herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Staff safe' as report finds RTE has saved all it can

RTE Director General Noel Curran
RTE Director General Noel Curran
Sean Gallagher

RTE staff fearing further job cuts will be able to breathe a sigh of relief as an unpublished report says the national broadcaster has already reached the full range of cost reductions that were achievable.

The Donnybrook-based station has shed 500 jobs since 2007 in an effort to get its finances under control after a collapse in commercial revenue and licence fees.

But a source told the Herald that director general Noel Curran is due to address staff this week to tell them that while they are not out of the woods, the future is looking brighter.

woes

The staff reductions came in tandem with overall cost reductions of €130m which were needed to keep RTE's show on the road. Commercial revenue dropped more than €100m between 2007 and 2013 and money from licence fees was down more than €13m, so RTE had to try to become a leaner organisation.

"They were difficult days for the organisation and not just for me, but for everyone," said Mr Curran. "I tend to sleep well at night - but if there were nights I lost a little sleep, it was over the finances."

After losing money between 2009 and 2012, RTE broke even in 2013, but a bold move to sell off some or all of the Montrose campus in Dublin 4 could still be on the cards to help secure RTE's future.

"No decisions have been made on anything," said Mr Curran.

A second round of career breaks at the station recently closed, and a recent independent analysis, which has not yet been published, has told RTE management that they have saved all the money they can.

This leaves increasing revenue as the option for growth.

As RTE's financial woes impacted in recent years they were compounded by two major programming controversies.

A Prime Time Investigates documentary, Mission To Prey, falsely accused a priest of fathering a child, and then the broadcast of a fake tweet during Pat Kenny's Frontline programme resulted in presidential election candidate Sean Gallagher claiming it cost him potential victory.

legislation

"There were some dark days when the financial and editorial collided," Mr Curran said in an interview yesterday.

He sees digital as the future when it comes to capitalising on growth, with efforts being made to maximise the options around the RTE Player a renewed focus.

With a drop in the number of people paying the TV licence, he wants the Government to introduce legislation to give TV licence collectors access to the databases of TV service providers.

cfeehan@herald.ie

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