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Andrew Lynch: RTE cannot afford to lose Tubs - so why is it letting him try out for the BBC?

Imagine the situation. Your star worker comes to you and announces that he's got a new Saturday job, which he will perform over the summer along with his regular duties.

Although this other company can afford to pay him an astronomical salary compared with what he's getting now (and that's not bad either), he assures you that he still loves his current job and has no intention of making a full-time move.

Any employer worth their salt should be immediately concerned. When it comes to Ryan Tubridy, however, it seems that RTE are happy to have an open relationship.

Paltry

As Tubs prepares to present a new Saturday morning radio show for the BBC, the national broadcaster appears to be giving him their blessing -- an amazingly lax attitude towards one of their biggest assets that they may soon come to regret.

To see this as just a harmless bit of moonlighting would be naive. This could well turn out to be the biggest audition of Tubridy's life.

The presenter whose radio slot he will be borrowing, fellow Irishman Graham Norton, currently pulls down around £2m (f2.25m) a year at the Beeb -- more than four times the €533,000 Ryan gets from RTE. Of course, ambition is not a crime.

If Tubridy believes he can still be a big broadcasting fish in a much greater pond, then good luck to him. Even if the money means nothing to him, the lure of a massive audience in Britain must be very tempting.

The crucial point is, however, that RTE absolutely cannot afford to lose him. Not only is he on 2fm five mornings a week, he is also presenter of their flagship television chat show.

Allowing the BBC to poach him would be a huge blow -- which makes it all the more amazing that they are apparently willinig to let him work there over the summer without even the slightest concern that they might make him an offer he can't refuse.

Working for both stations is clearly not a long-term option. In Dave Fanning's recent autobiography The Thing Is, he recalls the nightmare of commuting from Dublin to London to present a Saturday afternoon show on Virgin Radio in the mid-90s.

The strain became so great that he would sometimes record the last bit of his RTE slot and using that as the end of his Virgin programme so that he could get the last flight home.

Sooner or later, then, Tubridy will have to choose. If the BBC want him full-time, he may well see it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to show he can hack it on a bigger stage.

If they don't, it will look as if he's crawling back to Montrose with his tail between his legs.

Are RTE seriously going to stand back and let this happen? The golden boy of Irish broadcasting may have lost his lustre recently, with PR disasters such as his kid gloves treatment of Ronan Keating leading to accusations that he is presenting 'The Lite Lite Show'.

However, he is still one of the station's most bankable stars -- and now that Gerry Ryan is sadly no longer with us, it's by no means easy to imagine who could take his place.

If RTE was a purely commercial outfit, this would be their own private business.

As the national broadcaster, however, they have a public duty to look after the €200m subsidy they receive from the licence fee.

Weakness

That amount could be about to rise even higher, since the new Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is proposing to widen the scope of the licence to include laptops and mobiles.

RTE should give Tubridy an ultimatum along the lines of, "Either you work for us or you don't." Allowing him to publicly audition for the world's biggest broadcaster is not just a sign of management weakness. It's an insult to the people who pay his wages -- and if he thinks Twitter is cruel to him now, he might want to turn his phone off for a while.

Ryan Tubridy is constantly telling his radio listeners, "The country needs a hug!" Now it looks as if he may be rushing to escape our embrace. Is anybody in RTE prepared to get down on their knees to stop him?


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