Friday 28 October 2016

RTE 'fantastic' in dealing with Pat Kenny leaving

Director General Curran says 'big pay' days over

Published 08/11/2015 | 02:30

Big rejig: Pat Kenny's (pictured) departure didn't faze Noel Curran
Big rejig: Pat Kenny's (pictured) departure didn't faze Noel Curran
Noel Curran

RTE Director General Noel Curran has said RTE will never again pay the huge salaries that were handed out to stars in the heady days of the Celtic Tiger.

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Mr Curran was speaking following the announcement of the end of his tenure at the national broadcaster.

He also described the way in which RTE had dealt with the departure of Pat Kenny as "fantastic".

"The market is changing. I thought it was very interesting that Ray D'Arcy said publicly he was earning more for radio in the commercial sector than he was earning for radio and television in RTE," said Mr Curran.

"I don't think you'll ever see salaries go up in that kind of a way again. It's been a very difficult process but, in fairness, the presenters responded when I announced the 30pc cut."

Asked if the departure of long-standing stars has proved that no one is irreplaceable, he said: "I think the way we reacted to Pat Kenny was fantastic.

"I really want to compliment Sean O'Rourke and everyone for that. The way we reacted in terms of pulling together a whole new team and a whole new show - I mean, the audience figures are higher than what was left when he took over.

"Other people have reacted as well, not just Sean, and the Radio 1 figures were astounding. Fantastic."

Mr Curran led RTE out of successive deficits to a breakeven result in 2013.

Through staff pay cuts and efficiencies amounting to more than €120m, recovery was maintained in the published results for 2014.

Mr Curran also said his five years in the top job had taught him that people can make mistakes and come through the other side.

He was speaking in relation to editorial controversies such as the Mission to Prey scandal that rocked the station in 2011.

"Irish people may complain about RTE, understandably - we are far from perfect, we get things wrong - but there is a connection between RTE and the Irish public and even the editorial scandal, the editorial controversy didn't shake that," he said.

Addressing the editorial controversies that hit the station during his time in charge, he said: "I have learned that you can come through them. I have learned that people can learn from mistakes. We are back doing investigative journalism, we are back doing a whole range of programmes.

"We introduced a range of guidelines and I think that is probably the biggest lesson, that you can have knock-backs and controversies, but if you take them seriously and you are open enough to change and you question yourself and the organisation, then the organisation will move on - and it has."

Asked if there was ever a moment when he felt he himself should step down during the Mission to Prey controversy, he said that balancing the books at Montrose proved to be a more challenging time.

"The toughest time was around the financials which was less public, but listen, that's all ancient history and we have moved on from it and I think where we are now and what the organisation is doing is really positive," he said.

Mr Curran, who will stay on at RTE for another six months, oversaw the re-establishment of the RTE Investigations Unit, the publication of a five-year strategy, the launch of several new services, a new regional strategy, new action plans on the arts and Irish language and, most recently, the launch of RTE 1916, the culmination of more than four years of preparation.

On Wednesday evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was "public service broadcasting at its best".

Speaking about his time at the national broadcaster, Mr Curran said: "It's been a fantastic five years, but now it's time to do something else. It was a tough decision, but I thought about it and I feel I'm doing the right thing."

Looking back, he added: "It was difficult but incredibly rewarding, and I think when you see the rewards on the other end and what the organ- isation and staff and producers have delivered, they should be very proud.

"It has been a roller-coaster and I am ready and hopefully young enough to give something else a lot of energy.

"Frankly, lots of people had a tough time in the past five years, lots of companies, so we have come through it and that's something for everyone to be proud of."

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