Saturday 25 February 2017

Newstalk is a slum and O'Brien hates journalists, says Dunphy

Broadcaster denies he quit job over 50pc pay cut

Anne-Marie Walsh

Eamon Dunphy at his home in Ranelagh. He has returned to his armchair after quitting his job at Newstalk
Eamon Dunphy at his home in Ranelagh. He has returned to his armchair after quitting his job at Newstalk
Sam Smyth: Today FM show dropped earlier this month

BROADCASTER Eamon Dunphy last night described Newstalk as a "slum" but insisted he did not quit the radio station because of a 50pc pay cut.

He told the Irish Independent he stood over his comments -- made on his final show earlier yesterday -- that the radio station's owner, Denis O'Brien, "hates journalism".

The outspoken media personality took the opportunity to condemn the businessman during his last moments on air following his decision to resign.

He insisted he wanted to go because of the way staff were treated and not because he was asked to take a pay cut of €50,000 a year from the €100,000 he was being paid to front 40 shows.

"The commercial sector was supposed to be a viable alternative to RTE, but Newstalk's become a slum," the 66-year-old said.

"The people who are living in the slum will tell you that and there's been a huge departure rate by presenters."

He claimed staff were treated "disgracefully".

The author, soccer pundit and former footballer said the regulator "should be paying attention to what's going on as certain standards should be set".

Dunphy said young journalists' pay rates were "shocking", while staff were not represented by unions and had to buy their newspapers to provide to guests on the shows.

He also complained that taxi vouchers were not given to cover guests' journeys home and accused management of trying to prevent him having certain guests on his show, including Independent TD Shane Ross.

"Someone has to raise the red flag about this guy," he said, referring to Mr O'Brien, whose Communicorp Group owns the station.

"He hates journalists. I've read his speeches and interviews and he seems to think they want the country to be destroyed, and he's suing journalists.

"He doesn't understand what we're for, which is asking uncomfortable questions. I've had dealings with his operation on two occasions -- on the 'Breakfast Show' and this show -- and both increased their ratings, but he wants a positive spin on stories when almost 500,000 people are unemployed.

Agenda

"That means altering the news agenda to suit a businessman's view of it.

"They don't really understand what the public interest is. That's okay if you're in the golf club but if you're bringing it onto the shop floor in journalism, then it's dangerous."

He said his show was not failing and had increased its ratings.

"The pay cut had nothing to do with it," he said, when asked about his decision to leave. "Very good young journalists were becoming extremely demoralised and disillusioned and were watching senior journalists being treated badly. Sam Smyth was an example of that."

Today FM, which is also owned by Communicorp, has rejected claims that a recent decision to drop Mr Smyth's show is linked to a court action taken by Mr O'Brien.

It claims the decision was due to falling listenership.

Willie O'Reilly, the station's chief executive, last week revealed he was leaving Today FM to join RTE.

Dunphy said he was not looking for a new show. He said he was working on his memoirs, which he joked has a working title 'Wrong about Everything', to be published next year.

Communicorp also owns 98 FM, and Spin 103.8 and Mr O'Brien is a shareholder in Independent News and Media.

Irish Independent

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