herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

RTE warned of more cuts to save ailing broadcaster

A GOVERNMENT department has warned that more cutbacks may have to be implemented at RTE.

A briefing report from the Department of Communications submitted to Minister Alex White states that the national broadcaster "continues to have a serious financial position" and "a further fundamental adjustment" is required.

The concerns from department officials were expressed despite the fact that RTE recently reported its first annual profit since 2007.

RTE has already implemented a major cost-cutting drive, which involved shedding a fifth of its workforce.

Officials told Mr White that, while the broadcaster had significantly reduced its costs, "its financial position will require a further adjustment to secure RTE's future position and ongoing relevance in the Irish media landscape".

However, further significant cost savings may prove difficult to achieve.

An expert report commissioned last year to examine efficiencies at the broadcaster is understood to have found few areas where savings could be made.

The concerns expressed to the minister are likely to be conveyed to RTE's new governing body later this month.

A spokesman for RTE said it was aware of the document, which the department has made publicly available.

In a statement, the spokesman said the briefing given to Mr White "confirms what is already mutually understood; namely that in order to protect the future of the national public service media service, stability regarding RTE's financial position, including public funding, will be essential".

vocal

The department's warning spells bad news for RTE staff, many of whom have been calling for a reversal of pay cuts.

Newsreader Aengus Mac Grianna, who is seeking election to RTE's governing body, has been one of the most vocal staff members in calling for the restoration of pay.

RTE has already endured a seismic restructuring scheme in recent years, reducing its operating costs by €130m since 2008.

Voluntary early retirement and severance schemes have seen the number of people employed there slump from 2,351 at the end of 2008 to 1,856 at the end of last year.

The restructuring saw a number of household names, such as Charlie Bird and Anne Doyle, leave and the broadcaster also shut down its London bureau. Pay has been cut at all levels, while performance-related pay has ceased and fees for leading presenters are now almost 40pc lower than six years ago.

RTE reported a net surplus after tax of €1.1m for last year.

hnews@herald.ie

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