Belfast Telegraph

Public anxious about pay levels at RTE – Bruton

The Communications Minister said RTE will still be around in five years but only if it reforms.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton (Michelle Devane/PA)
Communications Minister Richard Bruton (Michelle Devane/PA)

By Aine McMahon, PA

There is anxiety among the public about the high level of pay for some RTE staff, Richard Bruton has said.

RTE confirmed it 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.

Communications Minister Mr Bruton was asked in Dublin on Friday if he thought it is appropriate that some RTE staff earn more than the 200,000 euro the Irish Premier is paid to run the country.

There is no doubt some personalities arguably attract additional revenue because of their activities, but I think they have to balance that because they have realised some of the pay levels are too high Richard Bruton

He said: “There is a lot of anxiety among the general public that some of these pay levels are too high. The plan outlined by RTE would see a 10-15% cut in some of those salaries but pay is ultimately a decision for the management and board at RTE.

“They have to decide what the best route is to deliver a sustainable model for public service broadcasting.”

On Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was not going to comment on salaries of RTE staff compared to his.

“I’m not going to get into issues about what other people are paid or not. There are lots of people in RTE who don’t earn big salaries and are working very hard for the money they make,” he said.

The plan, sent to staff on Wednesday, said RTE will reduce fees paid to contracted on-air presenters by 15%.

It said it would consult staff and unions on a number of initiatives, including a pay freeze and tiered pay reductions for existing staff.

RTE director general Dee Forbes receives a salary of 250,000 euro, a 25,000-euro car allowance and pension contributions of 63,000 euro – bringing her total package to 338,000 euro.

Mr Bruton said he put forward his concerns over high levels of pay when he met the RTE board on Thursday and they have committed to cutting salaries.

I think what we need to see is public service broadcasting adapting to a very changed environment Richard Bruton

“The board have recognised that it (cutting pay) does form part of the solution and there needs to be leadership of it from those in high positions, but ultimately they have to find a balancing act,” he said.

“There is no doubt some personalities arguably attract additional revenue because of their activities, but I think they have to balance that because they have realised some of the pay levels are too high,” he said.

He said the TV licence fee evasion has contributed to a loss of revenue for RTE and that a new tender to collect the charge has been put out that should bring down the evasion rate from 14% to 7%.

Asked if he thinks RTE will be around in five years’ time, he said: “Undoubtedly. I think what we need to see is public service broadcasting adapting to a very changed environment.”

He said a lot of the content RTE makes is very high quality but it needs to attract younger audiences who have migrated to different online platforms such as Netflix.

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