How come RTE stars are still on hols?

Cormac Murphy

AUTUMN is here and the schools are back -- but RTE's highly paid presenters are working off a summer roster.

It means some of the station's big names, including Pat Kenny and Marian Finucane, are still not back from their holidays.

But Montrose bosses have defended the amount of time taken off by the stars.

Pat, Marian and Mary Wilson are understood to be back on Monday -- not long before the Dail gets going again a couple of weeks later.

The station insists the days of the RTE's top radio presenters disappearing for the summer are gone.

Annual leave for the likes of Pat, Marian, Ryan Tubridy and John Murray is staggered, so the "integrity" of Radio 1's service is maintained, a spokesman told the Herald.

Radio spokesman Joe Hoban said John Murray, Derek Mooney and Joe Duffy are all back, though Pat Kenny is still on leave.

"Ryan Tubridy is back on air. He was on air last week and this week. RTE changed its practice and policy with regard to presenter leave about three years ago. John Murray and Pat Kenny would not be off at the same time. Joe Duffy and Mary Wilson would not be off at the same time. Broadly speaking, we have followed that pattern across the summer," Mr Hoban added. "There isn't really any more of that period when all the presenters were off air in the one block of time," he said.

The change of policy was implemented to "maintain the integrity of the service" during the summer months.

"We're a news and current affairs station and the news agenda keeps running across the summer," said Mr Hoban, who also pointed to issues of audience loyalty.

He said the term annual leave for many of RTE's top presenters is inaccurate as they're contractors who get paid for the days they work.

The latest figures from the broadcaster show Pat Kenny had earnings from the station of €729,604 in 2009, while Late Late Show presenter Tubridy raked in €519,667.

The total of earnings of the top ten presenters in 2009 was €3.95m, a reduction of 11.2pc on the 2008 total of €4.45m.

Of the ten, eight are contractors providing services to RTE and two are staff employees.