RTE workers have warned that a €5m cut in funding for the national broadcaster that was announced as part of the Budget will have "serious implications" for the station.
The Department of Social Protection (DSP) decided to slash the subsidy paid to RTE that covers TV licences for pensioners, care workers and people with disabilities, from €59m to €54m.
As many as 410,000 households receive free TV licences but none of these will lose this entitlement, nor will it affect new recipients, the DSP said.
However, the cut in funding will have to be absorbed by RTE, with staff at the cash-strapped station describing the move as "a major disappointment".
A spokesman for the RTE Group of Unions said: "In the overall scheme this may appear a relatively minor cut but given that RTE is currently operating on a knife-edge, any reduction in income has serious implications."
The spokesman referred to reports that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte was unaware of the decision until the cabinet meeting on Sunday evening, two days before the Budget announcement.
He said: "This does not suggest any meaningful examination of the implications."
The RTE workers described the cut as "a major disappointment, not least because RTE trade union members have already made major sacrifices."
A spokesman for Social Protection Minister Joan Burton last night said that she had sought to protect "primary welfare payments" such as State Pension and Child Benefit.