Tuesday 20 March 2018

Top presenter at country's most popular local radio station on €60 a day - EAT

Greg Harkin

BOSSES at the country’s most popular local radio station allegedly took hundreds of thousands of euro out of the business while “quibbling” with one of its top presenters over a €60-a-day fee, an industrial tribunal has been told.

DJ Steven Lynch, (36), a father of three from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, is suing Highland Radio for constructive dismissal.

A hearing before an industrial tribunal panel sitting at a hotel in Letterkenny heard how Mr Lynch was expected to sell advertising to supplement his €300-a-week presenter’s fee.

Former station manager Charlie Collins, appearing as a witness for Mr Lynch, said the relationship between Mr Lynch and the station’s marketing manager John Clancy deteriorated in early 2013.

Mr Lynch’s advertising clients were eventually taken off him, just weeks after his father died from cancer, and a company car was also removed, Mr Collins told the tribunal chaired by Emily Daly.

This meant the presenter was left with his basic €300-a-week pay, said Mr Collins.

“He was the second most popular presenter on Highland at the time with his afternoon show,” said the witness.

Mr Collins detailed how he had drawn up an agreement in 2004 with Mr Lynch which allowed him to top-up his €60-a-day presenter’s fee with commission from between 40 and 50 advertisers.

This was the practice with a number of the presenters at Highland Radio, he said.

A year after the Galway-based Rabbitt family purchased the station - in 2009 - all fees were cut by 10pc.

Mr Collins said he opposed the cuts as, despite the downturn in the economy, Highland still had revenues of more than €2m.

However the Rabbitt family, he told the tribunal, took out €1.8m from the business over the next three years to service the debts on bank loans taken out to buy the station.

They had also paid €100,000 fees to outside companies who had helped with the purchase of the station and were paying large audit fees “much higher than we would normally pay for those services in Donegal”.

He said Mr Clancy joined the company in February 2012 and immediately increased advertising reps targets by 7.5pc.

“It was a crazy situation because that money wasn’t out there. Whatever was out there, we were getting it,” said the witness.

He alleged Mr Clancy had become “obsessed” with advert revenue generated by Mr Lynch whose clients were based mainly in the Inishowen area.

A decision was taken, said Mr Collins, in September of 2012 to reduce the presenter’s clients from between 40 and 50 to 15, but this was not implemented until January 2013 as Mr Lynch’s father had died a few weeks earlier.

In April, said Mr Collins, all Mr Lynch’s advertising clients were taken off him and a new advertising rep appointed in Inishowen.

A free company car supplied by a local dealer was also taken off the presenter.

He said he had several meetings with the DJ and it became clear it was no longer financially viable for Mr Lynch to survive on €300-a-week without the advert revenue and without the car but the company refused to increase his salary to a level he felt he could cope with.

“It (Mr Lynch’s advertising revenue) became an obsession for him (Mr Clancy),” said Mr Collins.

The presenter handed in his notice and left officially four weeks later.

Solicitor Mr McLaughlin asked Mr Collins what became of Mr Lynch’s car.

“Mr Clancy ended up with Steven’s car,” he replied.

Solicitor Alastair Purdy for Highland Radio said the station was vigorously defending the constructive dismissal claim.

Mr Lynch is seeking €67,000 lost income over the past two years.

The case will resume in July.

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