Tuesday 16 January 2018

Stars warn further cutbacks at RTE will be difficult to find

Emma Jane Hade and Aideen Sheehan

RTE stars have warned there is little left to cut at the station as Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte prepares to send in consultants to seek further cost reductions.

The move is part of a drive to overhaul how broadcasting is funded that will include a new public service broadcasting charge that every household in the country will have to pay.

'Prime Time' presenter Claire Byrne said the costs review was being put in place by the minister and they would have to await the results.

"But I think everybody is working very hard, and we have lost 500 staff since the economic crisis has started," she said.

"We are outputting as much as we possibly can, so I certainly – as somebody who works there – would welcome consultants coming in to see what the people in there are doing with the resources available to them."

DJ Colm Hayes of 2fm said he did not see what further savings could be made.

"There have been so many cuts made in the last couple of years that I don't know what's left to cut, but if they can find something that they can make a saving on, go for it," he said.

He added that the changes would not impact on the quality of broadcasting.

"There are so many good people in there that it won't – we will actually strive to make it better, we really will."

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, meanwhile, welcomed new measures announced this week by the Government.

Chief executive Michael O'Keeffe said the Government had responded quickly to the authority's proposals, and there were many positives in the new measures.

A number of unknowns needed to be clarified before the level of future funding for RTE could be established, including the scope for further cuts and the cost-effectiveness of more independent production.

BAI chairman Bob Collins clarified that while RTE would have to cut commercial income if it received additional public funds, the threshold at which this "rebalancing mechanism" would kick in would be set at a higher amount than it currently receives from the licence fee.

He said the new public service broadcasting charge would not exceed the licence fee in the short term, but it was hoped the new method of collection would bring in more funds by reducing evasion.

Irish Independent

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