Friday 20 September 2019

High salaries of RTÉ's top TV and radio stars being 'looked at' - Dee Forbes

RTE chief Dee Forbes
RTE chief Dee Forbes
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

The high salaries of RTE’s leading lights could be examined as the broadcaster pushes for reforms to claw back an estimated €50min lost TV license revenue.

RTE Director General Dee Forbes has admitted the salaries of some of RTE’s highest staff will be looked at along with other measures, including the lobbying of Government for a cash injection to maintain TV services to the current standard.

And among Ms Forbes’ suggestions to raise revenue at the broadcaster is a controversial license fee included within household utility bills.

“As we look at reform and changes in the organisation, we are looking at everything,” Ms Forbes told RTE Radio News at One.

“It’s clear we can’t continue to operate the way we have been operating. I’ve committed that these (highly paid) contracts were and are being looked at.

“The situation we find ourselves in is a different place to the time these contracts were put in place.

“I am looking at those and am committed to look at them going forward…”

RTE pays its leading staff over €3.6 million every year. However the latest figures are from 2016 and were only released last year by the broadcaster.

Ryan Tubridy: €495,000

Ray D’Arcy: €450,000

Joe Duffy: €389,988

Sean O’Rourke: €308,964

Marian Finucane: €300,617

Miriam O’Callaghan: €299,000

Claire Byrne: €216,000

Bryan Dobson: €198,146

George Hamilton: €186,195

Mary Wilson: €185,679

Ms Forbes said: “What’s important is we have a national public service broadcaster fit for purpose telling Ireland’s story and focused on the creative industry.

“Everything is being looked at and nothing will escape.”

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Ireland’s foremost female broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan

Ms Forbes said though she welcomed Minister Bruton’s move to tighten up TV license collection fees by shifting to another collection system, she felt waiting five years was too long.

When asked about the license fee being collected as part of a utility bill, Ms Forbes felt this was a good idea. “Certainly I’d say a system linked to a utility or something from another report by the joint oireachtas committee, (which suggested) revenue collecting a household media charge, so there are many possibilities.”

“This has happened in other markets,”she said. “Italy had a very positive collection rate. They linked it to electricity and compliance was at such a level they ended up reducing the license fee.

“A system linked to utility or...revenue collecting a household media charge,” was appropriate, she added.

Ms Forbes warned potential cuts could be coming down the line at the broadcaster and Seamus Dooley, from the National Union of Journalism (NUJ) spoke of a “threat” to jobs.

“I think what’s been made clearby the BAI is that RTE needs an immediate €30m funding to do what it’s doing currently,” she said.

“We got so much in the Budget lastyear but nothing like the €30m discussed, so we are now in a very thorough review situation.

“We can’t continue, this will lead to RTE not being able to fulfill its remit, it will lead to service reductions and... threaten employment in public service broadcasting…

“We are in review right now...we’ll be coming to the staff and the public later in the Autumn with plans because it’s not sustainable to continue in our current format.”

The director general said the broadcaster had already cut €100m in costs from RTE in recent years.

“A collection system with purpose,”was needed, she added and a more rapid solution.

Ms Forbes said: “The current evasion rates are about 13pc and a further 10 to 11pc of homes say they don’t consume public service content on a TV screen, so €50m is being lost in the industry.

“This is about the wider creative economy and what’s disappointing in this is the time-frame in which this (collection) is being discussed.

“The notion of reform is great but five years before we contemplate moving to another system is too long…”

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