RTÉ is facing an “unconscionable” €50m deficit for this year, may be forced to push through more cost cuts, and should turn to digital media as an alternative to the costly London bureau.
Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister, revealed the “acute financial crisis” at the state broadcaster during a tense Dáil debate on the issue yesterday.
He said Montrose needed to cut its cloth to Ireland’s new economic circumstances. “By the end of 2012, the deficit at RTÉ will have reached €50m, an unconscionable sum, of which the great preponderance is in the redundancy programme.
“The organisation faces an acute financial crisis and I cannot acquiesce in it running a bottom line of that order.”
Turning to the recent announcement that RTÉ’s London office will be shut, Mr Rabbitte said: “In an era of digital media, it is not necessary to have the same on-location provision. Rental accommodation in the heart of London is extremely expensive.
“If it were possible for RTÉ to make savings elsewhere, I am sure it would do so.”
Joe McHugh, a Fine Gael backbencher, had described the London bureau closure plan as “inexplicable”.
“If a significant event takes place in Britain, there is no point buying a Ryanair or and Aer Lingus ticket and instructing a journalist to board the next flight to get the story.
“Stories develop and relationships are built. Common sense should prevail in this matter,” he said.
The debate comes at a time when RTÉ is expected to make a decision on the future of its regional network of studios within two weeks.
Staff in regional offices are understood to be worried management will refuse to negotiate on any cuts due to be made to regional reporting, staff levels, and programme making.
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