RTÉ chief warns staff of 'a most challenging' 2009


RTÉ DIRECTOR general Cathal Goan has cautioned staff that 2009 is likely to be the "most financially challenging year RTÉ will experience for many years".

In a news bulletin regarding current developments at the organisation, Mr Goan said there were strong indications that international and national economic pressures would adversely affect RTÉ's income this year.

RTÉ has delivered a reasonable performance in the first six months of 2008, he said, but in the current financial climate "controlled cost management and continuous value-for-money programmes are a critical challenge".

He said it was important to remind all employees that there were many challenges facing the broadcaster in the months ahead.

A spokesman for the organisation would not comment on the contents of the internal memo. However, he said that current economic trends were challenging for every business and RTÉ was not immune to such influences.

In addition, fewer new homes under construction this year meant there would be fewer television sets requiring a licence.

Chairwoman of the RTÉ Authority Mary Finan alluded to this in her quarterly circular to staff on June 30th when she stated that the "dramatic contraction in house building will also of course impact on our licence fee income".

She said that in the coming months, the broadcaster would have a "better handle on our projected revenue for the year. Given the change in the economic climate, it is not surprising that advertising budgets are being trimmed across the board and in some cases cut drastically."

However, in his bulletin sent prior to the weekend, Mr Goan reported that summer ratings for the network's television offerings had increased year on year.

RTÉ's new flagship reality television programme Fáilte Towersis expected to get high ratings, having been heavily promoted prior to its first transmission on Saturday night. The State broadcaster is also gearing up for extensive coverage of the Beijing Olympics, which begin on Friday.

Mr Goan said the summer schedule has attracted average audiences of 520,000 viewers each night from 6pm to 11.30pm across RTÉ One and RTÉ Two, which represents an increase of 38,000 people on last year.

Productions such as Super Garden, Saturday Night with Miriamand the Euro 2008 football pulled in high ratings.

On Wednesday, RTÉ will publish details of its new autumn television schedule. Staff in Montrose will be treated to a breakfast launch of the line-up in the main television building, prior to a press event at lunchtime.

Speaking about the new slate, Mr Goan said "this will be one of our strongest seasons yet for in-house and home production. Particular highlights on the day will be new announcements by RTÉ drama and RTÉ factual."

Meanwhile, independent television producers have until August 25th to submit new programme ideas for RTÉ's 2009 commissioning round.

In their request for submissions, executives were seeking new family entertainment programming for the 50-minute 6.30pm Sunday slot on RTÉ One, for which a budget of up to €130,000 per show will be given.

Earlier this year, the hit show Celebrity Bainisteoirwas screened at this time.