Saturday 22 October 2016

RTÉ invites staff to take 12-week career breaks in bid to cut costs

Sean Duffy and Kirsty Blake Knox

Published 15/09/2016 | 06:36

RTE’s new Director General Dee Forbes spoke at the Mediacon Global Entertainment Summit in Dublin
RTE’s new Director General Dee Forbes spoke at the Mediacon Global Entertainment Summit in Dublin

RTÉ has invited its staff to take incentivised career breaks throughout 2017 in a bid to cut costs.

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Permanent members of staff can take a break of up to 12 weeks in addition to their annual leave.

Staff can avail of the offer provided the national broadcaster will not need to replace them during the period they take off.

Those who avail of the offer will receive staggered or part payment.

RTÉ staff were informed about the incentivised career breaks yesterday.

In 2015, RTÉ recorded a deficit of €2.8m.

This year, losses are predicted to be substantially more.  

Yesterday, the new Director General of RTÉ, Dee Forbes, demanded a clampdown on licence fee dodgers, saying that across the country there is “low-hanging fruit” to be collected.

Ms Forbes said the rate of collection of the licence fee here was among the worst in Europe, and stressed that it is an issue that could be easily addressed. “Ireland has one of the highest rates of licence fee avoidance rates in Europe. It is at 16pc, so I think there really is some low -hanging fruit there on that front.”

She said that funding for RTÉ had been “underserved” in the past number of years and that the effect of Brexit on the company’s revenues were challenging, primarily due to a retrenchment from UK firms and RTÉ’s exposure to exchange rate fluctuations.

“A lot of advertisers who operate in Ireland are dictated to by the UK. They are slowing down significantly,” she told the Mediacon Global Entertainment Summit in Dublin’s City Hall.

She welcomed recent remarks by Communications Minster Denis Naughten about the need to implement strategies geared at clamping down on those who do not pay their licence fee. Mr Naughten has a range of measures under consideration, including one which would give An Post new powers to access the customer databases of digital TV providers in a bid to ascertain who is using the RTÉ service via that channel. Ms Forbes also acknowledged that RTÉ needs to engage more with local communities.

She added the broadcaster’s team of local correspondents should be used to better reflect the concerns of local communities. “RTÉ is not just about Donnybrook.

“We have correspondents all over the country and we need do more to engage with communities.

“We need to listen and we need to reflect life in those areas. There is a lot happening in those communities that I think we can do more with them and engage more,” she said.

She said that the national broadcaster needs to be “clearer” about what the brand represents and RTÉ needs to be an “open, outward-looking” organisation.

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