Business Irish

Saturday 30 August 2014

RTE gets ready for digital age with €350m overhaul

Paul Melia

Published 29/09/2009 | 00:00

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A model of the proposed redevelopment of RTE buildings at Montrose in Dublin.

RTE yesterday unveiled plans to redevelop its 31-acre Dublin 4 campus which would result in demolition of the television building and radio centre to make way for a new complex costing up to €350m.

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If approved, the project would see the gradual replacement over a 10-15 year period of most of the current 1960s and 1970s buildings on the Donnybrook site with a purpose-built 500,000 square foot (46,500 square metre) complex designed for the digital and high-definition age.

No part of the site will be sold, according to an RTE spokesman.

But the broadcaster said it was considering a plan under which it could become a landlord in the future.

This would happen if RTE leased land on the site to a developer. The developer would have to make an annual payment to the broadcaster in return for a long-term lease.

RTE cited the model used by the RDS in nearby Ballsbridge where it owns the site of the Bewleys Hotel. The hotel has a long-term lease on the site, however, the land remains in the ownership of the RDS and reverts back to them once the lease expires.

'Project 2025' has been in planning since 2002 and will be carried out over five phases.

Construction

It will begin with construction of new high definition (HD) digital TV and digital radio studios including a new 'Late Late Show' studio which can hold 800 people -- twice the capacity of the current studio.

When complete, the complex will have production areas, rehearsal and performance spaces and staff offices.

An auditorium for the RTE orchestras, which will be available to local groups, is also planned, along with a new entrance from the Stillorgan dual carriageway. The building will rise to six storeys on the Stillorgan dual carriageway side.

The development is being planned because RTE must invest in new digital broadcast production and transmission facilities. But it says housing these new technologies in the current buildings is not feasible because they were built in the 1960s and are unsuitable.

"Rapid change in production and broadcast technology obliges us to plan and provide for the future," RTE director-general Cathal Goan said.

"RTE has considered carefully the best way to upgrade our broadcast production and transmission facilities while continuing to stay on air. We are confident that the most cost-effective, sustainable and technically robust option available is to reconfigure our existing site and incorporate all facilities into a single new building."

The TV building, which hosts studios and the newsroom, was built in 1962 while the radio centre was completed in 1971. All offices in the new building will be designed as use for television or radio production if required.

The project will be financed through cash reserves built up by the organisation and bank loans. A spokesman stressed that licence-fee income could not be used to fund construction.

""We don't regard ourselves as property developers, it's about solving a huge technological problem," the spokesman said. "Borrowings will fund the lion's share of the costs. It's cheaper to build now but it's difficult to borrow and we are not planning to sell off any of the site. We will not be looking to fund this from licence-fee income."

When the complex is complete, the station plans to redevelop the Nutley Lane end of the campus with offices for independent production companies and internet businesses. It also hopes to provide offices for UCD and Trinity College Dublin which have developed an innovation partnership.

A planning application will be made on October 9 and construction work is not expected before 2012. It is envisaged that 670 construction jobs will be created.

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