Thursday 19 September 2019

RTÉ puts on a bold front at autumn schedule launch despite financial woes

Broadcaster unveils line-up of old favourites and new shows

Back, from left, Jacqui Hurley, Donncha O'Callaghan, Maura Derrane, Ryan Tubridy, Fiona Coughlan. Front, Ray Darcy, Sarah Greene, Killian Scott and Jennifer Zamparelli pictured this morning at RTE, Donnybrook for the launch of the new season of entertainment, sport, drama and documentaries on RTE. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Back, from left, Jacqui Hurley, Donncha O'Callaghan, Maura Derrane, Ryan Tubridy, Fiona Coughlan. Front, Ray Darcy, Sarah Greene, Killian Scott and Jennifer Zamparelli pictured this morning at RTE, Donnybrook for the launch of the new season of entertainment, sport, drama and documentaries on RTE. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Anna Geary, Brian Redmond, Lorraine Barry and Donncha O’Callaghan at the RTÉ autumn schedule launch yesterday. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Demi Isaac Oviawe of Young Offenders, Minahil Sarfraz, The Teenage Ambassadors, Eileen O'Higgins, Dead Still and Natasha Maimba, The Teenage Ambassadors as RTÉ today. Photo: Andres Poveda
Sarah Greene and Killian Scott of of ‘Dublin Murders’ at the launch. Picture: Colin Keegan
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

At RTÉ's autumn schedule launch yesterday, there was a running joke between the event MCs - breakfast radio co-hosts Doireann Garrihy and Eoghan McDermott - about the broadcaster's lack of cash.

The jokes raised a few awkward giggles from the crowd of assembled employees and media.

In 2016, RTÉ had losses of €19.4m, followed by €6.4m in 2017. Last year it reported a loss of more than €13m, prompting repeated pleas for an increase in the licence fee.

In recent weeks a 'broadcasting charge', which would cover all devices on which we consume content, has been mooted.

The budget issues, however, are not immediately in evidence in its new season slate, with the return of flagship programmes including 'The Late Late Show' (now in its 58th season and such a draw for advertisers that it is virtually untouchable), Saturday night's 'The Ray D'Arcy Show', 'Room to Improve', 'The Eurovision', 'Operation Transformation', 'Claire Byrne Live', 'Prime Time' and more.

There had been rumblings that 'Dancing with the Stars' may not be recommissioned for a fourth series.

As recently as April, Larry Bass, the chief executive of ShinAwhil, which produces the series, said: "At the moment [RTÉ] do not have the budget to bring it back."

However, 'DWTS' will return and is expected to do so with the full complement of presenters and judges. The announcement prompted a quip from Doireann about the contestants having to wear 'last year's costumes'. 'The Rotunda' will also return,

One casualty, this season at least, is 'Cutting Edge'. The popular series, hosted by Brendan O'Connor, is being 'rested'. O'Connor, meanwhile, is gearing up for a new show in 2020.

Behind the scenes, there has been cost-cutting, land sales and redundancies. Front of house, though, RTÉ is managing to weather the storm.

Its remit as a public service broadcaster is in evidence in plans for a week-long climate change special.

As part of it, a Youth Assembly will see 157 young people meet in the Dáil to debate the issues. There are documentaries on Sean Quinn, the survivors of Ireland's industrial schools, and child asylum seekers in Direct Provision.

The 'RTÉ Investigates' team, which shocked the nation with the recent exposé of practices at a Dublin chain of créches, is also working on several new investigation and Joe Duffy's 'Children of the Troubles' documentary will air.

The most notable dramatic offering this season is 'Dublin Murders', a co-production with BBC One and US-based Starz. The eight-part crime drama with Killian Scott, Sarah Greene, Moe Dunford and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is based on the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French.

There is also period drama 'Dead Still' and a drama set in a coastal town in the south-west called 'South Westerlies'.

While the second series of Amy Huberman's 'Finding Joy' is in pre-production, RTÉ has commissioned four new pilots including 'Headcases', with 'Can't Cope Won't Cope' star Seana Kerslake, and 'Bump', with Charlene McKenna playing a woman who becomes a surrogate for her sister.

And there are several new and returning series featuring members of the public from 'Pulling with my Parents' to 'My Big Day Home or Away'.

Sport is a strong suit for RTÉ and there have been no concessions this season.

The addition of the AIB All-Ireland GAA Club Championships will see GAA delivered year-round while Jamie Heaslip, Donncha O'Callaghan and Michael Lynagh will join the Rugby World Cup panel with Six Nations-winning captain Fiona Coughlan joining the commentary team.

Read more: Tanya Sweeney: 'RTÉ's autumn line-up lacking real (tele)vision'

Irish Independent

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