In a move which will bitterly disappoint state broadcaster RTE, the Irish government has approved an increase of just $15.50 (IR£14.50) in the annual television license fee, bringing the standard charge from $75 (IR£70) up to $99 (IR£84.50).
RTE had lobbied for a $54 increase in the license fee for over a year and had promised an extra $3.2m for Irish feature films if the government improved an increase of this order.
In anticipation of this increase the broadcaster decided not to invest at all in feature film production during 2001, and last year contributed only the equivalent of a broadcast fee to two local features, Kaos and H3, the latter getting its world premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh next week.
In common with many broadcasters in the UK RTE has suffered a significant drop in advertising revenues this year, believed to be of the order of $7.5m. The license fee increase is expected to contribute an additional $6.5m in revenue this year.
According to the minister with responsibility for broadcasting, Sile de Valera, the decision was based on an independent evaluation by PriceWaterhouseCoopers of RTE's application for an increase and was, "Designed to enable RTE to maintain services without eliminating its cash reserves."