Thursday 21 February 2019

'Outsource one of two orchestras to cut €13m spend', RTE is told

The RTE Concert Orchestra
The RTE Concert Orchestra

RTE is unable to continue to fund two orchestras and needs the Government to cover the cost of the National Symphony Orchestra, if it is to survive.

The national broadcaster is legally required to maintain orchestras and currently operates both the Symphony Orchestra and the RTE Concert Orchestra.

The orchestras cost €13m a year to run. Last year, RTE commissioned a financial review into the provision of the orchestras, as they continue to reduce a €20m deficit.

The review found the orchestras should continue but added that "the status quo is equally untenable".

As a result RTE is advised to outsource the Symphony Orchestra.

It is recommended the Government provides €4m in funding towards the NSO. By outsourcing the Symphony Orchestra, RTE will make an annual saving of €2.5m.

The reason the saving is not more substantial is because the review also recommends increased financial investment in the Concert Orchestra.


If the Government does not provide support, then RTE will be forced to make a "very bad second choice" and close one of the two orchestras.

Last night Culture Minister Josepha Madigan welcomed the recommendation that both orchestras be retained.

The publication coincides with the recent launch of the Government's Creative Ireland programme which includes a redevelopment of the National Concert Hall, home of the NSO.

"This report allows us to chart a way forward for both orchestras - securing a strong future and ensuring that they can contribute fully to Ireland's rich cultural heritage," Ms Madigan said.

However, trade unions Siptu and Musicians Union of Ireland cautioned RTE against any proposal to outsource the Symphony Orchestra.

They said they are "fundamentally opposed to this proposition".

The report was carried out by Helen Boaden, former director of BBC Radio and BBC News.

Aodan O Dubhghaill, head of RTE Orchestras, said the report confirms the orchestras' singular place in musical heritage while recognising RTE's overall funding position.

"These recommendations offer a solution which protects and supports both orchestras, while also recognising the balance between RTE's financial constraints and our public service role in promoting music, arts and culture," he said.

RTE's board of directors will meet on Thursday to discuss the review's findings.

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