Government wants RTÉ to retain option of selling Dublin HQ

Sources say NTMA advisory unit wants the sale option to remain on the table

Senior RTÉ sources say they are not against a move away from the Donnybrook campus, above, but that the economic case did not stack up at present File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Senior RTÉ sources say they are not against a move away from the Donnybrook campus, above, but that the economic case did not stack up at present File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government wants RTÉ to keep open the option of selling its Dublin 4 headquarters and moving to a new location as the broadcaster struggles with a financial crisis.

RTÉ management does not believe that moving from the Donnybrook campus currently makes financial sense, but the National Treasury Management Association’s New Era unit – which advises Ministers on the semi-State sector – wants the option to remain on the table, said sources familiar with a recent review it has carried out on RTÉ.

The Government has also asked RTÉ to postpone any changes to Lyric FM’s operations in Limerick, following a fierce local reaction against plans to close its studios in the city.

Ministers yesterday agreed to give RTÉ an extra €10 million a year and to set up a Commission on the Future of Public Sector Broadcasting, which will report next autumn.

The boost for the station’s finances yesterday came after weeks of intensive lobbying of Government – much of which was directed at the Department of the Taoiseach – by senior RTÉ figures.

RTÉ managers, including director general Dee Forbes, faced tough questioning at the Oireachtas communications committee on Tuesday with TDs criticising the proposed Lyric FM closure and seeking detail on plans to reduce the salaries of its highest-paid presenters.

Lyric closure

Ms Forbes said she was unaware of the Government’s request to defer the Lyric closure, but senior RTÉ sources acknowledged that if the Government was seeking that the move be postponed, then it would be.

Breda O’Keeffe, RTÉ’s chief financial officer, told the committee that a funding gap of €10 million to €12 million a year would remain at the broadcaster even after the €10 million cash injection announced yesterday.

Senior RTÉ sources said they were not against a move away from Donnybrook, but that the economic case did not stack up at present given the expense of replacing studios and equipment.

The station sold a portion of its campus for more than €100 million in 2017 but its financial crisis has grown since due to rising costs and falling revenues. It has produced a cost-cutting plan but there is some scepticism in Government about it being implemented.