Wednesday 21 February 2018

End of an era as RTÉ pulls plug on in-house children's television

Eimear Rabbitt

RTÉ has announced it is to outsource all of its TV programming for young people to the independent sector amid a "challenging financial environment".

It will see all TV programmes produced for young children and teenagers, including shows on RTÉ Junior and 'Swipe TV', outsourced to independent production companies.

Pat Kenny on ‘Bábaró’ in 1974
Pat Kenny on ‘Bábaró’ in 1974

The decision will affect all workers on freelance contracts who will need to reapply to the companies producing the programmes.

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

All staff, including producers and researchers, will be reassigned to different departments within the broadcaster, while freelance workers will be free to work for the external production companies.

Confirming the news, the station said it made the decision to reduce its "operating costs" but it would not affect the State broadcaster's spend on children's TV and its output in terms of hours.

Nora O’Mahony and Eugene Lambert in ‘Wanderly Wagon’ in 1978
Nora O’Mahony and Eugene Lambert in ‘Wanderly Wagon’ in 1978

A host of well known personalities have cut their teeth on RTÉ children programming down through the years, including radio legend Ian Dempsey and singer and presenter Emma O'Driscoll.

They are also responsible for launching some of the most memorable kids' programmes in Irish TV history, including 'Wanderly Wagon', 'Bosco', and 'The Den' with Zig and Zag.

RTÉ confirmed the move yesterday in a statement to the Irish Independent.

"Recognising the challenging financial environment, and so as to achieve stronger efficiencies and value for money, RTÉ is to make changes to how it produces young people's programmes," it said.

RTÉjr presenters Reuben, and Emma O’Driscoll. Photo courtsey of RTÉ / KOB Pix
RTÉjr presenters Reuben, and Emma O’Driscoll. Photo courtsey of RTÉ / KOB Pix

"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."

The move, which will come into effect at the end of the year, is also hoped to encourage more Irish animation production companies to pitch ideas.

Presenters Stephen Byrne and Bláthnaid Treacy are among the freelance staff who have worked on kids programming in recent times. Both presenters, who co-hosted teenage programme 'TwoTube', now 'Swipe TV', until this year, have enjoyed work elsewhere within the station.

Speaking about her time on RTÉ's young people's programming, TV3 presenter Laura Woods described it as a "great training ground".

Zig and Zag
Zig and Zag

"There was great scope for learning, it was a great training ground, and a brilliant place to meet and make friends, and I'm still in touch with a lot of the ex-young people staff today," she told this newspaper.

"But things are constantly changing and evolving and moving, and I suppose they can't stay the same forever.

"So hopefully there'll be a lot more talent coming up through the ranks, whether that's through a production company or in-house, in Irish stations in the next few years."

Bosco
Bosco

Irish Independent

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