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John Drennan: Savage has lost 'support of the dressing room'

Beleaguered RTE chairman Tom Savage has lost the confidence of significant elements of the news and current affairs workforce in RTE -- and has been compared to a Premier League soccer manager who has "lost the support of the dressing room".

Support for the chairman has collapsed to the extent that "a spontaneous cheer went up in the RTE newsroom when Senator John Whelan denounced the role Savage allegedly played in the resignation of the former head of news and current affairs Ed Mulhall, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

At Tuesday's Dail Committee hearing into the Prime Time Investigates Fr Kevin Reynolds debacle, the Labour senator accused Savage of shafting Mulhall and of hanging him out to dry in an interview with the Sunday Independent.

Members of the Oireachtas Communications Committee were also "privately contacted by senior producers and figures in current affairs and news and encouraged to continue their onslaught".

And although Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has, for now, ruled out asking for Savage's resignation, it seems support in the Government for the struggling RTE chairman is being eroded by the embarrassing fallout from the affair.

Meanwhile, in a move that is sure to ratchet up the pressure, Whelan told the Sunday Independent: "I don't share Mr Rabbitte's confidence in the chair of the Authority . . . I don't think he has the confidence of the public and he certainly does not have the confidence of the staff."

Whelan claimed that Savage had been even more seriously damaged by the perceived "glaring conflict of interest" between his public role in RTE and his private PR business interests.

At last week's stormy Oireachtas committee meeting, Savage categorically denied there was any conflict of interest between his work as a public relations consultant and his role as chairman of the RTE board.

But the Labour senator called on the businessman who, along with his wife Terry Prone and son Anton Savage, is a director of the Communications Clinic, to publish the list of political and corporate clients his company represents in the interests of transparency.

The Dail Communications Committee is analysing the testimony it got over the two-day grilling of Savage and RTE director-general Noel Curran and will issue its recommendations in due course.

A Freedom of Information request by Fianna Fail TD Eamon O Cuiv recently revealed that Prone was one of RTE's top 10 outside contributors on current affairs issues.

Sunday Independent