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RTE budget cuts 'will inspire better programme ideas'

A LEADING independent producer has claimed cuts by RTE in their programme-making budget could benefit Irish producers in the long term.

Yesterday RTE's new director general Noel Curran warned that in order to cut €17m from station costs, there would have to be "pain everywhere".

But Larry Bass, CEO of company Screentime ShinAwiL, said the cuts would help inspire better programme ideas, with those independent producers who didn't adapt going out of business.

He was responding to comments by Mr Curran that there would be cuts to "a whole range of different items in radio, television and current affairs".

"I don't want to get into naming (the shows being targeted) but there will be pain everywhere. There is no choice," Mr Curran said in weekend reports.

However, Mr Bass believes it is not all bad news.

"Successful shows like 'Come Dine With Me' originated because of similar funding cuts," he told the Irish Independent. "Independent producers are just going to make less go further and find programmes that work with this new business model."


The 46-year-old said the cuts would result in panellists and judges on Irish TV shows being paid less, more spin-off programmes from existing series, similar to 'The Apprentice: You're Fired' on TV3, and production staff becoming multi-skilled.

Screentime ShinAwiL -- which has produced a number of programmes for RTE, including 'Dragon's Den' and 'Masterchef' -- suffered a major setback four years ago when RTE decided not to recommission long-running talent show 'You're A Star'.

"We cut staff but got in graduates on lower pay scales, who have now moved through the ranks to become senior staff members because they are multi-skilled. We now do things which we used to farm out to third parties," said Mr Bass.

"There is no point in whinging about it. You've got to get on with it. Television was one of the first places to feel the pain because of the drop in advertising. As a result, Irish TV producers are becoming adept at producing programmes for a fraction of the budget they would cost overseas."

In 2009, RTE spent €270m on home-produced programmes, which are expected to be the main target for cuts this year.

The cuts are part of a process to make up for a projected €34m shortfall this year.

Irish Independent