RTE warns top stars: take a pay cut or go
Station boss issues stark ultimatum over huge salaries
RTE'S top-earning stars were bluntly told last night: take salary cuts or go elsewhere for work.
The stark ultimatum was delivered by Director General Noel Curran to star presenters such as Pat Kenny, Ryan Tubridy, Joe Duffy and Marian Finucane.
In one of the most strongly worded statements to date, Mr Curran said the economic reality at the station was so grave that RTE's stars had to accept the cuts in their lucrative salaries.
Speaking at Dublin City University, Mr Curran, who earns €250,000 a year, conceded that many of the national broadcaster's top talents may decide to jump ship.
But it was a price he was willing to pay so that the national broadcaster could return to a sound economic footing.
He emphasised that the highest paid presenters would have taken an overall 30pc pay cut by 2013 based on their 2008 salaries.
"We may, during this process of renegotiation lose some of our most talented and loved presenters to our competitors. That would be very regrettable, but if some choose to leave, we will adjust, find new voices and new ways to deliver services and programmes," he added.
By 2008 pay levels, a cut of 30pc in Pat Kenny's would mean a drop from €950,976 to €665,683. The 2008 figure includes his pay from 'The Late Late Show', however. Under the plan, Marian Finucane's €570,000 pay cheque in 2008 would fall to €399,000.
Ryan Tubridy is believed to make significantly more than the €533,333 he earned in 2008, given he now presents the 'Late Late Show'. The scheme would cut Joe Duffy's €408,889 salary to some €286,000.
RTE has long justified paying its top performers what were perceived to be exorbitant salaries on the basis that it had to pay its talent competitive rates.
While Mr Curran has previously indicated significant pay cuts were coming for its highest earners, this is the first time he has admitted that losing talent to rival broadcasters would be inevitable.
Mr Curran added that by the end of the year RTE would have some 300 fewer staff than in 2008 and as a result "service levels will be impacted and most likely reduced".
Given those restrictions, RTE will have six key priorities in programming services over the next three years, with renewed emphasis on investigative journalism, arts & culture, innovation, children and young people, 24-hour news on demand, and national events including sport.
"The key message here is that we will meet our public service obligations, but we will do so by doing things differently, by being more efficient and by being more focused. Key in all of this is having very clear priorities, for it is only by having priorities can we make consistent decisions, particularly when scaling back some activities."
He also admitted that while RTE had "not always been as transparent as it should have been", it "is now one of the most transparent media organisations operating".
In what seemed to be a reference to a Competition Authority decision last week, Mr Curran said that while "we haven't always balanced our competitive and non-competitive imperatives properly, we are dependent on commercial income to provide the range of output we offer. We are also legally constituted to pursue that income and we will continue to do so".