Friday 24 November 2017

'Overpaid' RTE stars will have 40pc slashed from their wages

Noel Curran: top stars` overpaid, admits boss
Noel Curran: top stars` overpaid, admits boss

By Barry Duggan

RTE will slash the salaries of some of the country's best-known presenters by up to 40pc.

Pat Kenny is among those likely to face yet another cut after the head of the broadcaster admitted its top stars were overpaid.

Director General Noel Curran conceded that it had been "paying some of our talent too much" after the furore over salaries at the station.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the rates as "extraordinary" after it emerged that RTE is on course to pay €3.3m to its seven highest-paid contract workers this year.

But Mr Curran has now insisted that by the time the state broadcaster is finished negotiating outstanding contracts, salaries will have been cut by 40pc from their boom period levels.

It seems likely that 'Prime Time' presenter and radio host Pat Kenny, who is due to begin contract negotiations later this year, will take his third pay cut in five years.

Mr Kenny was paid €950,976 in 2008, then had his salary reduced to €729,604 in 2009. It was down to €630,000 in 2010 and 2011 -- a 34pc decrease overall.

He has the highest profile among the RTE contractors who are known to have pay negotiations outstanding.

Asked about the prospect of another cut, Mr Kenny told the Irish Independent he is "obviously one of those people (in contract negotiations)".

"I was the first to take a cut way back," he said, before adding: "I'm in negotiations so I can't comment on it."

Mr Kenny's 'Late Late Show' successor Ryan Tubridy topped the league table of RTE's high earners for 2011 with €723,500.

But he already agreed to have his fee cut by 32pc, bringing it down to €495,000 when his contract was renewed last year.

Mr Curran told an audience of journalism students at the University of Limerick yesterday that RTE had overpaid some of the country's best-known TV and radio personalities.

"We were paying – given what has happened – some of our talent too much, and frankly, that wasn't their fault. It was our fault," he said.

However, he warned that the axe will continue to fall on salaries during contract negotiations.

Phenomenal

"We have cut substantially and delivered on what we said we would do. We have cut more than any other sector or profession," he said. "We are not finished.

"We have tried. We said we would deliver a minimum of a 30pc reduction. We are doing that.

"What we have announced so far are those whose contracts have already been done, but we have made it clear that there are other contracts up for renewal and obviously there will be negotiations around those.

"By the time we are through all of those contracts, it will be closer to 40pc. Some of those contracts haven't been renegotiated yet, and I don't want to have those negotiations through the media."

RTE said the projected wages bill for the highest-paid presenters in 2013 is expected to be in the region of €3m, a reduction of more than 30pc compared to 2008.

Under her latest deal, Marian Finucane earns €295,000 – down 48pc from her peak pay in 2008.

Mr Curran said: "Marian Finucane has taken an absolutely huge reduction in her fees and she is continuing to deliver audiences which by European standards at the weekend are quite phenomenal.

"RTE on the weekend is way ahead of comparable broadcasters in Europe in terms of the audiences Marian's shows bring.

"We are incredibly lucky in the range of on-air talent we have, both in and outside the top 10 (best-paid), and they are valued."

Meanwhile, Mr Curran described the fallout from the libellous 'Mission To Prey' programme and the presidential election tweet controversy as "incredibly bruising and difficult".

Fr Kevin Reynolds was defamed by the infamous 'Prime Time' programme that falsely alleged he had fathered a child with a Kenyan woman.

However, Mr Curran said public trust levels with RTE were almost back up to where they had been. "We came through it. Our trust levels are only 1pc or 2pc behind where they were. We've learnt, and that should not lead to complacency.

"RTE is going to make mistakes, particularly in the investigative journalism business.

"Anyone who expects journalists, producers, editors to go out into extraordinarily difficult territory and not make mistakes is living in cloud cuckoo land."

Irish Independent

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