RTE News & Current Affairs figures hit as public switch off
VIEWING figures for RTE's Prime Time have plummeted since the broadcast of an investigation into clerical sex abuse by African missionaries that defamed Father Kevin Reynolds.
The once flagship show of the State broadcaster's news and current affairs division has lost 100,000 viewers in the last year as the station struggles to deal with the fallout from the Mission to Prey programme.
RTE axed Prime Time Investigates earlier this year, but Prime Time, hosted by Miriam O'Callaghan and Richard Crowley, remains on air.
Average viewing figures for Prime Time (which do not include Prime Time Investigates viewers) in May last year -- the same month the controversial investigation into clerical sex abuse aired -- stood at 425,000 viewers.
However, a year later and following a damning report on Prime Time Investigates by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Ms O'Callaghan's audience has dropped to 325,000 viewers.
The drop in viewers is a pattern repeated across RTE's news division, as trust in the broadcaster hits an all-time low following two scathing reports by the BAI.
The BAI's Prime Time Investigates report found there was "significant failure of editorial and managerial controls within RTE" and fined the station €200,000.
The authority also upheld a complaint by former presidential candidate Sean Gallagher over a fake Sinn Fein tweet read out on Pat Kenny's The Frontline.
Mr Kenny's audience fell by 26,000 since the BAI upheld the complaint -- the show went from 372,000 viewers in May last year to 346,000.
Last month, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll showed faith in the RTE chairman Tom Savage had collapsed, with 50 per cent of those polled calling on him to resign. This lack of trust in the station, coupled with audiences growing weary of the constant barrage of bad news emanating from their television sets, have led to the sudden decline in viewers across the news division.
Even staples of the RTE newsroom, Six One News and Nine News, have seen their audiences switch off in their droves.
Nine News has lost 121,000 viewers in the last year, plummeting from an average of 563,000 to 442,000 viewers last month. Similarly, Six One News, hosted by Bryan Dobson and Sharon Ni Bheolain has seen its audience drop from 466,000 to 370,000.
The Week in Politics, hosted by Sean O'Rourke, dropped the least amount of viewers in the last year, with 5,000 people switching off and leaving it with an audience of 158,000 people.
The sudden fall in viewing figures is also being felt in RTE's media sales department, where staff are struggling to sell advertising space between current affairs shows.
A source said: "It used to be the case that the sales team had to argue with clients who were looking for more advertising space between news programming, but now they have to push the time slots on companies."
A further drop in revenue is not good news for the station, which has been forced to introduce sweeping cuts as it battles against a €50m budget deficit.