RTÉ should sell land and leave Dublin, says Dragons’ Den producer

ShinAwiL CEO says funds from sale of Montrose site could be used to modernise

RTÉ should sell its valuable landbank in Donnybrook and use the funding to build new studios outside Dublin and modernise its operations, the head of one of Ireland's biggest independent television and film production companies has said.

In an interview with Inside Business, a podcast from The Irish Times, Larry Bass, the founder and head of ShinAwiL, which specialises in producing entertainment shows and scripted drama, said RTÉ should sell its 24-acre site at Montrose in Donnybrook.

“I’d sell the whole block,” he said. “I’d move everything out somewhere south of Naas [in Co Kildare], get even more funds out of it and start again. And say this is the new broadcaster, this is what it needs, this is the criteria it needs to fill and these are the people it needs to do a particular job and start again.

“I’d turn it into a publisher-broadcaster. I wouldn’t have them doing any production except news and current affairs.”



Mr Bass’s comments follow reports that RTÉ is seeking €55 million a year in additional funding from the Government to plug a shortfall in its finances.

RTÉ's director-general Dee Forbes last week told staff to expect cutbacks as the station could no longer afford to continue on its current scale. In 2017, it sold 8.6 acres at Montrose for €107 million to Cairn Homes.

If RTÉ can't afford quality content, it's dead in the water, full stop

Mr Bass said RTÉ would have to reduce its services unless it secures new funding.

“I’m not the person who’s running RTÉ but I know that if RTÉ is not funded and if you watch it die gradually as it is . . . in the media landscape we live in, it’s going to disappear really rapidly. It’s already seen its share of audience drop. If RTÉ can’t afford quality content, it’s dead in the water, full stop.”

Most of ShinAwiL's TV commissions in Ireland are from RTÉ. Mr Bass noted how the budget for the popular RTÉ series Dragons' Den was pared back over a number of years. "Dragons' Den ran for eight years and every single year the budget was reduced by 7 per cent. Eventually it came to a point where it was over."

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times