RTÉ staff fear decision on future of regional offices

RTÉ is expected to make a decision on the future of its regional network of studios within the next two weeks.

Staff in regional offices are understood to be worried that RTÉ management will refuse to negotiate on any cuts or changes due to be made to regional reporting, staff levels and programme making, and angry about the level of consultation to date.

The national broadcaster confirmed in March it is to shut its London bureau as it seeks cuts of up to €25m by the end of next year.

A decision on the future of it network of regional facilities is believed to be imminent.

Concerns have been expressed about the effect a loss of the station’s local presence might have on towns and cities. In a letter to independent TD Mattie McGrath, director-general Noel Curran stated: “We are currently reviewing all our operations to examine possible efficiencies.”

He said teams are in place across the organisation to look at the station’s options as it attempts to get back on a “firm financial footing”.

So far there have been “no options or proposals” from the team looking at the regional operation, the director-general said.

RTÉ operates studios in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Dundalk, Sligo, Athlone and Belfast.

Among the “guiding principles” in the government’s public broadcasting charter are that RTÉ’s “news reporting and public affairs coverage shall be undertaken from a variety of perspectives; events should not be assessed and reported upon from a Dublin perspective alone”.

It also states that RTÉ programming “shall reflect regional diversity and include a significant range and proportion of indigenous programming made outside the greater Dublin area”.

Among the reductions announced by RTÉ in March are a 25% cut in sports rights acquisitions and a 30% cut in the top earners’ pay from their peak levels.

However, campaigns of opposition to any closures or cutbacks at regional level are likely to be mounted should RTÉ move in this direction.

Waterford Chamber of Commerce — where RTÉ operates a city centre base — issued a statement at the weekend expressing its concern about any loss of regional reporting.

“RTÉ in this region services some 600,000 citizens and some of Ireland’s largest blue-chip multi-national companies,” said chamber CEO Michael Garland.

“To lose RTÉ Waterford would send out a negative message about the region in terms of potential future investment. The region needs stability and that includes RTÉ Waterford remaining a central part of the region’s infrastructure.”

A number of civic leaders in Waterford recently wrote a letter to the national media in which they underlined the importance of RTÉ retaining its studio in the city. A group of senior business figures in the area also issued a statement protesting against any downgrade of broadcasting facilities and staffing levels.

Attempts to obtain a comment from RTÉ were unsuccessful.


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