Friday 21 July 2017

Anton Savage: 'There's no scandal in RTÉ paying Bryan Dobson up to €200k-a-year'

Why are Irish people against people earning big salaries?

RTE presenter Bryan Dobson
RTE presenter Bryan Dobson

Anton Savage

Bryan Dobson says he wants a pay cut. He’s on just under €200,000 and declared in a recent interview that if RTÉ needs to reduce salaries, he’s okay with “whatever is proposed or necessary”.

He’s either nuts, or canny enough to know that’s the only publicly acceptable position to take.

For some reason, Irish public opinion is against big salaries.

There’s a sense that earning a lot makes you a lesser person than someone whose wage more obviously relates to their labour.

Bryan doesn’t have a difficult gig. He’s not digging canals or inseminating heifers. He’s reading things out loud and doing the odd interview.

Genius

There’s no way to suggest that an hour of reading out loud is more difficult or societally valuable than an hour of pumping out septic tanks or sweeping streets.

If he was doing the news in Cuba, he’d probably be on the same wage as street sweepers and tank pumpers, but in the rest of the (capitalist) world, people get paid not for their time but for their market value.

Bryan undoubtedly has a value to RTE beyond the sweat of his brow (that’s a metaphor, Bryan’s brow never sweats, it’s one of his charms).

RTE believes some people watch Six-One because they like and trust Dobson.

It can sell ads based on having those viewers, and it can make a lot of money, some of which it gives to Bryan.

In other parts of the world, people are praised for achieving such a thing.

“You get €200,000 a year to sit in a warm room, read out loud and ask people questions? Fair play, lad, you’re a genius.”

In Ireland, it’s something to be ashamed of. It must be due to our colonial history – we’re so culturally used to riches being a function of landed birthright that we continue to resent wealth, even when it is earned, not inherited.

But Bryan isn’t from a long line of Dobson newsreaders. He didn’t receive his anchor’s chair in a line of succession. His great-grandfather was not gifted the Six-One when some peasant newsreader was forced out of the studio by bailiffs.

It’s a job Bryan went and got, and it pays well, so more power to him.

He knows, however, that if he said “Folks, if ye have a problem with what I’m paid, feel free to become newsreaders yourselves” he’d be lynched.

Tension

Therefore, Bryan has to look happy to take one for the team when asked about a wage cut.

Like any person in commercial employment, he has an obligation to himself to maximise the amount of money he’s paid for what he does. That’s not a bad thing.

It’s management who have an obligation to minimise costs for shareholders by keeping wages down, and the tension between obligations creates a salary level, which in Bryan’s case is about €200,000.

That we are all envious shouldn’t stop him answering the question with what must be the truth: “Do I want a pay cut? You must be friggin’ kidding, I’m going to milk this puppy for every penny I can get.”

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