Thursday 15 November 2018

Gaybo feared sack - just what chairman ordered

Michael Lavery

BROADCASTING legend Gay Byrne was so insecure he refused to take holidays and was once "effed" out of the office of the RTE director general when he asked for a raise.

Ireland's most successful broadcaster was forced to sign a new contract by RTE every 13 weeks for over two decades of his working life.

And towards the end of the 1960s, Ryan Tubridy's grandfather, Todd Andrews - then chairman of the RTE Authority - tried to have Byrne fired from RTE's 'Late Late Show'.

The 'Late Late', then in its fourth season, was beginning to court controversy and Todd Andrews lobbied the incoming director general, Tim McCourt, about removing Gaybo from the show.

The story is told in a new documentary on the veteran broadcaster, 'Gaybo, the story of Gay Byrne', made by Tyrone Productions, to be broadcast tomorrow night on RTE 1 at 10.15pm.

In the two-part series, Gay Byrne relates how Andrews phoned McCourt on his first day in his new post and demanded that he "fire that f**ker Byrne".

Asked which "f**ker Byrne", he meant, Andrews said: "The little f**ker who presents the 'Late Late Show'."

However, McCourt resisted the efforts to dismiss Byrne who went on to become Ireland's best known broadcaster - and to set a new record with the longevity of the 'Late Late Show'.

Ryan Tubridy, widely regarded as Byrne's heir apparent in RTE, told a Sunday newspaper yesterday he was "shocked" at his grandfather uttering a profanity.

The documentary shows that Gay, although he attracted 1.5 million listeners to his radio show, as well as topping the TV ratings, was terrified of being sacked by RTE and of slipping into oblivion.

He accepted just £2 a week as a raise at the height of his fame after being persuaded to seek a pay increase by fellow broadcaster Mike Murphy.

"The insecurity he suffered was unbelievable," Murphy says in the documentary. "I would say to him, 'You're crazy, you're the man' but he was just incredibly insecure and never believed it.

"I used to tell him to take time off, but he wouldn't. I'd tell him to go and ask for more money.

"But he had a genuine fear they would think he was getting too much and would get rid of him."

In the documentary, Byrne confesses to his insecurity and says his biggest fear in life was not being able to provide for his family. He tells of asking for a raise on two occasions.

"The first time the director general took it very seriously and came back two days later and told me I was getting a £100 a year increase.

"On another occasion, . . . he was in a very bad mood and effed me out of the office. He said he had no money and even if he had - I wasn't getting it."

It was not until he hired an accountant and threatened to move to America that he finally got paid properly by RTE.

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