Friday 24 November 2017

RTE's head of news Kevin Bakhurst won't move family here

KEVIN BAKHURST: RTE's
head of news from September
KEVIN BAKHURST: RTE's head of news from September

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Kevin Bakhurst, RTE's incoming head of news, is to divide his time between Dublin and England when he takes over, it has been confirmed.

Due to family circumstances, Mr Bakhurst's wife and children are to remain in England, which will result in him commuting back and forth every weekend.

Mr Bakhurst joins RTE at a crucial juncture as it seeks to move on from the trauma of Mission to Prey.

Feelings within RTE are mixed about the key appointment and while there is considerable anticipation of his arrival, given his strong CV, there are some grumbles that an outsider was chosen.

It has been confirmed that Mr Bakhurst, who leaves the role of Controller of the BBC News Channel to join RTE in September, has secured premises in Dublin, but because of school exams, it was not feasible to move his family over.

Defending the arrangement, RTE sources have insisted that his splitting his time between Dublin and England will not impact on his "commitment" to the role.

"He will work the full week in Montrose, but be going home as one of his children is sitting exams next year and relocating the family was not possible. It goes without saying he will be on the mobile constantly as you would expect in such a role," a source said.

However, some within RTE believe Mr Bakhurst's commute will inevitably impact on his duties.

"What happens if a major incident happens late on a Friday and he is over the Irish Sea going home? Hardly ideal is it," one senior RTE figure told the Sunday Independent.

The announcement of Mr Bakhurst's appointment two weeks ago led to a stiff rebuking of some of RTE's stars from a senior editor. Chief news editor Ray Burke blasted staff by email for sending gushing tweets to the next boss.

"If RTE journalists could devote as much energy to writing copy as some of them are devoting to sending effusive tweets to the next boss, RTE News might be able to offer a better news service to the Irish people between now and September," he wrote.

One of the most voluble in her welcome was Prime Time presenter Miriam O'Callaghan. She said: "Mega congrats . . . you'll be very happy here and we'll all make sure you are."

Mr Bakhurst's arrival comes as the organisation, which the Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said "is likely" to have debts of €50m by the end of the year, is in the middle of a major downsizing exercise.

Come September, senior RTE management are anticipating substantial gaps to emerge in the newsroom.

It's believed that some 200 will take an early retirement package because Noel Curran has said that the organisation will be unable to finance such packages in the future.

Sunday Independent

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