Saturday 19 April 2014

RTE doesn't nurture talent, and dropping 'Frontline' was final straw for me – Kenny

Pat Kenny sits down with Miriam Donohoe for his first major interview since his move from RTE to Newstalk.

NEWSTALK presenter Pat Kenny has criticised his former employers RTE for failing to "cherish" and "manage" its talent.

And the former 'Late Late Show' host indicated that his departure from the state broadcaster was of its own making, saying the deal-breaker for him was when they dropped his 'Frontline' programme.

In his first major interview since he left RTE and joined the rival independent station Newstalk three months ago, Mr Kenny said RTE had "very publicly" indicated earlier this year that he was the only person who had not signed a new contract with them.


"So it was almost an invitation if anyone was interested. There was no Dutch auction despite what RTE have put in the public domain about coming back with their best offer. That actually never happened."

He said the decision to drop 'Frontline' was done without any consultation.

"The bombshell came on a Monday and I was expected to work that night. I did the show with a heavy heart but you are a professional, you gotta do it."

Mr Kenny said RTE needs to do more to manage talent and ask itself what would happen, say, if someone was to die, as Gerry Ryan did.

"What is the contingency? Who have they nurtured? Who are the talent they need to keep onside when someone leaves or dies or even goes on holiday or becomes ill."

He said RTE makes the mistake sometimes of having the same person "on 10 different shows". "It happens every so often that someone comes along and they are on everything and then on nothing. They get dropped like a stone as the public have fatigue. That's bad talent planning."

Mr Kenny revealed he would explore new TV opportunities in 2014 and is not ruling out working for RTE or TV3, or the new entrant in the market, UTV.

Despite his departure from Montrose, he said he has not burnt his bridges with his old employer, and the door is open to going back to do television.

"I have left shirts and ties and shoes and suits there (in RTE) should I return. It was quite a deliberate thing that Noel Curran and myself did not rule that out."

Mr Kenny said the transition to Newstalk has gone better than he imagined.

He said: "340,000 is the audience I passed onto Sean (O'Rourke, who took over from him on RTE Radio One), and I inherited about 65,000 from Tom Dunne. I would prefer to be doing my job than Sean's. He has to hang on to what he has but I am starting from a different base so can only go up."

He defended the high salary he was paid in the boom and said, in the good times, presenters were paid in accordance to their ability to draw in revenue when RTE was taking in money "hand over fist".

"What I noticed is that management salaries were climbing while presenters' salaries were falling, proportionally speaking."

*Read the full interview in today's Weekend Review

Irish Independent

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