Verdict not yet in for RTÉ’s off-screen revamp

A new team of genre heads is almost complete at a restructured Montrose

The results may not be apparent to the audience just yet, but off-camera there's a new line-up at RTÉ.

Alongside some comings-and-goings on the executive board – four of the nine members joined only in 2017 – the organisation has created and filled several new “head of genre” roles as part of a grand restructuring led by director-general Dee Forbes.

Most recently, Shane Murphy was hired from London-based Acorn Media Enterprises as RTÉ's group head of drama and comedy, while earlier this year there were new titles and roles for internal candidates: Niamh O'Connor was appointed deputy director of content, Ann-Marie Power became group head of arts and culture, and John McHugh was made group head of entertainment and music. Nora Torpey also joined RTÉ from Tesco in May as head of marketing and consumer communications.

RTÉ’s new season programming launch, which took place on Thursday, has traditionally been shepherded by its managing director of television. But RTÉ no longer has a managing director of television, because in theory it no longer has a television division – breaking down “silos” within RTÉ has been a priority for Forbes.

Instead, responsibilities for television output beyond news and current affairs (overseen by Jon Williams) now fall between director of audience, channels and marketing Adrian Lynch and director of content Jim Jennings.

Learning curve

The independent production companies that pitch to make programmes to RTÉ are in the process of learning how this structure works in practice, though it looks very much like Lynch, in charge of both strategy and budget, is the key man for them to have in their corner.

While there is an acting head in place, one genre head has yet to be permanently appointed: group head of young people’s programming. Sheila de Courcy did this job before leaving in the voluntary exit scheme at the end of 2017 – a year that began with her department effectively being shut down by RTÉ.

This happened because RTÉ decided it could save money by commissioning all kids’ programmes from outside the building. So the independent production sector could perhaps benefit from the change in policy. But for now, with the line-up of RTÉjr shows not due to be announced until a later date, and with no one quite knowing how much money it will have in 2019, it is reserving judgment on the new RTÉ.