Lee finally returns to RTE as an independent -- on radio
FORMER Fine Gael TD George Lee has found himself at the centre of yet another controversy as he prepares for his return to RTE.
The Irish Independent has learned the former economics editor's return to the airwaves will count towards RTE's quota of "independent programming" -- even though he remains on the national broadcaster's payroll.
His new summer slot is one of the first two shows commissioned under RTE's newly launched Independent Radio Productions (IRP) unit.
The IRP was set up in April and the national broadcaster has vowed to spend €500,000 on the first round of awards.
The initiative was widely welcomed by the industry, but a storm is now brewing over the award to Mr Lee's new show.
"There's nothing in the rules that says you can't use an RTE presenter, but it runs completely contrary to the ethos and the spirit of the scheme," one independent producer said. "The idea was to have more diversity."
Association of Independent Radio Producers of Ireland chairman Daryl Moorehouse also expressed concerns about a scenario where many of the IRP programmes ended up fronted by existing RTE talent.
"We're not saying independent producers shouldn't be allowed to use RTE presenters but we'd rather see a plurality of voices," he said, adding it is impossible to see a pattern from the small number of commissions so far. RTE last night defended the award to Mr Lee's 'Mind Your Business' show, which will replace 'The Business With John Murray' for nine weeks over the summer.