RTÉ preserves the past, but cannot stop the future

Same industry changes that necessitated cutbacks make taking up redundancy a risk

The media sector in which RTÉ must compete has changed dramatically since the days of cathode ray tube television sets. Photograph: iStock

The media sector in which RTÉ must compete has changed dramatically since the days of cathode ray tube television sets. Photograph: iStock

 

Some 1,500 RTÉ windows into the past were opened up to the public yesterday, as a collection of digitally restored news reports from 1985 were added to its online archives. But RTÉ has also been keeping one eye on the future: the deficit-stricken broadcaster was due on Friday to make formal offers to employees whose applications for voluntary redundancy or early retirement have been approved.

The scheme is understood to have been undersubscribed. RTÉ, which employs almost 2,000 people, wants to reduce its staff numbers by about 250, but the whispers around its Montrose campus are that far fewer than this number applied.

One reason for the reluctance to take up the offer may be that a significant proportion of media workers – not just at RTÉ – are at an age that is too young to retire, but old enough to fear difficulties finding equivalent professional jobs.

The Irish media sector, never the most fluid of labour markets, has undergone an erosion in both pay and conditions, while at the same time many functions within it are on the verge of obsolescence. Without concrete career-shifting opportunities in mind, the risk of leaving Montrose will have been too great for most.

RTÉ’s director of human resources, Eimear Cusack, told staff in an email ahead of the application deadline that there will be no improvement in the terms offered under any future exit schemes. But you don’t need to delve into the archives to know this wasn’t the first RTÉ redundancy scheme. The pace of change in the broadcasting business means it is unlikely to be the last.