Tuesday 19 September 2017

RTE hires top BBC boss who drove cost cutbacks

Mark Hilliard

RTE has brought in an experienced cost cutter as its latest head of news and current affairs as the broadcaster continues to struggle with its finances.

Montrose last night announced the appointment of Kevin Bakhurst who has been deputy head of news at the BBC since 2010.

He will replace Ed Mulhall who stood aside from the position in the wake of the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel scandal, and subsequently quit the station altogether.

Mr Bakhurst's appointment will be viewed as a proactive move in the shake-up of RTE News following the demoralising controversy.

But he is also no stranger to cost-cutting.

RTE is currently undergoing a programme of major cost reductions and restructuring and he is likely to play a key role.

The broadcaster faces a projected deficit of €57m this year.

Leaked

Mr Bakhurst was a central figure in the BBC's plans for a "slimmed down" news channel last year as part of overall cost cuts of 20pc.

In a leaked email to BBC staff last April, he outlined his thoughts on the subject, admitting that nothing would escape the axe.

"What is clear is that all areas of news will be impacted and the news channel as one of the bigger areas of expense (around £46m a year) will clearly be looked at closely," he wrote.

"I fully expect that we will have to make savings of around 20pc a year from 2013/14 and I have been involved in looking at how we can do this with the lowest on-air impact for the audiences."

That message bares a striking similarity to the recent email circulated to RTE staff by director general Noel Curran in which he warned that the cuts process would prove difficult.

RTE hopes to save in the region of €25m through a voluntary reduction programme which is likely to see in the region of 200 people leaving Montrose. RTE would not be drawn on the financial package that secured Mr Bakhurst's services but his appointment is viewed as a considerable coup for a station intent on turning things around.

During his time at the BBC he oversaw news on TV and radio as well as the BBC website.

He was also at the forefront of the BBC multimedia newsroom.

Originally from Barnet, London, Mr Bakhurst was educated at Cambridge University and has risen through the BBC ranks.

He is due to take up his post in early September but has declined interviews until then.

Welcoming the appointment, Noel Curran said the vacancy had attracted a strong field of candidates from Ireland and abroad.

He said Mr Bakhurst possessed "a keen sense of how news delivery is changing across all media".

"I very much look forward to working closely with him in his new role and as a member of the RTE executive board," he said.

In a statement, the new head of news said the move was an amazing opportunity to work with RTE's formidable news team.

During his time at the BBC, Mr Bakhurst's movements were closely followed, from his tendency to defend the organisation via Twitter to his surprise candidacy as a potential head of sport in 2009.

Irish Independent

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