RTÉ’s executive had planned on revealing details of job and pay cuts this week, but deferred the announcement following the death of Gay Byrne.
The station’s director general Dee Forbes told RTÉ Radio’sthat it was “regrettable” to be in this position, but that her priority was to maintain public service broadcasting in Ireland.
On Thursday,confirmed that it is seeking to reduce its workforce by 200 as one of a series of measures to tackle its financial crisis and reduce projected costs by €60m over the next three years.
Other notable measures include the closure of the existing studios in Limerick and the digital radio network, the sale of the RTÉ Guide and the closure of the Aertel service.
Ms Forbes said she had planned to announce the details to staff first and it was regrettable that the details had been leaked before that could happen. There will be a full staff briefing on Thursday morning, she said.
There was no plan to keep staff in the dark.
The director general added that the key funding mechanism for the station, the television licence, had been broken for many years.
“The licence fee system is broken, but it is fixable. That has been done in other countries.will not have a future unless the Government fixes the licence fee structure.”
Ms Forbes said she is calling on the Minister to review the timeline (five to seven years) for review of the licence fee. “That’s too long. The crisis in public service media is now," she said.
“This is not about giving RTÉ a pot of money. This system has been in place since before the iPad existed. The Government are the creators of the licence fee, it is up to them to organise sustainable public broadcasting service. It is about more than just television and radio,” she said in a combative interview with Bryan Dobson.
She pointed out that many of the fee contracts for staff were put in place at a different time. “We simple cannot afford to continue to pay them.”
Introducing a 15% pay cut for the top earners is part of a suite of measures she said. The 200 jobs to be cut will be on a voluntary basis and a large portion of them will include the RTÉ symphony orchestra moving to the control of the National Concert Hall.
The station is changing course and “looking at the direction we have to go in.”
Ms Forbes was adamant that the Limerick facility is not closing, it is “downsizing its footprint. We will still be in the regions.”
However, she warned “we can’t keep doing everything as we were.”
She also acknowledged that “everything was on the table” and “a lot of things were under consideration.” The key thing “is to keep services and jobs.”
There is a need to engage with younger audiences who want services on their own terms, she said. The pace of change around viewing habits is unprecedented and “at a rate that we didn’t expect it to be.”