Wednesday 13 December 2017

Could Fair City be next for axe as RTÉ looks at all areas in cost-cutting drive?

Fears grow for popular soap as broadcaster outsources children's TV

Ciaran (Johnny Ward) drugs Katy (Amilia Clarke-Stewart)
Ciaran (Johnny Ward) drugs Katy (Amilia Clarke-Stewart)

Eimear Rabbitt

Fears are growing that popular soap 'Fair City' could be moved out of RTÉ as the broadcaster considers "all output" for outsourcing cost-cutting measures.

The long-running series is one of the station's stalwart productions, with episodes attracting more than half a million viewers on a nightly basis.

It is understood that outsourcing the soap was under serious consideration in recent years and remains an option.

This comes after contracted staff within RTÉ's young people's department were shocked to learn on Wednesday evening that their jobs were no more after the broadcaster's decision to outsource all its youth programming to external companies.

A source told the Irish Independent that RTÉ was now looking at all areas, including 'Fair City'.

"That option has always been on the cards and two or three years ago they did try and cost it off site," an insider said. "There was a rumour about the young people's department in recent months which has now come true. So people are concerned about what will happen next."

‘Fair City’ cast members celebrate the 4,000th episode of the show Picture: Collins
‘Fair City’ cast members celebrate the 4,000th episode of the show Picture: Collins

A spokesperson for RTÉ said it "continues to conduct a review of its output. However, no further decision could be made at this time."

'Fair City' favourite Jim Bartley, who plays Bela Doyle on the long-running show, said it would be "strange" for RTÉ to outsource such a lucrative programme.

"Whatever they intend to do I have no information on, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Bartley told the Irish Independent. "I think the way it is produced and directed, RTÉ have done a great job.

Meanwhile, the RTÉ Trade Union Group (TUG) is to meet with senior level management this morning after the broadcaster's "shock" decision to axe the young people's department.

TUG last night called on the public broadcaster to "withdraw its unilateral decision to close the young people's department".

"There is no justification for the manner in which this decision was taken and this cavalier attitude to unions and staff only compounds the bad decision," TUG chair Shirley Bradshaw said.

Dozens of contract staff within the department were "completely shocked" after they were informed that their jobs were gone. "People are worried. This decision happened with no discussion or briefing," a source said.

The move, to come into force at the end of the year, will affect staff across a range of areas, including presenting, production and technical crews.

Children's programming on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Junior is currently sourced from a mix of animation, in-house and external production companies.

A statement from the broadcaster said: "After an examination of all output, a decision has been made to commission all young people's programmes from the independent sector, enabling RTÉ to meet its statutory committed spend in the sector and reducing operating costs internally.

"RTÉ is not reducing its commitment to younger people's programmes, nor its spend."

Irish Independent

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