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RTE offers video news bulletins to newspaper websites

RTE insisted last night that offering free broadcast news bulletins to the country's major newspapers for use on their websites was "a commitment to sustaining a vibrant media sector" in Ireland.

The move comes less than six months after RTE told an Oireachtas committee it was not in a position to give away its online content for free.

The national broadcaster was at that stage coming under severe pressure from the National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), a body which represents most of Ireland's biggest newspaper groups.

The NNI had argued that ?200m in funding from television licence fees was giving RTE's website an unfair advantage.

RTE rejected the claim, saying its website was part of its public service brief. Insiders have also denied that the new offer of free news bulletins was a result of the acute pressure exerted last year.

"There was a period of public debate, but that had ended some time ago," a senior RTE source said.

"Our feeling is that there is a considerable amount of interdependence between Irish broadcasters and the Irish newspaper industry, and there has to be a broader vision.

"This is a significant initiative by RTE towards sustaining a vibrant media sector and we hope it will be viewed as such."

The six-month pilot scheme will see RTE television news reports in full-clip format made available to Irish newspaper websites daily.

It is expected that the clips will include news, business, politics, economics, education, science and health items, but not sport.

The clips will be credited to RTE and will not be re-edited by the newspapers.

It is thought that the move will help to drive online traffic to newspapers' websites.

Speaking before the Oireachtas Communications Committee last December, RTE's chief financial officer, Conor Hayes, argued the challenges faced by the newspaper industry were caused by an international shift to digital advertising and not by RTE's activities online and that any sharing of content would incur a charge.

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland criticised the proposed move last night, saying it was another reason to abolish the licence fee.

Belfast Telegraph