Pat Kenny has left RTÉ and is to join Newstalk as presenter of its mid-morning show. Kenny has worked with the State broadcaster for 41 years, having joined the organisation as a part-time radio announcer in 1972.
RTÉ director general Noel Curran this evening said the organisation was unable to match the offer Kenny had received from the commercial sector, and, that while a loss, his departure did not come as not a major shock.
Mr Curran told RTÉ’s Drivetime programme that reductions in presenter fees over the last few years fees had left RTÉ paying rates similar or lower than its commercial rivals. He said it was possible that other well-known names could be lost to commercial broadcasters as RTÉ had adopted a new approach to fees.
During his years at RTÉ, Kenny presented radio and TV programmes such as Today with Pat Kenny, The Late Late Show, Kenny Live, Frontline and Today Tonight.
He has been a newsreader, Eurovision Song Contest co-presenter and also fronted election and referendum specials. One of his earliest programmes was a weekend music show.
Kenny has courted controversy in recent years given the scale of his salary at a time when RTÉ was attempting to reduce its deficit and presenter salary scales.
His remuneration was €630,000 in 2011, €729,604 in 2009 and €950,976 in 2008.
In a statement, Newstalk said it was “delighted to announce the arrival of Pat Kenny to the station, to present a current affairs magazine and news show, every weekday from 10am to 12:30pm”. He will begin on September 2nd.
Speaking on Newstalk, Kenny said it was a "strange feeling" to be leaving RTÉ after four decades but told he told his new colleague George Hook that "it's probably the right time for me to do something mad and adventurous and challenging".
He said RTÉ had made him a “generous offer” and he had agonised over the decision for weeks. After having done “pretty much everything on radio and TV”, he said this was “maybe the last great spin on the roundabout for me”.
Kenny said his Newstalk show would probably be similar to his RTÉ radio show because commercial broadcasters work within similar constraints as public service broadcasters. He also said he hasn't ruled out doing more TV work for RTÉ, although it wouldn't be with the Prime Time or current affairs teams. He also suggested he could do television work for TV3 but joked, "I don't think my Irish is quite good enough to do something with TG4".
He acknowledged it would be a “mammoth task” to achieve the same listernship figures with Newstalk as he did with Radio 1, where the latest JNLR results showed him to have a reach of 328,000.
RTÉ confirmed that Kenny would be leaving the organisation with immediate effect.
Mr Curran said his departure followed contract negotiations that went on for several months. Kenny’s contract with RTÉ expired earlier this year and “we have been aware for some time that he had an offer from commercial radio, he added.
Mr Curran said RTÉ had made Kenny an offer which he felt went as far as it could go but that it could not match the “attractive offer” the broadcaster received from elsewhere.
He praised Kenny’s contribution to RTÉ and public service broadcasting during his time there, saying he was “always meticulously prepared” and “a broadcaster of real talent, range and integrity”.
“I have worked with Pat as a producer of both his current affairs and his entertainment series and I know the range of his talent.”
RTÉ would “replace quality with quality” and the announcement of a successor or a line-up change would likely come before the end of August, Mr Curran said.