Ray D'Arcy vows to 'take a pay cut' as RTÉ director warns staff of financial situation
RTE star Ray D'Arcy yesterday said he's prepared to take a pay cut if asked by bosses at the cash-strapped station.
The radio and TV presenter, who earns €450,000-a-year, has told the Sunday World that he will be meeting RTE chiefs this week to negotiate a new wage deal.
He also revealed that his Saturday night TV chat show has been confirmed to run for at least another two years.
Ray, who is the second-highest earner behind Ryan Tubridy's pay packet of €495,000, said he's acutely aware of RTE's financial difficulties.
He spoke to me on Friday morning, shortly before RTE's director general Dee Forbes sent staff a note with a stark warning that the financial situation at the national broadcaster is "not like anything we have seen before."
She added: "As a result, it will not be possible to continue as we are."
The station's overall income has decreased by a staggering €100 million in the last decade.
It recorded losses of €18 million last year, despite cuts and 150 voluntary redundancies over the last two years.
Asked if there was pressure on him to reduce his wages, Ray told me: "I'll find out next week. I'm in negotiations, but I imagine there is and I have no problem with that."
"Because I see the reality of the media landscape. And it's very difficult for RTE.
"We live in a small country. We're judged and compared to one of the best broadcasting companies in the world (the BBC), who have a population of over 60 million people and all the resources and licence fees that go with that. Then you add to that Netflix, Amazon Prime, Instagram.
"I remember hearing Gay Byrne talk about competition for the Late Late Show. He was saying, 'We're in competition with the dance down the road, the latest book that's out...' So, if that was what he had to compete with, he had it good compared to the litany of competition that's out there today. He was a genius and a master of what he did, but he had a different landscape completely.
"So I'd be very aware of the reality of what's going on and the finances of it all."
Ray has been one of RTE's biggest earners since he was poached five years ago from Today FM, where he had the top daily show.
His €450,000 RTE salary covers his TV chat show, The Ray D'Arcy Show, which returns to our screens next Saturday night, plus his daily afternoon show on Radio One. He works six days a week when doing TV.
"I didn't decide what to give me, I was offered it," Ray said in reference to his RTE pay.
"Obviously the people who offered it to me were aware of what's being paid outside of RTE and the commercial reality of that. So that's why they offered it to me. They didn't pluck a figure out of the top of their heads."
Did the salary put him under pressure to earn it, or did he think he was worth it? "I work hard. I would never say in a million years 'I'm worth it' because that's a load of w**k. Like anybody there are times when you have self doubt, that's the reality of the situation. Self-doubt is a little more common in our profession than in others."
Why did he leave Today FM? "The year it happened I was 50. Things had changed in management in Today FM. It was really the TV offer that was the impetus, and the radio came after it. I wouldn't have come (to RTE) without the radio, but the initial contact was about TV.
"I just felt I was 50, and someone is sitting in front of me going, 'Here's an opportunity to do a chat show' and I thought, 'Well if I don't do it I'd be kicking myself.' I like to challenge myself."
D'Arcy came in for criticism over his performance on the TV show when it was first aired.
Responding to persistent rumours that his Saturday night TV show is in danger of being axed by RTE, Ray told me: "That's not going to happen. I'm back this year and I'll be back again next year. I have renewed my contract. It's all fine."
He added: "We got criticised in the first year. Some of it was justified and some of it wasn't. It was an apprenticeship on air, which is hard. I'm way more comfortable now."
D'Arcy has made a warm connection with Irish people spanning the decades, going back to his days on RTE TV show The Den with Zig and Zag and Dustin the Turkey. "The Den was the type of thing that everybody watched…parents, children, grannies," he said.
"I did it for eight years. I knew when I was doing it that I was doing something very, very special."
Ray's ambition back then was to work on radio, but RTE wouldn't give him a show, even when Today FM made him an offer.
He said: "I was told 'no' by all the people in charge, so I said fine, good luck. In a way that was good because we left on speaking terms. So I wasn't ostracised by the Mother Ship (RTE)."
Ray met his wife, Jenny, while working in Today FM, and he says she's the rock in his life.
He added: "Jenny is amazing. I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't for Jenny. She was a huge part of the success on Today FM and now she's just such a brilliant support.
"We have two children…Kate is 12, Tom is seven.
"But I'm an old enough father. I have young children, so I need to keep going. I need to think about the future and make sure that they're taken care of."