be working with my colleagues in Fianna Fáil to get onto the agenda” said Mr Aylward.