Belfast Telegraph

RTE director general defends high pay for presenters in ‘difficult job’

RTE director general Dee Forbes said she expects 200 people to leave the organisation through voluntary redundancy as it faces a funding deficit.

The RTE headquarters at Donnybrook in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
The RTE headquarters at Donnybrook in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

RTE director general Dee Forbes has defended the high pay of some of its staff and said presenters have a difficult job that not everyone can do.

Ireland’s National Broadcaster RTE is seeking to cut its workforce by 200 as one of a series of measures to tackle its financial crisis and reduce costs by 60 million euro over the next three years.

Salaries for the 10 highest paid RTE presenters, who mainly work as contractors rather than staff, added up to three million euro in 2016.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is paid 200,000 euro per year.

RTE has pledged to reduce the fees paid to their top contracted on-air presenters by 15% which it said is in addition to cuts of over 30% agreed in previous years.

Asked about the pay of some presenters, Ms Forbes said: “The role of our presenters is multi-faceted.

“They present several shows depending on the individual but I think it’s important to say at this point in time that they’re very important to RTE and very important to the messages that they have to deliver on a regular basis.”

“And I think it’s also important to say that I understand why this can be an issue and a topic for conversation among the public, but the role of presenting a show and being  a broadcaster can be a difficult one and it’s not something that anybody can do despite sometimes what the public think,” she said.

Ms Forbes and other executives from the broadcaster appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications on Tuesday.

Earlier, Communications Minister Richard Bruton announced the government will provide 50 million euro in extra funding to RTE over the next five years

Senator Michael McDowell accused Ms Forbes of not being clear on the figures surrounding high pay for RTE presenters.

“You haven’t been clear as to whether any of the seven top presenters have accepted the pay cut,” he said.

Ms Forbes said they have negotiated a pay cut with one of its contractors by 15% and the rest of the pay negotiations are ongoing.

“I guess it is important to point out that all of these people are under contract at the moment so we are appealing to them outside of their contract to discuss this matter with us and then also on renewal; there will be further discussions. Both are happening at the same time,” she said.

When asked what presenter agreed to have their pay cut and by how much she said: “I can’t comment on that at this stage. It was in excess of 15%.”

She said she would not like to see the Government introduce legislation to regulate pay at RTE and said it should be “left to the open market”.

Asked about the 60 million euro cost-cutting plan, Ms Forbes said half of this will be made up of what she described as “people costs”.

“We expect in the region of 200 staff will leave RTE in a combination of voluntary redundancies,” she said.

Ms Forbes said the current collection system of the licence fee is untenable and the 160 euro fee for the licence fee represents good value for money.

She said it costs the equivalent of 44 cent per day, per household and is better value in comparison to online streaming services such as Netflix.

She said RTE offers more homegrown programming than equivalent public service broadcasters across Europe and cited the Late Late Toy Show which attracted a live audience of 1.3 million people across the world.

PA

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