Rabbitte can't enforce cap of €250,000 on RTE stars' pay
COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte has claimed he cannot legally impose a €250,000 salary cap on presenters, even though RTE will lose €30m this year.
Mr Rabbitte said the salary cap wouldn't be possible because of the presenters' legal contracts, and claimed it was an issue for RTE management rather than the Government.
RTE said last night that presenters would receive "significantly" less generous contracts when they next came up for renewal -- but confirmed contracts could last up to five years.
Mr Rabbitte said that while it was obvious RTE needed to make savings, contract staff would have to be handled differently to direct employees of the state broadcaster.
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin is focusing on top-level pay in the public sector, and Leo Varadkar has suggested there should be a €250,000 cap on RTE presenters' salaries.
"I'm not so sure with contract staff that a cap is the way to approach it," Mr Rabbitte said yesterday.
"This is not like you asking me what would the chief executive or the director general of RTE be paid, contract staff are in a different category and it's a matter for the management of RTE to address that as they think appropriate," he said.
"But I can't see how they would exclude them, given the difficulties that the station is presented with in terms of its finances," he said.
The latest available figures show that TV and radio host Pat Kenny was paid €951,000 in 2008, while the late Gerry Ryan was the second-highest-paid star, on €630,000.
Radio host Marian Finucane earned €570,000 in 2008, Ryan Tubridy earned €533,000, 'Liveline' host Joe Duffy got €409,000 and sports broadcaster Eamon Dunphy received €328,000.
'Primetime' presenter Miriam O'Callaghan received €302,000, while Derek Mooney earned €287,000 in 2008.
The broadcaster said last night that when presenters' contracts were being renewed "the levels of fee will be set at a significantly lower level than previously applied".
However, individual presenters are on contracts that may vary in duration between one and five years.
A spokesman said RTE was carrying out a full programme of cost review and cost reductions to reduce the projected deficit. Direct employees have already taken pay cuts at the station.
"RTE was the first public body to implement voluntary pay cuts in the current recession and has gone further than other public bodies in the range of reductions in its personnel-related costs, including cancellation of all bonuses," he said.
Mr Rabbitte said yesterday that the TV license fee of €160 would not increase this year pending completion of two reports into how it operated, which would not be ready until the end of the year.
One of these related to the efficacy of the collection service, as there was a significant 15pc evasion rate by households.
The other was looking at how the license system should function given that TV was now available over a variety of platforms, including the internet.
"Next year we will have to see if we change from the traditional license system," said Mr Rabbitte.