17 September 2019 The Irish Film & Television Network
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RTÉ Facing Severe Cuts as Government Reject Latest Funding Request
10 Sep 2019 : News Desk
The overall income of RTÉ has decreased by €100m in the past decade.
The Government have stated that the National Broadcaster’s request of €55 million to finance the transformation to a digital-first operation will not be forthcoming.

In an email sent out to RTÉ staff last Friday, Director General, Dee Forbes warned staff of impending cutbacks as “commercial revenues and public funding (are) both significantly below what is needed to operate the organisation in its current form”. Forbes further stated that the “current financial situation is not like anything we have seen before”and the broadcaster could no longer afford to continue in its current form.

The broadcaster’s ambitious plan to transform the organisation into a digital-first operation, diverting money from television and radio into its online operations, would have brought its total Exchequer funding to more than €240m per year, though the Government has confirmed that no such funding increase is coming.

RTÉ reported a net deficit of €13 million last year despite cuts and the voluntary redundancy scheme that saw 160 people depart the organisation. This was the fourth consecutive year in which RTÉ ran a deficit, whilst the overall income of the organisation has decreased by €100m in the past decade.

UK consultants, Communications Chambers, conducted an analysis of the broadcaster's finances which identified a number of areas where cuts could be made. The report, which was submitted to the BAI, highlighted Voluntary redundancies, legislative changes and cuts to the provision of sport, Irish language services, educational and religious content as potential actions to prevent significant financial deficits going forward. Furthermore, the report indicated that RTÉ “might also find itself forced to use involuntary redundancy, in order to effectively and rapidly target cuts”.

The BAI was critical of the national broadcaster, intimating that the plans in place to deal with the financial shortfall lacked clarity and detail:

“The BAI had expected engagement with RTÉ on the choices facing the broadcaster on the future of its services and platforms, particularly in the absence of increased funding. It is unsatisfactory that RTÉ chose not to provide all the relevant information requested by the BAI. Without any increase in funding, or if there are any further reductions in RTÉ’s funding, the BAI takes the view that cuts to services are inevitable.”

Certain political scrutiny has also been placed on the salaries of RTÉ’s top-earning talent. Seán Fleming, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and a Fianna Fáil TD, said the broadcaster does need to reduce the wages of some of its top earners but that it would not solve everything, stating: “The wages of the high-earners do make it more difficult for the political system to be sympathetic, and that’s an issue, but there are other major issues.”

Additionally, communications spokesman for Sinn Féin, David Cullinane, raised concerns over the lack of transparency surrounding RTÉ’s spending: “It’s semi-private, so it has sources of funding from the commercial sector. All of its funding doesn’t come from the taxpayer and that means that it isn’t fully accountable back to the Oireachtas and back to the taxpayer.”

Ms Forbes said the RTÉ board and the broadcaster’s most senior executives have been “reassessing everything we currently do and what we can continue to do in the future”. 

The full cost-cutting plan is due to be revealed next month.




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