Tight budget outlook for RTBF

The audiovisual public service ended 2021 with a slight loss. Due to rampant inflation, the current financial year promises to be tense. Explanations

After a year of 2020 heavily impacted by the health crisis, the RTBF globally saved the furniture in 2021. She ended the last exercise with a slight loss of 1.9 million euros. This is better than she budgeted (-5000000).

Actually, one can even speak of a profit of 3.3 million. But its administration decided to allocate, just for the year 2021, 5.3 million euros for the mobile reserve (temporary maintenance of the Reyers building after the move to the new building) that will be used in 2024 or 2025. Without this measure shot, RTBF would therefore be in the green. It had also carried out the same exercise a year earlier, allocating more than 9 million for the digitization of its audiovisual archives.

The ebitda meanwhile recovered from 13.3 to 15.1 million euros. He was favorably influenced by the increase in the group’s revenuesstart with they advertising revenue, 21% to 70.7 million euros. This is especially the case for television, thanks to a stronger-than-expected market recovery and revenues from major sporting events (Euro football and the Olympic Games).

Increase revenue

In total, RTBF’s global revenues increased by 7.2% to 410.7 million thanks, therefore, to advertising, but also to a endowment growth as provided for in the management contract (€275.2 million, plus €6.1 million). “Ebitda, however, remains below 20 million to maintain our level of investment”, notes the general manager Jean Paul Philippot pointing the 10% increase in payroll taxes due to automatic indexing and rising social security charges, the abolition of advertising in the morning section of La Première, the second installment of the Restart cultural aid plan, etc.

“Ebitda remains below the 20 million needed to allow us to continue investing.”

Jean Paul Philippot

General Manager of RTBF

Debt is on the rise again although, as stressed by the financial director Chris Vandervinnefor a few months RTBF was no longer in debt following the repayment of an old bank debt of 14 million”. It later used two thirds of the 60 million loan from the EIB to finance the construction of Media Square, its new building. “Our strong cash position of 83 million is entirely reserved for this project”, specifies the CFO.

Attention to 2022

For the current exercise, the RTBF has again planned a net loss of 1.9 million. An excess of caution, when the advertising market shows no signs of weakness (despite the war in Ukraine and the rampant inflation weighing on consumption) and when 2022 is a sporting year, culminating in the Football World Cup in November-December? “It won’t generate as much revenue as usual because at this time of year the advertising screens are full, instead, there will be a transfer of advertising dollars,” says Jean-Paul Philippot. “Not to mention the removal of the ad on La Première’s morning show will affect us for the first time in an entire year, that’s a deficit of 3 million,” adds Chris Vandevinne.


millions of euros

For 2022, the RTBF again forecasts a deficit, this time in the order of 1.9 million euros.

And then there’s the inflationary overheating which will affect purchases of equipment and services, investments and, above all, increase the payroll by around 8% through indexation, estimates the CFO. “For a company like ours that produces a lot, this has a huge impact, our salary bill represents 50% of our costs”, worries Jean-Paul Philippot. In Reyers, therefore, we expect a donation adaptation, which would allow it to remain within the limits of the budget forecasts and, therefore, to limit the forecast deficit.

The salaries of supervised managers

the question of salary of RTBF general manager Jean-Paul Philippot, caused a lot of ink to flow in the past. Now it’s very framed. The RTBF’s annual report indicates that last year it gained some € 255,760 gross, to which 11,318 euros of variable remuneration will have to be added, depending on the assessment still to be carried out by the Remuneration Committee. It is worth noting that the director of the media division, Xavier Huberland, played more than his boss, that is, 273,607 euros, including 54,308 euros of variable remuneration. The other general managers and executive committee members gained between 193,000 and 257,000 euros. The director of the Content division Sandrine Roustan received just over 140 thousand euros, but only took office in mid-July 2021.

No recourse against the acquisition of RTL

Unlike the IPM group (La Libre, DH, LN24, etc.) and Ads&Data, the RTBF and your advertising department RMB decided to not go to the Market Court against the decision of the Belgian Competition Authority (ABC) to authorize the acquisition of RTL Belgium by Rossel and DPG. If the complainants do not question the sale of RTL, they denounce the absence of ABC beacons following this operation. “The situation is tense with press editors (including Rossel, editor’s note), but we prefer not to make things worse, says Jean-Paul Philippot. We believe that we are the only potential partners of the publishers, we have a community of interests, starting with the diversity of the media scene.” It is worth remembering that, while RTBF is preparing to negotiate its new management contract, the publishers have denounced it, namely through a university study, the provision of online written content of the public audiovisual service who threataccording to them, the survival of print media.

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