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Monday 19 November 2018

RTE boss defends paying biggest stars 'shedloads'

RTE chief Dee Forbes
RTE chief Dee Forbes

RTE boss Dee Forbes was forced to defend the sums paid to the broadcaster's highest-earning stars.

It was put to her that the figures gave the impression that the cash-strapped station has "shedloads of money".

Ms Forbes was appearing before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), where she was grilled on the broadcaster's use of licence fee revenue.

The most recent figures for RTE's highest-paid presenters show that Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy was paid €495,000 in 2015, while Ray D'Arcy was on €400,000.

Ms Forbes told TDs that RTE currently has "inadequate resources" and has seen a drop of more than €100m in the annual funds available to it between 2008 and 2016.

Inefficient

She said the fall in revenue meant RTE could not invest as much in Irish drama and journalism.

Ms Forbes said €60m in potential licence fee payments goes uncollected due to an inefficient collection system and asked why this is acceptable.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the list of top 10 earners gave "the impression that RTE has shedloads of money", adding: "Whether you like that or not, that's the impression it gives.

"It's then very difficult to argue that RTE is short of money," she said, asking how Ms Forbes squares that circle.

Ms Forbes defended the sums paid, saying it is 1pc of RTE's total cost base. She pointed out that it is incumbent on presenters to ensure strong audiences to be attractive to advertisers.

The RTE chief also said there is a "competitive market place" for broadcasters who may go elsewhere.

PAC chairman and Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming asked for comparisons between the cost of an hour of Irish-produced television and programming bought in from abroad.

Ms Forbes said it was fair to say there is not enough Irish drama on RTE and that it is being supplemented by imports, such as US spy drama Homeland.

The PAC was told that Homeland can be bought for around €5,000 per hour, while it could cost up to €1m to make an episode of an Irish drama, such as Rebellion.

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