RTE stars 'are struggling to pay their mortgage bills'
Talent agent claims the backlash against pay rates is going too far
Some of RTE's well-known faces are struggling to pay mortgages and other bills, according to Ireland's biggest talent agent.
Noel Kelly has spoken out against the backlash RTE presenters are facing over their pay -- revealing that some of the personalities are struggling to make ends meet on their current salaries.
His comments come as RTE announced this weekend that the top 10 RTE presenters earned €4m between them in 2009.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Kelly, who is Ireland's first showbiz superagent, said the fixation on stars' salaries is in stark contrast to the reality many TV personalities are facing.
"These figures are completely blown out of proportion," he explained.
"You forget that you have to take 51pc tax off, PRSI, PAYE and then health insurance, which gets more expensive as you get older. And then, of course, there's no guarantee of job security."
Mr Kelly, who represents some of Ireland's biggest names, said everyone had now played their part.
"Some of the talent on my books have taken a number of pay cuts since 2008. There is no doubt about it, they are stepping up to the plate time and time again."
And he revealed the financial pressures that some of Ireland's household names were now facing: "Some of the talent can't afford to pay their bills or bloody mortgages with what they earn and with work not being renewed. If a show is cancelled what can you do? You can't exactly force them [the RTE bosses] to keep it on.
"We have people struggling like everyone else, trying to get an interest-only mortgage and not being able to get one, having to sell their car. This idea of them living in this ivory tower on huge wages is simply not true.
"When you look at a footballer's career, they only get a certain amount of time and there's no certainty in it, and it's the same in the media.
"People contracted to RTE who are not permanent members of staff have no pension, no sick pay and no security."
Commenting on TV3 presenter's Mark Cagney's comments this week that RTE's biggest names "are living in a cocoon", Mr Kelly said: "It's easy to throw stones but it's not true. Commercial station rates aren't exactly small either. They are willing to pay for big names and big presenters too."
Meanwhile, Sean O'Rourke, who appeared on the list earning €214,084 in 2009, has spoken out this weekend about the latest figures.
"I've already taken three pay cuts since the start of the recession and that figure includes the amount RTE put towards my pension contribution.
"It's also worth pointing out that I believe there are several broadcasters in the private sector who are earning the same, if not more, than the people on RTE's top 10 list."
The only newcomer to the top 10 is 2fm presenter Colm Hayes, who joined the station from FM104 in 2007. He earned €213,954.
Speaking this weekend, he said: "That figure is two years old and does not reflect what I'm earning now.
"That reflects a figure that I was enticed out of commercial radio for. Then the recession hit and there were cutbacks and I have had two contracts since and taken a significant pay decrease in each. Noel Curran has made it clear that when new contracts come around, there will be a 30pc cut and that's the reality of where we are now and I'm delighted to play my part."
Remarking on the top 10 salaries, a long-serving producer in RTE said: "The biggest thing that jumped out at me was, despite being probably the hardest working presenter in the country with Prime Time, Miriam Meets and Saturday Night With Miriam and taking virtually no holidays ever, and constantly doing endless additional work like the presidential debate, all the weekend coverage of the presidential election count and this coming new year's eve special, it's clear Miriam gets a lot lot less than the other big names.
They added: "The fees are high but it's remarkably unfair how some are inexplicably much higher than others. It's also worth noting that only two of the top 10 are female, so there does seem to be a large degree of gender imbalance there."
Pat Kenny remains RTE's top-paid presenter, according to the latest salary figures which were released by the state broadcaster on Friday.
In what is the first time in two years that RTE has agreed to publish the fees it pays to its top 10 presenters, it was revealed that Kenny earned €729,604 in 2009, while the next highest earner in 2009 was the late Gerry Ryan, who earned €585,944.
Ryan Tubridy is in third place with €519,667, despite taking over the Late Late Show.
Marian Finucane's fee of €570,000 is seen as the most controversial because she only broadcasts four hours a week. The presenter saw a 10 per cent reduction to €513,270.
RTE's Liveline presenter Joe Duffy's fee was €389,314 in 2009, while Miriam O'Callaghan earned €290,625.
Derek Mooney is RTE's seventh highest-paid employee earning €268,985 in 2009, while Eamon Dunphy took home €225,485.