RTÉ statement: Plans to ‘address key issues and fight for its future’
Company planning substantial job cuts and 15 per cent pay cut for high-earners
RTÉ Headquarters in Donnybrook, Dublin .Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
RTÉ released details on Wednesday night of its “revised strategy and plans to address the key issues facing the organisation".
Director General Dee Forbes said: “Our intention was to brief staff in full this week. However, given the sad passing of our colleague Gay Byrne, a decision was taken to postpone until next week. With so much detail now in the public domain, our first priority was to contact all staff immediately with an update on the revised strategy, and plans.”
RTÉ summarised the main challenges facing the broadcaster as:
1. Global change: The challenges facing RTÉ are the same as those facing broadcasters all over the world, who are undergoing rapid and fundamental change;
2. Changing audiences: Audiences, especially younger people, are changing the way they consume media.
3. Real transformation: Wide-ranging budget adjustments are required to stabilise RTÉ’s finances and ensure increased investment to deliver the type of service and content that we know our audiences want.
4. Real challenges: Declining commercial income, inflationary pressures and a broken licence fee system mean that RTÉ is left with no option but to make further changes to its services and to its cost base.
5. Government responsibility: The TV Licence system is broken; this is the responsibility of Government. Other countries have fixed it.
RTÉ has outlined the main changes:
RTÉ will Evolve
- We will move RTÉ’s biggest sporting moments to RTÉ One
- We will increase investment in live TV moments and big events (e.g. RTÉ on Climate, Late Late Show Specials)
- We will launch a kids on-demand and digital strategy
- We will evolve the audience’s user experience of many of our digital services through mandatory sign-in and personalisation
RTÉ will Enhance
- We will enhance our content offering on RTÉ Player, with longer windows, improving and investing in the technology, features and functionality
- We will develop our live and on-demand RTÉ Player product, building towards a more integrated service offering video and audio
- We will create new visualised radio studios
- We will deliver podcasts for a wide variety of tastes and interests
- We will offer new RTÉ experiences and events - music, sport, lifestyle, culture, politics
- We will invest in more high-quality Irish drama
RTÉ will Modify
- The RTÉ Guide is for sale
- RTÉ will close its current studio in Limerick in 2020; production of RTÉ lyric fm will move to Cork and Dublin
- RTÉ will continue to provide a mid-west news service in Limerick
- We will close the Digital Audio Broadcast network, as well as RTÉ’s digital radio stations (RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ Gold, RTÉjr Radio & RTÉ Radio 1 Extra)
- RTÉ Aertel will cease
- The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra will transfer to the National Concert Hall
- We will develop a new integrated media centre in Donnybrook, investing in new digital infrastructure
RTÉ will Reduce
- We need to reduce projected costs by €60 million over three years (2020-2023), in addition to the reduction of 23 per cent delivered between 2008 and 2018
- We need to reduce the fees paid to our top contracted on-air presenters by 15 per cent, in addition to the 30+ per cent cuts as agreed in previous years
- We need to reduce staff costs: we will consult with staff and unions on a number of initiatives, to include pay freeze, tiered pay reductions, review of benefits, work practice reforms
- The Executive Board will take a 10 per cent reduction in pay; the Board of RTÉ will waive its fees
- We need to achieve a staff headcount reduction of c. 200 in 2020
While RTE continues to make significant changes to address the issues facing the organisation, RTÉ cannot achieve change on its own:
- Ireland has one of the highest evasion rates in Europe (14 per cent) which results in the loss of €25 million in public funding every year.
- 11 per cent (and growing) of households do not pay the TV Licence, but can still consume RTÉ programming and content on the RTÉ Player. This means a further loss of €20 million in public funding annually.
- Ireland has one of the highest TV Licence collection costs in Europe, at €12 million every year.
- Overall, over €50 million is lost to public broadcasting every year; this is costing jobs - not just in RTÉ but right across Ireland’s audio-visual and creative sectors. In turn this drives UK and US dominance on our screens.
Dee Forbes said: “The challenges in front of us are real. But RTÉ does have a plan, which we are confident can address many of the challenges we face and bring Ireland’s national public broadcaster to stability.
However, Government needs to act to ensure there is a future for public service media in Ireland. I am clear about what role RTÉ should play in Irish life, but I am also clear that we cannot do it unless Government fixes the TV Licence system. We shouldn’t be under any illusions; we are in a fight - a fight to sustain a viable public media in Ireland.”
“We remain in discussions with Government. We are doing all we can to return RTÉ to a stable financial position, but we will not be able to reinvent public media for future generations, nor fulfil our remit, without immediate reform of the TV Licence system.”
Moya Doherty, chair of the RTÉ board, said: “We are also mindful of the fact that this change will be painful for many members of staff. Media organisations are undergoing an unprecedented wave of disruption the world over.
"RTÉ is part of this global pattern. Radical change is unavoidable.
“Our TV licence fee system is broken. It has not been fit for purpose for a long time.
“In order to support this process of transformation that we are embarking on and to achieve financial stability, the TV licence must be reformed. This is the responsibility of Government alone.
“This is one of the most defining moments in the RTÉ’s 93-year history. RTÉ has set out an ambitious journey of transformation which will support it to provide audiences with the quality public service broadcasting that it wants and deserves."