Cuts at RTÉ could ‘kill’ broadcaster entirely, says former chair

Moya Doherty says broadcaster facing an ‘existential crisis’ following Tubridy controversy

Cuts at RTÉ could “kill” the broadcaster, which is facing an “existential crisis” following the Ryan Tubridy payments controversy over the summer, its former chair Moya Doherty has said.

Ms Doherty, who was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Gay Byrne memorial lecture held in Smithfield in Dublin on Thursday, said the broadcaster’s greatest asset is its people and that moves to slim back the organisation could backfire.

RTÉ managing director Kevin Bakhurst has told staff he will present a strategic plan this month to reduce the size of the organisation. RTÉ sought €34.5 million in Budget 2024 but will receive only €16 million in an initial payment.

“In a creative industry context, an organisation’s greatest asset is its people, and it is often forgotten that all creative enterprise is people dependent,” Ms Doherty said, adding that cuts “allow a narrative of decline to become dominant”.


“To promote cuts will lead only to less programming, which then further erodes the place of public service broadcasting in the national consciousness,” she said.

“I have heard recently about cuts and cutting 2FM,” she said. “To cut 2FM is to lose the link to the younger listener and that would kill RTÉ entirely.

“I do not hold hope that a digital revenue stream will come in because RTÉ does not have the data analytics to analyse that.”

Ms Doherty said RTÉ has “for a number of years found itself in an existential crisis – a crisis that is not merely financial”.

“It’s really of great sadness that this period in which serious errors of judgment were made have come to be seen as defining RTÉ,” she continued.

Ms Doherty, who was chair of the RTÉ board from 2014 until 2022, said: “A public board should of course ensure governance is rigorous [but] it can only do that according to the accepted governance conventions of the time.”

She said a consequence of “pressure on those tasked with running the organisation to succeed at all costs” was “inevitably the kind of unravelling we have witnessed over the past few months”.

“If there is a silver lining to the crisis, it is that it is now clear that the present model is broken,” she said. “In particular, in my view, the dual funding model is simply not sustainable.”

She said her “biggest regret” was “the sadness of the events that occurred” around the payments controversy. “Six months after I left the organisation, they were revealed, and I think that was actually quite heart-breaking,” she said.

In response to criticism of RTÉ'S performance in generating content, she said: “Of course that is the case. RTÉ was never perfect, and is not perfect. The remit is simply too wide and the resources too thin.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter