Sunday 17 December 2017

RTE provides latest smartphones to 600 members of staff

iPhone
iPhone

RTE has bought top-of-the-range smartphones for a third of its staff, but is refusing to say how much it spent on them.

The state broadcaster bought at least 579 phones between 2012 and 2014, including 369 Apple iPhones, 97 Samsung smartphones, 48 Nokias and 16 HTCs among other brands on the extensive list.

New iPhones costs as much as €650, though phone companies sell handsets for as little as €180 depending on the contract.

"It would be inaccurate to claim that RTE is universally paying market rate for the procurement of mobile technology devices," a spokeswoman said.

But she refused to reveal the cost of the phones, citing the "commercial sensitivity" of RTE's deals with suppliers.

Revealing the sums would not be in the public interest as it would negatively affect RTE's ability to negotiate new contracts.

The records released to the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act show that a phone was bought for almost one in three of RTE's 1,800 staff, with the broadcaster confirming it also pays the bills for their use.

The true number of phones bought is even higher as the information provided does not include handsets bought by staff who later recouped the cost in their expenses.

interference

RTE refused to compile the information on purchases by individual staff members, saying that its retrieval would be a "substantial and unreasonable interference" with the broadcaster's work.

The station would not provide a list of staff, programmes or departments for which the phones were bought due to the nature of its record-keeping.

The spokeswoman said staff are not "automatically entitled" to have their phones provided.

They are only assigned to staff including journalists, production teams and digital teams where there is an "operational requirement" for them to have one.

"RTE routinely refuses requests for smartphones where there is not a demonstrable operational need," she said, adding that RTE "strives to achieve value for money" in its procurement of works, supplies and services.

She said staff members' phone bills are paid for but they must refund the cost of personal calls.

Investment in new technologies has "contributed to the reduction in RTE's operating costs", she added, saying these were down €132m since 2008.

hnews@herald.ie

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