RTÉ: Budget and Broadcasting Act are to blame for €16.8m net deficit

RTÉ has blamed measures introduced by the Government in the 2010 budget for its deteriorating financial position after the state broadcaster reported a net deficit of almost €16.8m last year.

RTÉ chairman Tom Savage claimed the station would have reported a small surplus for 2011, but for the impact of the budget and other measures arising from the enactment of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which is costing RTÉ an estimated €18m in revenue per annum.

RTÉ’s financial situation deteriorated sharply last year as it recorded falling revenue from advertising and TV licence fees.

However, the station still spent almost €2m extra on staff costs, despite introducing early retirement and voluntary redundancy schemes, as well as pay freezes for general staff and pay reductions for its top-earning stars.

The annual report for 2011 shows that personnel-related operating costs, which would include the pay of top-ranking presenters on contract like Ryan Tubridy, Pat Kenny, Joe Duffy and Miriam O’Callaghan, jumped by around €1.9m to €35.6m.

However, the station insisted it was implementing pay cuts of 30% on the salaries of its top-earning celebrities.

Staff salary costs remained largely stable at almost €153m, despite a reduction of 58 in the overall number of employees to 2,093.

The growing shortfall in 2011, compared to a deficit of just €4.7m the previous year, arose despite RTÉ further reducing its operating costs by €7.1m last year to €369.5m.

Overall, RTÉ’s combined revenue from advertising and TV licence fees fell by €21m, or 5.6%, to €372m.

Commercial revenue decreased by €8.4m to €167.3m in 2011 and advertising income at RTÉ has now fallen by 32% since its peak in 2007.

RTÉ said the station needed further significant restructuring to operate on a sustainable basis.

Despite concern about future revenues, RTÉ director general Noel Curran expressed confidence that it would return to a break- even point or even record a small surplus by 2013.

Both Mr Curran and Mr Savage repeated an apology on behalf of RTÉ for the Prime Time Investigates programme which seriously libelled Co Galway priest, Fr Kevin Reynolds.

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