RTÉ announced on Wednesday evening that it would no longer be producing programmes for young people. It issued a statement confirming the news.
“After an examination of all output, a decision has been made to commission all young people’s programmes from the independent sector, will be commissioning its entire young people’s TV from the independent sector.”
It is reported that staff were told on Wednesday at around half five, that the department was closing down in three weeks’ time and that anyone on a contract would be losing their job, whereas staff employees would be redeployed within the company.
The Irish Times reported that an estimated 15 people - presenters, researchers, programme assistants and puppeteers - are set to have their contracts terminated in the weeks before Christmas. Eleven staff will be redeployed and eight will remain to carry out residual functions, such as commissioning, promotion and post-production.
The paper also reported in an online article that, a spokesperson for RTÉ subsequently acknowledged the abrupt shutdown of the department meant there would be gaps in its schedule in 2017.
It will take several months, at least, before the process of commissioning and producing programmes from the independent sector leads to results on screen.
“In reality, they’ll be commissioning in 2017 for 2018,” said one insider.
“The saving is in overheads in Montrose. It’s the cull of people rather than programmes,” says the employee in the young people’s department, who believes the department was an easy first target because “it doesn’t bring in revenue. But there’s a huge raft of changes coming. RTÉ is looking to become an independent commissioning house.”
“Everyone goes the extra mile in here. We work on tiny budgets with amazingly talented people. It’s such a shame because they won’t be able to replicate that energy and passion in the independent sector.”
RTÉ is projected to record a deficit of as much as €20 million this year, following a €2.8 million deficit in 2015.
Its personnel costs had risen to €11.3 million last year, with the number of people employed by the broadcaster increasing.
As of the end of 2015, it had 1,978 employees, with 285 of this number working on a part-time or casual basis.
RTÉ has also invited staff to take incentivised career breaks during 2017 in a bid to cut its payroll costs.
The broadcaster has told employees they can apply for additional time off next year, on top of their annual leave, if they work in a role where they do not have to be replaced.