Saturday 16 December 2017

Coveney's brother in race for RTE Director-General

Fine Gael Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Fine Gael Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Maeve Sheehan and Niamh Horan

The brother of the Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, is emerging as the 'dark horse' in the contest for the top job at RTE.

Rory Coveney - who is currently the strategic adviser to the outgoing Director General, Noel Curran - is being tipped as the one to watch ahead of the favourite, Kevin Bakhurst, the station's managing director of news and current affairs, who is also deputy to outgoing DG, Noel Curran.

Reports that Lucy Gaffney, the chairman of Communicorp and a former board member of Independent News & Media, was up for the job were dismissed as "total rubbish" by sources who know her.

The first round of interviews, with a "long list" of 20 to 25 candidates, wrapped up last week and candidates are expected to be told this week which of them are through to the next round.

Ten are internal candidates and the remainder are from outside the organisation. A small number of candidates were interviewed in the UK last week.

The internal candidates also include: Glen Killane, director of television; Muirne Laffan, who is managing director of digital; and Jim Jennings, managing director of radio. External candidates include David McRedmond, chief executive of TV3.

The DG post currently combines the role of chief executive and editor-in-chief.

According to informed sources, candidates with commercial talent may have the edge in the competition.

The Sunday Independent understands that the prospect of splitting the top job into separate editorial and commercial roles was mooted at RTE board level and was "looked at" by the Dept of Communications but could not be done without a change of legislation.

Speculation has centred upon Kevin Bakhurst, a former controller of BBC News Channel, who has a strong track record in broadcast and digital content. He is also taking Irish lessons.

He has been credited with leading the turn-around of the broadcaster's current affairs division following the Mission to Prey debacle.

An informed source said: "The funding crisis has never been more acute. RTE hasn't seen a rise in the last nine years- and they will need to tackle that. The big issues they will need to get on top of are public funding and the digital future.

"Rory Coveney is very well placed to do both. He is the strategic advisor to the DG, so he is very well placed as someone who has been an apprentice style figure to Noel. If anyone is at the coal face of it all, it's him."

Analysis, Page 16

Sunday Independent

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