Tuesday 17 September 2019

Law to link top RTE presenters' fees to public sector pay scale proposed by senator

Proposal: Rónán Mullen wants RTÉ salaries linked to public sector. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Proposal: Rónán Mullen wants RTÉ salaries linked to public sector. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Lucrative broadcasting fees paid to RTÉ's top presenters would be linked to public sector pay scales under proposed new laws.

Oireachtas legal advisers have been asked to examine proposals for legislation which would link RTÉ contracts to salaries earned by public sector workers.

The move comes after it emerged RTÉ was seeking an additional €55m in taxpayer funding to plug the black hole in the station's finances.

RTÉ Director-General Dee Forbes recently told staff the station's financial situation was "not like anything we have seen before" and said it would "no longer be possible to continue as we are".

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said he now intends to bring forward legislation in the next Seanad term which would link the pay of RTÉ broadcasters, producers and researchers to public service pay scales.

Mr Mullen said it had never been established what "indispensable services" individuals who are paid up to €400,000 a year provide to the national broadcaster.

"A cap on salaries in RTÉ would lead to better value for private as well as public sector broadcasters by preventing taxpayer-funded pay and advertising cost inflation," Mr Mullen said.

"This move will not necessarily threaten the quality of RTÉ's service or diminish its pool of talent."

Mr Mullen said it "does not ever seem to occur" to RTÉ or the Government that the station's better-paid broadcasters are able to charge "large speaking or corporate appearance fees" on top of their salaries.

Mr Mullen has asked the Oireachtas office of parliamentary legal advice to examine the constitutional and legislative impacts of his proposal.

He also said he would ask the Public Sector Pay Commission to explore his suggestion of linking broadcaster fees to public sector pay.

"I expect to receive cross-party support for this proposal. No person, regardless of how famous, should be paid massive fees for a public broadcasting role," he said.

Last week, Ms Forbes told staff the broadcaster was reassessing its operation due to serious funding issues.

She said that the Government's decision to tender for licence collection services was welcome, but added the decision to defer the revised media charge system for five years meant the funding crisis at RTÉ would continue.

"With commercial revenues and public funding both significantly below what is needed to operate the organisation in its current form, our current financial situation is not like anything we have seen before," she said.

Irish Independent

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