Revealed: The five top female TV personalities battling it out for RTE's Saturday night slot
Five of Ireland's top female TV personalities are battling it out for the chance to present their own Saturday night chat show on RTE, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The coveted prime-time slot is currently held by Ray D'Arcy - who could see the number of episodes of his television chat show The Ray D'Arcy Show more than halved - from 32 shows to 13.
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This would see D'Arcy's chat-show run now finishing in December instead of May, as has happened for the past three years.
In recent days, Kathryn Thomas, Angela Scanlon, Doireann Garrihy, Jennifer Zamparelli and Stefanie Preissner have all presented pilot shows for RTE bosses.
This weekend, an RTE source told the Sunday Independent: "All five presenters auditioned in the last few days with a pilot specifically written and tailored with each woman's personality and style in mind and all had their own guests.
"Apparently all five did incredibly well, and I'm told bosses will have an incredibly tough time deciding who to pick."
Four of the women are experienced TV presenters, while author and columnist Stefanie Preissner is the only outside choice - but the station was keen to try out new talent. It is understood that anyone who isn't successful will definitely be considered for other roles with the State-funded broadcaster in the future.
On the all-female auditions, a separate source told the Sunday Independent that gender balance was at the forefront of the minds of Montrose bosses: "So many of RTE's prime-time chat shows have gone to men over the years that they couldn't give it to another man to fill the slot. A woman there will be very refreshing and there is so much talent to choose from.
"The title has yet to be decided, but viewers are in for a completely refreshing experience. It certainly won't be your usual chat-show fare."
The plan for a revamp of the Saturday night chat show schedule comes after D'Arcy told the Sunday Independent in May that he was expecting to present the series for another year.
He said: "The TV show is coming back for another year in the autumn."
In a separate interview with the Sunday World in September, D'Arcy said he was prepared to take a cut to his €450,000-a-year salary.
When asked if there was pressure on him to reduce his wages, the Kildare native said: "I'm in negotiations, but I imagine there is and I have no problem with that. Because I see the reality of the media landscape. And it is very difficult for RTE."
The presenter is currently the second-highest earner at RTE, behind Ryan Tubridy on €495,000 (according to the latest figures available, from 2016).
Comedian Tommy Tiernan is set to take over the Saturday night slot in January and February next year, and will then make way for the new female chat-show host, who will take the helm in March and it will run for eight to 10 weeks.
It is unknown whether Ray D'Arcy will be back the following September. But if all goes well for Ireland's newest female chat-show host, they could replace Ray full-time in the autumn.
Last month, RTE's director general Dee Forbes sent staff a note with a stark warning that the financial situation at the national broadcaster is "not like anything we have seen before". She added: "As a result, it will not be possible to continue as we are."
It recorded losses of €13m last year, despite cuts and 150 voluntary redundancies over the last two years.
When contacted about the proposed changes to its Saturday night schedule, RTE declined to comment.