RTÉ seek €55m funding boost - but Government say they must cut costs

In recent days, staff were told that the organisation could not continue as it is currently operating without a significant increase in state funding.

RTÉ seek €55m funding boost - but Government say they must cut costs

Voluntary redundancies, legislative changes and cuts to the provision of sport, Irish language services, educational and religious content may all be required to plug the financial gaps at RTÉ, according to an analysis of the broadcaster's finances.

In recent days, staff were told that the organisation could not continue as it is currently operating without a significant increase in state funding.

However, such an increase will not be forthcoming, as confirmed by the Government last month, with RTÉ now scrambling to identify areas where it can make savings.

Broadcasters sought a €55m funding boost to finance an ambitious plan to transform the organisation into a digital-first operation, diverting money from television and radio into its online operations. This would have brought its total Exchequer funding to more than €240m per year, though the Government has confirmed that no such funding increase is coming.

An analysis of the broadcaster's finances by UK consultants Communications Chambers, submitted to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), has identified a range of areas where cuts could be made.

RTÉ told the BAI that it could be forced to make compulsory redundancies if it did not receive an increase in funding, though it said that it would prefer to invite voluntary redundancies due to fears about the impact that compulsory departures could have on morale at the organisation.

The full cost-cutting plan is due to be revealed next month.

RTÉ submitted two scenarios to the BAI outlining operations where it received a funding boost and where it did not. The latter included a number of "hard choices" that would have to be made.

" RTÉ states that this would likely require compulsory redundancies and changes to legislation as it would impact its ability to fulfil its statutory remit in some areas," said a report prepared by consultants Communications Chambers.

A radical review of operations is required, according to the report, including salary cuts for top earners, voluntary redundancies and a wide range of changes to programming.

No details have yet been provided how additional spending cuts would be achieved but it is understood that it will likely impact its ability to deliver on regional activities, sport, external commissioning, Irish language support, orchestras, special events, archives and genres including drama, arts, education and religion.

The stark reality faced by the broadcaster comes in the context of a €13m deficit last year. It was the fourth consecutive year in which RTÉ ran a deficit and was blamed on contracted coverage of special events like the Papal visit, the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the presidential election.

The deficit arose despite a voluntary redundancy scheme that saw 160 people depart the organisation.

Among the chief areas likely to be identified as a potential source of cuts will be the salaries of RTÉ's top earners. Among those in line for a cut is Ray D'Arcy, the organisation's second-highest earner who will this week meet RTÉ chiefs to discuss his salary. He told the Sunday World that he will take a pay cut.

He was poached from Today FM five years ago and told the paper he is willing to take a pay cut as he is "acutely aware" of the changing media landscape.

"I didn't decide what to give me, I was offered it," he said.

"The people who offered it to me were aware of what's being paid outside RTÉ and the commercial reality of that. So that's why they offered it to me. They didn't pluck a figure out of the top of their heads."

RTE's top 10 earners

  • 1. Ryan Tubridy - €495,000
  • 2. Ray D'Arcy - €450,000
  • 3. Joe Duffy - €389,988
  • 4. Sean O'Rourke - €308,964
  • 5. Marian Finucane - €300,617
  • 6. Miriam O'Callaghan - €299,000
  • 7. Claire Byrne - €216,000
  • 8. Bryan Dobson - €198,146
  • 9. George Hamilton - €186,195
  • 10. Mary Wilson - €185,679

- Most recent figures available are for 2016

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