Kenny rejects RTÉ claim presenters’ fees ‘over-inflated’

Presenter says Newstalk approached him because station hinted he was available

Pat Kenny says an important factor in his decision to leave was RTÉ’s insistence that he should present Prime Time two nights a week, which he felt was a step backward from his role on The  Frontline.

Pat Kenny says an important factor in his decision to leave was RTÉ’s insistence that he should present Prime Time two nights a week, which he felt was a step backward from his role on The Frontline.

Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 07:45

Pat Kenny has disputed RTÉ director general Noel Curran’s assertion that presenters’ fees were over-inflated during the boom.

Kenny, who was RTÉ’s highest-paid star for much of that period, notes that Gay Byrne’s salary in 1988 was £500,000.

“That was the rate for the top man. If you correct that now for inflation, [that’s] a couple of mill,” Kenny says in an interview in today’s Irish Times Magazine.

“On the other hand, if you look at management salaries in RTÉ back in 1988, you’ll find they’ve gone up dramatically, while talent fees have gone down.

“The reality is there is a market and that market determines,” Kenny says. “You can dump somebody but you then have to hope the next person can do the same for you.”

Kenny, whose new radio show starts on Newstalk next week, says he was approached by the independent broadcaster because RTÉ had hinted he was available.

“RTÉ put out the price that might be there on any of our heads,” he says. “They also indicated that there was one person’s contract which was being negotiated – me – and they opened the door for somebody to come in and make an offer, which I never expected at this stage in my life.”

Oireachtas committee
Mr Curran told an Oireachtas committee earlier this year that RTÉ planned to achieve an aggregate reduction of close to 40 per cent in presenters’ fees. Ryan Tubridy, the broadcaster’s highest-paid presenter, has seen his fees reduced from €723,000 in 2011 to €490,00 this year.

Kenny’s remuneration was €630,000 in 2011, €729,604 in 2009 and €950,976 in 2008.

But he insists that money was “not an issue” in his decision to leave RTÉ after 41 years.

“I won’t go into all our correspondence with RTÉ because it’s confidential and it wouldn’t be fair, but that was not the crunch issue at all.”


Backward step
More important, he says, was RTÉ’s insistence that he should present Prime Time two nights a week, which he felt was a step backward from his previous role on the live debate programme The Frontline.

The Frontline was so adrenaline-producing for me. It had the best of the Late Late Show debates and the best of current affairs. Whereas doing Prime Time with no audience in an empty studio block with no other shows being made at night, it was like visiting the Marie Céleste sometimes. It was issues like that which were at the nub of things.”

He made no secret of the disappointment he felt when The Frontline was subsumed into Prime Time, although he doesn’t believe that decision had anything to do with the “Tweetgate” controversy during the Frontline presidential debate.

“I don’t believe that was the rationale or that there was any hangover from Tweetgate.”