RTÉ suspends outsourcing of young people’s programming

Broadcaster’s management admits the decision breached agreement with unions

RTÉ One controller Adrian Lynch has defended  its decision to outsource all of its young people’s programming to the independent sector.

RTÉ One controller Adrian Lynch has defended its decision to outsource all of its young people’s programming to the independent sector.

 

RTÉ has parked its decision to outsource all of its young people’s programming to the independent sector until January, after management admitted breaching an agreement to consult with the broadcaster’s unions on “significant issues”.

The broadcaster has accepted that it broke a “guiding principle agreement” with the unions. The agreement commits to prior consultation on such decisions.

A senior RTÉ executive denied on Friday evening that its abrupt move to terminate the contracts of an estimated 15 people working in its young people’s programming department in the weeks before Christmas was “cruel” or amounted to “going in with the hatchet”.

RTÉ One controller Adrian Lynch, who broke the news to staff and contractors in the division on Wednesday, said the cutting of contracts was “always a difficult message to communicate”.

“I think going in with the hatchet is quite a hard way to put it,” he said, after questioning by RTÉ Radio 1 presenter Mary Wilson on Drivetime.

During the interview, he also said he “wouldn’t describe [the move] as cruel”, but he said that situations like these were always “really tough”.

He said RTÉ was in the process of identifying cuts across its divisions and had “very few choices” available to it.

“The decision was made because we can’t afford to do everything we want to do.”

He declined to specify any of the cuts that are planned for next year, but said that the volume of children’s content would not fall under the outsourcing plan.

“Commercial income is under significant pressure,” Mr Lynch said.

“We have to make unpalatable decisions.”

Mr Lynch said RTÉ was “struggling” to meet its statutory requirement to spend about €40 million a year on independent programme commissions.

He noted that the independent production sector, which he worked in before joining RTÉ in 2014, was hit hard by the recession.

At its peak, RTÉ spent closer to €80 million a year on independent commissions.

In-house programmes

RTÉ programmes currently made in-house include The Late Late Show, The Ray D’Arcy Show, its news and current affairs output and soap opera Fair City.

Asked whether Fair City “was next” in terms of cuts, Mr Lynch said he could say “right now” that the soap would not be transferred to the independent production sector.

Some 11 staff in the broadcaster’s youth programming unit will be offered redeployment elsewhere in RTÉ under the management proposals.

Asked whether RTÉ might reverse the decision, Mr Lynch said this would be “completely subject to the consultation” with the group of unions.

Those talks are expected to conclude by the end of January.

In a statement, the RTÉ Trade Union Group said it had made “some progress” in its negotiations with management following a full day of talks on Friday.

“The outcome of the talks today has highlighted the value of workers, through their trade unions, securing collective agreements with an employer,” said Siptu campaigns and equality organiser Karan O’Loughlin.

“Throughout the forthcoming period of talks we will be ensuring that our members’ interests are protected and the public service ethos of the station is safeguarded.”