Thursday 8 December 2016

Radio veteran Balfe looks for new job after RTE axe falls

Ken Sweeney Entertainment Reporter

Published 18/09/2010 | 05:00

VETERAN broadcaster Brendan Balfe has spoken of his "disappointment" and "upset" over a decision by RTE to dispense with his services.

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After a career with the station lasting 46 years, he has been told there is no longer a place for him, after he reached the retirement age of 65.

"I wanted to keep working, like Gay Byrne, Larry Gogan and Jimmy Magee, who are all well over the age limit. But RTE has told me there is no place for me on either RTE Radio One or Lyric, which I find very disappointing and upsetting," said Balfe last night.

However, the presenter, who has been Radio 1's music-policy coordinator since 1999, says he does not want to retire and is unable to do so due to his economic circumstances.

"I was on a continuous contract with RTE since the 1980s, but about 2003 they put me on staff. That means the pension I'm left with from RTE is based on seven years' service, so it is really minuscule.

"I have a mortgage to pay and everything else so I can't stop working. I'm agile and in good health and will have to start looking at other stations and other things."

Balfe was one of RTE's most experienced broadcasters. As well as being one of the station's veterans who started in their original studios in the GPO, he was the first voice on pop station 2fm in 1979.

He won a Jacob's Award for his documentary series 'The Spice of Life' in 1986.

Balfe's knowledge of the RTE archives is unparalleled, and he has delved into them for numerous RTE radio programmes, including 'The History Of Pop', 'The Soundtrack Of The Century' and 'The Irish Voice', the final broadcast of which airs on RTE Radio One today at 1pm.

All of these programmes were voiced with his unique mid-Atlantic accent. "Eamonn Andrews had the same accent. My old boss in RTE reckoned we got it from watching cowboy films when we were kids. Eamonn himself told me it was a Dublin accent but heard in London," he added.

The late Eamonn Andrews, like Balfe, was another veteran of RTE's GPO studios, where new continuity announcers went through a bizarre initiation procedure live on-air. "Pat Kenny had to deal with me setting alight a script as he was reading it. My own initiation was getting a bucket of water thrown over me on air by my old boss Terry Wogan," says Balfe.

RTE told the Irish Independent it could only comment on current policy broadly, and not on individuals.

"Normal retirement age for staff in RTE, as elsewhere, is 65. Retirement at that age is and will be the norm.

"Where a staff presenter or producer clearly has the ambition and energy to continue in a broadcast capacity at RTE after the statutory retirement age, RTE Radio actively draws their attention to a number of avenues which may lead to continued broadcast work," the broadcaster said.

"With regard to the small number of presenters who remain on air past the age of 65, these arrangements relate to previous negotiations made and agreed in different times."

"In relation to Brendan Balfe specifically, RTE Radio wishes to acknowledge his immense contribution to broadcasting in Ireland, and to express the hope that Brendan's voice will again feature on RTE Radio in the future."

Irish Independent

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