RTÉ re­port:

Mea­sures floated by man­age­ment in­clude end to ardfheisea­nna cov­er­age Bru­ton says top earn­ers must show lead­er­ship and RTÉ must bal­ance costs

The Irish Times - - Front Page - FIACH KELLY, JACK HORGAN JONES and MARTIN WALL

A Govern­ment re­port on RTÉ sup­ports the sta­tion’s view on ur­gent changes:

A Govern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port of RTÉ’s fi­nan­cial state, which was ur­gently or­dered in Au­gust, sup­ports the sta­tion’s man­age­ment’s view that ur­gent changes are nec­es­sary.

The ex­am­i­na­tion by NewERA, the State’s fi­nan­cial and com­mer­cial ad­vi­sory body, was given to Min­is­ter for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Richard Bru­ton this week.

On Wed­nes­day night, af­ter The Ir­ish Times re­ported on­line that the broad­caster was plan­ning sub­stan­tial job cuts and a 15 per cent pay re­duc­tion for its high­est-earn­ing pre­sen­ters, RTÉ man­age­ment told staff that 200 jobs will need to go; ¤60 mil­lion will need to be cut from spend­ing and wide­spread work-prac­tice changes need to be made across the sta­tion.

A spokes­woman for Mr Bru­ton said the NewERA re­port was com­mis­sioned by the Min­is­ter “to sup­port the Govern­ment’s re­sponse to the re­vised RTÉ strat­egy” and is “be­ing con­sid­ered”.

Pri­vately, RTÉ fig­ures be­lieve it sup­ports man­age­ment’s view that ur­gent changes are nec­es­sary, but, just as im­por­tantly, that the Govern­ment must agree to changes to the li­cence fee.

Separately, Mr Bru­ton said he had raised con­cerns about the pay bill for RTÉ’s top stars in talks with RTÉ’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, Dee Forbes and the broad­caster’s board.

The pro­posal con­tained in this week’s hur­riedly-pub­lished strat­egy doc­u­ment saw RTÉ re­spond with pro­pos­als for a 15 per cent cut in pay to top earn­ers, he said.

“They have recog­nised this is part of the so­lu­tion. There does need to be lead­er­ship from those in high-paid po­si­tions. But ul­ti­mately they have to do the bal­anc­ing act.

“There is no doubt it will be ar­gued that some per­son­al­i­ties at­tract ad­di­tional com­mer­cial rev­enue be­cause of their ac­tiv­i­ties. So they have to bal­ance that,” the Min­is­ter said.

“But they have recog­nised that some of the pay lev­els are too high and are do­ing a re­struc­tur­ing and have com­mit­ted to cut those salaries.”

Plans to put col­lec­tion of the li­cence fee out to ten­der could see the level of eva­sion fall from 14 per cent to seven per cent and this could gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tional re­sources for RTÉ, he said.

Live cov­er­age

Mean­while, abol­ish­ing live cov­er­age of po­lit­i­cal party con­fer­ences and ardfheisea­nna, in­clud­ing prime-time tele­vi­sion slots for lead­ers’ speeches, has been raised as a prospect by RTÉ man­age­ment.

Jon Wil­liams, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of RTÉ News and Cur­rent Af­fairs, sug­gested in pri­vate that the move could save ¤250,000, which could be used to hire jour­nal­ists.

In a state­ment, an RTÉ spokes­woman said last night it “is not ceas­ing po­lit­i­cal party con­fer­ence cov­er­age” but it in­tends to re­view the live cov­er­age of such events.

“In the last year or so, RTÉ News and Cur­rent Af­fairs in­di­cated to the main par­ties that it was propos­ing to re­view the ex­ist­ing con­fer­ence live cov­er­age, and that if any changes were in­tro­duced, they would take ef­fect af­ter the next gen­eral elec­tion. No fi­nal de­ci­sion has yet been made.

“Any sav­ing from any pos­si­ble changes to how RTÉ pro­vide live con­fer­ence cov­er­age would be sig­nif­i­cantly less than the fig­ure al­leged.”

Over re­cent months, se­nior fig­ures in RTÉ have given brief­ings to sec­tors of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, even be­fore this week’s an­nounce­ment. Mr Wil­liams made his sug­ges­tion in one of these meet­ings.

Man­age­ment and unions in RTÉ will meet next week. The Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists said the pro­pos­als are short-sighted and ill-judged. Siptu doubted 200 vol­un­tary re­dun­dan­cies could be found. Com­pul­sory lay-offs would be re­sisted, it said.

PHOTOGRAPH: PA

A mem­ber of RTÉ staff leav­ing the build­ing af­ter Thurs­day’s staff meet­ing.

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