Sunday 15 December 2019

Salary cap on top presenters would save RTÉ €1m a year

Well paid: Pat Kenny with fellow big earners Miriam O’Callaghan and Claire Byrne during his stint on RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time’. Photo: RTÉ
Well paid: Pat Kenny with fellow big earners Miriam O’Callaghan and Claire Byrne during his stint on RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time’. Photo: RTÉ
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A cap on the salaries paid to the top 10 presenters in RTÉ would save €1m a year for the broadcaster.

However, management believes it would risk losing big names to rival stations such as Virgin Media and Newstalk.

Tensions are rising at the broadcaster after a group of journalists passed a motion calling for bosses to "immediately" reduce the fees paid to presenters so nobody would earn more than the top civil service salary of €207,590.

Such a cut would directly affect seven household names: Ryan Tubridy, Ray D'Arcy, Joe Duffy, Sean O'Rourke, Marian Finucane, Miriam O'Callaghan and Claire Byrne.

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Around 30 out of the broadcasters' 300 members of the National Union of Journalists were present when the motion was approved.

It has now created a major split at the Montrose campus with the top presenters and many colleagues extremely unhappy.

A range of journalistic and management sources have told the Irish Independent that the atmosphere is difficult.

One source argued four presenters working on commercial radio are now on equivalent or higher salaries than the RTÉ stars.

Newstalk radio host Pat Kenny, a former presenter of 'The Late Late Show', is believed to be one of those with a comparable salary. He left RTÉ in 2013 after 41 years with the national broadcaster.

Speaking yesterday, he said that if he was starting his career again he would not necessarily look to RTÉ to "reside for so many decades".

"I'd be looking to the UK," Mr Kenny said, adding that Ireland is now consistently losing up-and-coming talent to London.

Senior RTÉ sources point to Mr Kenny as an example of why presenters are so highly paid.

One said: "RTÉ is in financial trouble. How would that be helped if Ryan Tubridy's salary was cut and he moved to TV3 [now Virgin]?"

The Irish Independent revealed yesterday how some in RTÉ believe the big names have been "thrown to the wolves" by colleagues.

The motion was not approved by the NUJ's Irish secretary Seamus Dooley because he was not invited to the meeting where it was debated.

The issue was raised in the Dáil yesterday where Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín claimed one RTÉ presenter "earns 61 times the average wage of a beef farmer, and per broadcast hour €1,500".

"Weekly, that presenter earns more than the average beef farmer earns in a year. That this is happening is a scandal, but that it is happening at a time when RTÉ is in bits financially is madness," he said. Mr Tóibín called on the Government to support the pay cut.

However, Communications Minister Richard Bruton said it was a matter for RTÉ "in the first instance".

"The House has previously expressed its belief that some of the pay is excessive, and that has been included in RTÉ's recent plan, which outlined a 15pc cut," he said.

Irish Independent

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