Sunday 24 March 2019

RTÉ orchestra should be funded by government, review finds

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Stock photo
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

RTÉ are unable to continue to fund two orchestras and need the government to cover the cost of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, if it is to survive.

The national broadcaster is legally required to maintain orchestras and currently operates both the Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

The orchestras costs €13 million a year to run. Last year, RTÉ commissioned a financial review into the provision of the orchestras, as they continue to reduce the €20 million deficit.

The review found neither orchestra should be closed but added that “the status quo is equally untenable”.

As a result RTÉ are advised to outsource the Symphony Orchestra.

It is recommended the government provide €4 million in funding towards the NSO.

By outsourcing the Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ will make an annual saving of €2.5million.

The reason the saving is not more substantial is because the review also recommends increased financial investment in the Concert Orchestra.

If the government do not provide support, then RTÉ will be forced to make a “very bad second choice” and close one of the two orchestras.

However it looks unlikely that this will happen as last night Culture Minister Josepha Madigan welcomed the recommendation both orchestras be retained.

The publication coincides with the recent launch of the Government’s Creative Ireland programme which includes a major re-development of the National Concert Hall - the home of the NSO.

“This report allows us to chart a way forward for both orchestras - securing a strong future and ensuring that they can contribute fully to Ireland’s rich cultural heritage,” Madigan said.

However, trade unions Siptu and Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI) cautioned RTÉ against any proposal to outsource the Symphony Orchestra.

They said they are “fundamentally opposed to this proposition and will defend their position vigorously”.

The report was carried out by Helen Boaden, former director of BBC Radio and BBC News.

Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Head of RTÉ Orchestras, said he report confirms the orchestras singular place in musical heritage while recognising RTÉ’s overall funding position as it plans for the future.

“These recommendations offer a solution which protects and supports both orchestras,” he said.

“While also recognising the balance between RTÉ’s financial constraints and our public service role in promoting music, arts and culture.

“RTÉ will now give the recommendations full consideration.”

RTÉ Board of Directors will meet on Thursday to discuss the reviews findings.

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