Business Irish

Sunday 22 April 2018

'They work incredibly hard for us' - Forbes backs high earners

Dee Forbes, director general of RTÉ. Photo: David Conachy
Dee Forbes, director general of RTÉ. Photo: David Conachy

Jennifer O'Brien

RTÉ's director general Dee Forbes has defended the salaries paid to its "top talent" who can earn close to half a million euro a year.

Ms Forbes said that the salaries of high earners at the station had already been cut and this would be kept in check as the restructuring continues.

She was speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday after RTÉ confirmed sweeping structural changes including the loss of up to 300 jobs.

Ms Forbes said that although the redundancies would be voluntary, the station had yet to finalise which departments they would come from.

Changes in the organisation will see the appointment of a number of new senior roles and Ms Forbes added that it would be six months before the new structure could begin.

Read more: 'It's incredible value for money' - RTE's new director general thinks licence fee should be doubled

Ms Forbes also spoke to 'The Last Word With Matt Cooper' on Today FM where she was quizzed about the high salaries that some presenters command.

Faces

"Those [top earners'] salaries are about 1pc of RTÉ's total cost base. Our top talent is no longer the only talent in Ireland, and to ensure that you have strong voices and faces of the organisation, talent is important.

"These people work incredibly hard for us. It was the right thing to do to reduce their salaries. We have to keep that in check as we go through the changes," she said.

Asked whether RTÉ was top heavy with line managers, she replied: "What I said today many times is that we are at a point in the organisation where we have to change radically.

"What's at stake here is a national broadcaster. I want to make sure that there is a national broadcaster for the next generation. Right now, we are just about getting by. What I will do is what's necessary to make sure RTÉ has a future."

Outlining planned changes at the station, she told the Irish Independent: "Over the years, all schemes are voluntary and this will be a voluntary scheme - made up of voluntary exits along with retirements. Everything will be voluntary.

"What we have to now get into detail on is where they will come from and that will be figured out in the coming months."

New roles will include Head of Content, Head of Channels, Audiences and Marketing, and also Head of Operations and Production Services.

"There will be three areas dealing with editorial," she said. "One is News and Current Affairs, headed up by John Williams and is existing.

"Content will be headed up by Jim Jennings, who is the current Head of Radio here at RTÉ and Channels. Audiences and Marketing is a new role and we will be recruiting both internally and externally."

Restructuring plans at RTÉ - the key points...

  • About 200 staff will leave RTÉ under the restructuring plan. Dee Forbes said all options were on the table and that specific areas where cuts can be made will be identified over the coming months.
  • A review will be undertaken of RTÉ's existing 25 services to ensure the best content is provided to Irish viewers over the next five years.
  • The "three pillars" of TV, radio and digital will be condensed into the newly created areas of content, channels, audience and marketing as part of the restructuring.
  • RTÉ is "working tirelessly" with the Government on ways to improve licence fee collection. Ms Forbes confirmed she had asked the Government to raise the licence fee, which she said was an "incredible deal" for Irish viewers.
  • The sale of almost nine acres of land at RTÉ's Montrose campus - valued at €75m - will be used to boost technical innovation at the broadcaster, which Ms Forbes said "has taken a back seat in recent years". This includes the possibility of screening 'Fair City' in high definition.

Irish Independent

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