Belfast Telegraph

RTE to slash 200 jobs next year and cut top stars' salaries by 15%

Dee Forbes, RTE director general
Dee Forbes, RTE director general

By Ian Begley

RTE is preparing to slash 200 jobs, freeze staff pay and impose 15% salary cuts on some of its best-paid talent.

The broadcaster warned its staff of major changes as part of a huge financial shake-up designed to save €60m over the next three years.

All staff will face the prospect of a freeze in their wages – while senior management will take a 10% pay cut, and the board of RTE will waive its fees.

Dee Forbes, RTE’s director general, will not be spared from the stringent measures and will also take a hit in her pay package of €338,000.

It’s understood a large number of the redundancies will be sought in production.

RTE’s Limerick studio is earmarked to close, but despite speculation, Lyric FM will continue to operate from Co Cork and Dublin.

The broadcaster has also revealed it will put the RTE Guide up for sale and close its Digital Audio Broadcast network.

RTE’s digital radio stations (RTE 2XM, RTE Pulse, RTE Gold, RTEjr Radio and RTE Radio 1 Extra) and RTE Aertel will cease to exist.

RTE will develop a new integrated media centre in Donnybrook, investing in new digital infrastructure.

The broadcaster blamed high rates of TV licence fee evasion as one of the reasons it had to make the deep cuts.

It intended to reveal the news to its staff earlier this week, but the death of Gay Byrne delayed matters.

Staff will be briefed personally on the looming changes today.

Staff and unions will be consulted on a number of initiatives, to include a pay freeze, tiered pay reductions, review of benefits, and work practice reforms.

But a 15% reduction in pay for "top contracted on-air presenters" has already been outlined, along with a 10pc cut for the Executive Board.

Among the best-known talents now expected to take a pay cut are top earners such as Ryan Tubridy, Miriam O'Callaghan, Ray D'Arcy and Joe Duffy.

D'Arcy was the only high-earning presenter who said recently he was prepared to take a pay cut from his €450,000-a-year salary.

Many of his fellow presenters were silent on whether they agreed or not with the proposed cuts.

It is understood that RTE currently has more than 1,800 staff, including part-time workers.

Speculation has been mounting over its financial future after Ms Forbes last month told staff the situation was "not like anything we have seen before".

"As a result, it will no longer be possible to continue as we are," she said.

In a statement last night, Ms Forbes said: "With so much detail now in the public domain, our first priority was to contact all staff immediately with an update on the revised strategy and plans.

"The challenges in front of us are real.

"But RTE does have a plan, which we are confident can address many of the challenges we face and bring Ireland's national public broadcaster to stability," said Ms Forbes.

"However, Government needs to act to ensure there is a future for public service media in Ireland.

"I am clear about what role RTE should play in Irish life, but I am also clear that we cannot do it unless Government fixes the TV licence system.

"We shouldn't be under any illusions, we are in a fight - a fight to sustain a viable public media in Ireland.

"We remain in discussions with Government.

Reinvent

"We are doing all we can to return RTE to a stable financial position, but we will not be able to reinvent public media for future generations, nor fulfil our remit, without immediate reform of the TV licence system."

Amid the changes announced late last night, it emerged that the RTE National Symphony Orchestra will transfer to the National Concert Hall.

The broadcaster promised to develop live and on-demand RTÉ Player product, building towards a more integrated service offering video and audio.

It will move RTE's biggest sporting moments to RTE One, and increase investment in live TV moments and big events such as 'Late Late Show' specials.

An on-demand and digital strategy will be tailored specially for children.

While its Limerick studio will be shut down, RTE will continue to provide a mid-west news service in the city.

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