More than 120 RTÉ staff were paid in excess of €100,000 in basic salary.
That is according to new figures published by RTÉ which show 122 people breached the €100,000 bracket in basic salary last year. Of those, some 24 earned between €150,000 and €200,000.
Crucially, the figures don’t include RTÉ’s top earners including the likes of Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy and Ray D’Arcy as they are not RTÉ staff but independent contractors and are paid through companies that they have established.
In 2018, there were 126 earners in the €100,000+ bracket.
Last year, a further 170 RTÉ staff members earned between €80,000 and €100,000 and the new figures show that average pay at RTÉ last year totalled €60,713, an increase on the average salary of €60,518 for 2018.
Against the background of mounting losses at the broadcaster, numbers employed at RTÉ actually increased last year from 1,822 to 1,831.
An RTÉ spokesperson noted, though, that small variations in headcount can occur in any large organisation "resulting from the timing of recruitments, etc".
The confirmation of the increase in numbers employed and the number of high earners at RTÉ coincides with a fresh warning over the future finances of RTÉ.
In briefing documents prepared for the new communications minister Eamon Ryan, officials warn “the finances of the national broadcaster are not sustainable and are undermining its capacity to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive and fragmented broadcasting sector while continuing to deliver on its statutory responsibilities as a public broadcaster”.
The officials state that “the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the broadcasting sector with unprecedented cuts to the advertising market”.
“Adding to an already challenging funding environment, RTÉ’s revenues have decreased significantly as a result of the crisis, both in terms of its commercial revenues and licence fee funding.”
The documents state that “RTÉ has provided the department with an overview of its current financial position and the response and mitigation measures taken to date, as well as outlining revenue forecasts and the outlook for 2021”.
While TV licence revenue has risen by €10m since 2014, officials state this "has not prevented the emergence of a growing deficit”.
They note that “while the 2017 land sale provided some relief to RTÉ, allowing it to repay debt, fund severance schemes and undertake much-needed capital investment, the underlying trends affecting RTÉ’s financial and commercial position remain”.
The document states that “fundamental changes in the advertising market and audience behaviour have had a significant impact on the financial position of RTÉ which recorded a deficit before tax and exceptional items in 2018 of €12.6m”.
On November 7, 2019, RTÉ wrote to the then-minister proposing a revised strategy which included a number of radical measures to cut costs and raise revenue.
The briefing states that discussions have been ongoing between RTÉ, the Department of Communications, the Department of Public Expenditure and NewEra regarding RTÉ’s financial position and the impacts of Covid-19 crisis on revenue and costs.
A report by NewERA is being prepared, officials note in the documents.
A spokesman for RTÉ said, “RTÉ has been on a significant programme of cost reduction and reform since the beginning of the year as part of its Revised Strategy 2020-2024 which included a pay freeze across the organisation; a 10% reduction in Executive Board pay; a 15% reduction in top talent fees.”
“In addition, RTÉ recently announced a series of measures to help mitigate the impact of unforeseen income declines. These measures include: availing of the Government’s Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme; ceasing of all but essential recruitment and contractual employment; 50 % of staff annual leave to be used before the end of June, where possible; cutting and/or deferral of productions (both independent commissions and in-house) affected by public health measures; deferral of all but essential capital expenditure."