Radio DJ had car taken away from him due to falling ad sales after father died, tribunal hears
A DJ at Ireland’s most popular local radio station was told a week after his father died from cancer that his car was being taken from him because of his falling advertising sales, he has told an Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Former Highland Radio presenter Stephen Lynch (38) was giving evidence on the second day of a hearing for his claim for constructive dismissal.
The panel sitting in Letterkenny has already heard how the father of three was paid €390-a-week for his two-hour afternoon show, the second most popular slot on the station.
He was expected to sell advertising each morning before doing his show to supplement his income.
However his sales fell 11pc in 2012 from the previous year from €79,000 to €70,000.
Mr Lynch alleged during his evidence that he was put under constant pressure by advertising manager John Clancy, son-in-law of station owner Gerry Rabbitte, to increase sales despite the recession.
“I remember my father saying to me at the time that the only way I could increase sales was if I went and got a gun,” said Mr Lynch.
He said his father had battled cancer for ten years and in 2012 he had a relapse.
In the final weeks before his father’s death, said Mr Lynch, he would spend mornings with his parents helping to lift his father out of bed, before driving from his home in Carndonagh to Letterkenny to do his show.
On his return he would help his father again.
When his father died in October 2012 he was given a week’s annual leave but within a week of his return he was told his use of a pool car was being withdrawn.
This was implemented in January, he said.
He also had his list of clients reduced from 60 or 70 to just 15, severely curbing his chances of making commission from advertising sales.
This resulted, he argued, in a loss of weekly earnings of more than €200.
Mr Clancy, he alleged, didn’t understand the local advertising market.
“The money wasn’t there, there were several radio stations in the North broadcasting into Inishowen where my sales were and they were an awful lot cheaper than what Highland was offering,” said Mr Lynch.
“Inishowen was badly hit by the recession. All those who had worked in the building trade were gone, they were all out of jobs and that was having a big knock-on effect on everything else.
“One day in particular John Clancy gave me a list – there were always loads of lists. He said these advertisers had been on the station three years ago and he wanted to know why are they not advertising now.
“I scored a line through at least eight of the businesses. They had closed.
“He (Mr Clancy) was ill-informed – he was expecting too much to come out of an area suffering badly from the recession.”
Mr Lynch alleged that the loss of his pool car and his reduced sales made it impossible for him to continue his DJ job at Highland.
“John Clancy chipped and chipped and chipped away at me until he broke me. I had no problems with Mr Rabbitte because I rarely saw him,” said Mr Lynch in his evidence.
He resigned in May after his attempt to have his DJ wages increased to €611. He was offered €450 per week to stay.
“It was a choice between Highland Radio and the job I loved and a roof over my head and I chose the roof over my head for my family. There was no way I could pay all my bills and drive 85 miles a day on that wage,” he said.
Alistair Purdy, solicitor for Highland Radio, put it to Mr Lynch that the offer of €450 per week just to do his DJ job for 10 hours per week was a generous one and that Mr Lynch was ‘foolhardy’ to walk away from it.
He also said it was ironic that Mr Lynch was part of a new license bid for north Donegal in September 2013.
Mr Lynch said he was only approached to be part of the bid after he left Highland.
The radio station is contesting the case and is expected to call its witnesses later today.