Monday 20 November 2017

RTÉ told to consider selling its site in Montrose to help meet funding issues

Communications Minister Alex White recently published a review of the broadcaster’s finances and assets in the wake of a massive fall in advertising revenue since the recession
Communications Minister Alex White recently published a review of the broadcaster’s finances and assets in the wake of a massive fall in advertising revenue since the recession
The Mast at RTE Montrose which is to become a protected structure.
The RTÉ campus at Montrose in Dublin 4
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

RTÉ has been told to consider selling its flagship asset and headquarters in Donnybrook to help solve its financial problem.

The national broadcaster's 30-acre Montrose campus in Dublin 4 is worth millions, and if sold could go a long way to meeting its future funding demands.

Communications Minister Alex White recently published a review of the broadcaster's finances and assets in the wake of a massive fall in advertising revenue since the recession.

The report found 40pc of the Donnybrook site is either undeveloped or used as a car park.

"Use of the Donnybrook site is not optimal. Options concerning the site should be developed with robust analysis of costs and benefits - all options should be considered, from no sale of the site, partial sale of the site, full sale / land swap," it states.

"We believe there is merit in looking at these options as it also affords an opportunity to consider how RTÉ could be positioned as a public service broadcaster to ensure its continued prominence and relevance in the 'digital age'."

An internal RTÉ working group is currently examining the possibility of selling a portion of the site and is due to report to the minister in the summer.

The station has battled to balance its books in recent years but recorded a small €1.1m surplus in its most recent accounts.

However, Government sources said the station will struggle to meet future capital investment needs as it moves to keep up with technology. RTÉ is also facing an expensive period covering Euro 2016, the 2016 Olympics and 1916 Rising commemorations next year.

"They need to invest and they don't have the money to invest. The report said they have very little to spend on capital investment. The site is valuable and it's not obviously well used," a source said.

The heavily redacted report, published by NewEra, noted that RTÉ developed different buildings on site since the 1960s.

"Given the dates of when the buildings were constructed they would not be, nor expected to be, as efficient as present modern buildings," the report states.

The report said it is difficult to estimate what the cost of these inefficiencies might be, but it could be millions. It suggested the station could reduce future costs by moving to another premises, or building a new base at a different location.

It says the amount of office space for the 1,530 staff is above average for a modern building.

"RTÉ could consider selling the site in its entirety to move to a new location as there is no imperative, in our view, that it need remain in Donnybrook."

The report noted prior to the economic crash, RTÉ had a plan to develop the site called Project 2025, however, this was put on hold. An RTÉ spokesman said: "RTÉ welcomes the NewEra report, which found RTÉ to be efficient, and has already in place a working group to consider options for the site, on foot of recommendations in the report."

Irish Independent

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