Tuesday 12 December 2017

RTE stars' pay should be capped, say independent broadcasters

Ray Darcy pictured with his team as he started his new afternoon show on RTE Radio 1 earlier this month. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Ray Darcy pictured with his team as he started his new afternoon show on RTE Radio 1 earlier this month. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Semi-state pay caps should apply to all RTÉ presenters, according to the chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI).

The call came in the wake of RTÉ's high-profile hire of Ray D'Arcy from TodayFM.

"RTÉ has freedom to entice entire programme teams from the independent stations on higher wages," said John Purcell.

Mr Purcell said the State broadcaster was using public money to subsidise "huge, huge salaries".

"I think you'd search far and wide in the public service to find similar salaries," Mr Purcell (pictured right) said.

The IBI is today marking 'World Radio Day' by calling on the Government to deliver on what the IBI said were pre-election promises to address the funding of broadcasting in this country.

"There are public service pay restraints and caps and so on, and I'd think that should apply to RTÉ as well," Mr Purcell said.

"RTÉ Radio continues to enjoy a broadcasting landscape where it can have its cake and eat it, as both a commercial operator and a publicly funded broadcaster," he said.

RTÉ staff are subject to semi-state pay caps but presenters who are designated as independent contractors do not suffer the same restrictions.

The most recent figures released by RTÉ show Ryan Tubridy earning a salary of €495,000 after signing a new three-year contract in 2012.

Mr Purcell said RTÉ "can operate in a ruthlessly commercial manner when it suits its purposes".

Mr Purcell was critical of RTÉ's 'dual funding' model - which allows it to get funding both from licence fee payments and commercial advertising.

"The most obvious example of the unfairness would be in relation to 2fm ... there's very little public service in relation to it. It's basically a pop music and entertainment station."

Mr Purcell said 2fm should be used to provide material that the commercial sector can't viably produce.

He suggested a new regulatory regime for RTÉ, where the State broadcaster would set out how much money it needs to operate in a given year. If licence fee revenue was not enough to cover the figure, RTE would then be allowed to make up the shortfall by selling ads at regulated prices - below which they couldn't be sold.

He said the IBI wants a new fund to be set up, composed of money from licence fee payments, which independent broadcasters could access in return for providing public service content.

"RTÉ gets it for doing it on a national basis, and we've no difficulty with that if they're providing a public service. But equally if we're providing a public service...that should be valued equally.

Mr Purcell is chief executive of Carlow-Kilkenny radio station KCLR 96fm.

RTÉ said it has a legal requirement to deliver on public service obligations that it would not be possible to fulfil with licence fee revenue alone.

"Licence fee revenue covers just over half the cost of the full range of services audiences enjoy," the State broadcaster added.

"The total Top 10 presenter payments represented just over 1pc of RTÉ's operating costs in 2012 and approximately 2pc of personnel related operating costs."

Irish Independent

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