Wednesday 23 May 2018

RTE's Miriam and Pat accept days of 'mega-bucks' are over


Three of RTE's wealthiest broadcasters -- Pat Kenny, Miriam O'Callaghan and Sean O'Rourke -- have now accepted that the boom years of mega salaries are over and that they will face further pay cuts when their current contracts expire.

The stars were responding to comments made by Claire Duignan, RTE's managing director of radio, who said they will have to accept more "modest remuneration".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, Mr Kenny -- who at the peak was paid over €900,000 a year -- said stars and staff in RTE had already been hit by cuts but that is what happens in times of economic trouble.

"Well, everyone knows there has been a recession and we all have taken pay cuts already -- all of us.

"Claire's comments are simply reflecting that the country has gone through a tough time," he said.

"Staff have been cut, wages have been cut, so RTE is weathering the economic storm, but there is a bit to go," he added.

Ms Duignan said: "We will not be negotiating the kind of fees that were negotiated a number of years ago. That is not the kind of environment we are living in. (Presenters) need to get in step with the drive down to more modest remuneration."

Miriam O'Callaghan said: "From the very beginning, when our economy crashed and everything changed in this country, I have always said I was happy to take the cuts that were asked for.

"With hundreds of thousands of Irish people unemployed and being forced to emigrate -- these being the stories I covered every night on Prime Time -- I felt that it was the least I could do.

"So I agree fully with Claire Duignan."

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News At One presenter Sean O'Rourke, another of the top 10 stars who was earning €218,656 in 2008, said Ms Duignan's comments were in line with current thinking within RTE.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, he said: "I am a staff member, I am not in the mega-bucks personal contract league and I took a pay cut like all others. Claire's comments, I think, reflect the new reality that we are all aware of."

Other senior figures at the state broadcaster said Ms Duignan's remarks would do her no harm in the race for the top job at RTE, whose director general, Cathal Goan, is due to step down shortly.

Ms Duignan is known to be keen to become the first-ever female director general. Other contenders for the position including the recently departed TV boss Noel Curran, his successor Glen Killane and the head of news, Ed Mulhall.

Her comments coincide with a blistering attack on RTE from the boss of TV3, who has accused the station of being grossly anti-competitive, underpricing its advertising and massively distorting the commercial market.

In an interview with this newspaper, TV3's chief executive, David McRedmond, said he was maddened that RTE could still lose €28m -- despite receiving €200m in licence fees, as well as receiving advertising revenue.

"Yes it's maddening, of course it is," he said. "It is wrong, totally wrong."

He continued: "They (RTE) are either spending €15m too much on their programming, thus pricing us out of the market, or they're underpricing their advertising too low to the tune of €17m.

"What's worse is that it is two years in a row. They are just not taking a tough enough line, in my view, to remain in the advertising market."

In response, an RTE spokeswoman said: "We don't accept Mr McRedmond's contention. RTE's trading method has been based on supply and demand for the past 30 years.

"RTE noted the deafening silence from TV3 in the years 2004 to 2007, when the supply and demand trading method that is now being castigated resulted in double-digit year-on-year inflation."

She added: "David McRedmond's claim regarding our declared end-of-year deficit in 2009 is nonsensical.

"The sharp fall-off in broadcast advertising impacted massively on all. TV3 has admitted that its own profits fell more than twenty-fold. Mr McRedmond's claims are baseless and disingenuous."

Sunday Independent

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