Michael O'Doherty: Crimecall is made outside RTE, why the big fuss over kids TV?
If Dee Forbes didn’t know the scale of the task ahead of her, she will certainly have been made aware of it this week, after she announced her first major decision as the new Director General of RTE
Because in deciding to close down its Children’s TV department, she faced the wrath of perhaps the most diverse panel every assembled – Michael O’Leary, the Trade Unions, Dustin the Turkey and Bosco.
O’Leary’s tirade was his now monthly whinge-a-thon about trade unions, “liberals” and cyclists, and while his point is valid that there seems to be little in the way of commercial reality in RTE, that they operate on continuous losses in a way that no private sector company could get away with, the idea that Radio na Gaeltacht and the RTE orchestra should be axed if they don’t make money is simply absurd.
There is a public service element to RTE – a need to supply output to a minority audience which doesn’t make commercial sense, but provides an important cultural service – which is something that private operators are thankfully unencumbered with.
That is not to say, however, that the shockingly-high cost base of everything that RTE does should not be addressed, and as it heads for losses in the region of €20m for this year, one must admire Ms Forbes for the way she has shown a determination to do so.
Much of the noise about the closing of the Children’s TV department, from our good friends such as Bosco, is nonsense, predicated as it is on a belief that it means the end of Children’s TV on RTE. It doesn’t.
All they will do is get more cost-efficient independent companies to make the shows, thereby, in theory at least, providing at least the same quality of output at far less cost to the taxpayer.
After all, does anyone care that The Voice of Ireland, Operation Transformation, Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge and Crimecall are all produced by independent companies?
Of course they don’t... What is disturbing, however, is the detail in this apparently dramatic and drastic course of action, and the power that the RTE Trade Union obviously still yields when it comes to protecting their pampered, overpaid staff.
Because of 34 people employed by the department, 15 are being let go, with eight remaining on and 11 being redeployed within RTE, meaning the cost of employing them is simply being transferred elsewhere within the company, no doubt to keep the unions happy.
Too many people in RTE have this “jobs for life” mentality that pervades the public service, and the limp-wristed manner in which this proposal has already been watered down in order to protect the station’s hideously bloated payroll shows that the attitude still holds power.
Quite why people should be so scared of leaving RTE to go out on their own is a mystery.
After all, Dustin lost his full-time gig with RTE in 2010, while Bosco was given his P45 just shy of 30 years ago. And if you ask me, they’re looking better than ever...