RTÉ's Late Late Show and Fair City to be produced off Montrose site under new strategy

Government agrees to release first tranche of €20 million in interim funding following reform programme

Patrick Kielty during The Late Late Show New Year's Eve 2023 special. The show may be moved from RTÉ's Dublin headquarters under plans disclosed by director general Kevin Bakhurst in a staff briefing on Tuesday. Photograph: Andres Poveda/RTÉ

RTÉ has set out plans to move the production of Fair City and the Late Late Show from its Montrose base in Dublin as part of a new masterplan to revive the national broadcaster after a deep governance scandal.

The proposal to move two of RTÉ's top flagship TV programmes from its Dublin headquarters was disclosed by director general Kevin Bakhurst in a staff briefing on Tuesday.

“Longer term those are among the programmes likely to produced off-site, possibly by the independent sector,” said a person briefed on Mr Bakhurst’s plan.

RTÉ on Tuesday said it will make use of a “reduced site” and produce fewer programmes in Dublin and more outside the capital.


It will initiate a “design and procurement process” next year for infrastructure modernisation in Montrose. Advanced preparation of the site will be carried out in 2027. The plans include a new production facility in Cork, with a new climate unit based in the city within the news and current affairs division from 2026.

The broadcaster said it will move ahead this year with previously disclosed plan to close four digital radio channels and cut 40 jobs. The digital radio stations in question are RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Pulse and RTÉjr radio. The 40 job cuts are the first phase of a wider plan to eliminate 400 jobs in coming years through voluntary redundancy.

RTÉ said its expenditure on programmes commissioned from independent producers will rise to some €70 million per year from 2026 from €47 million in 2024.

However, the new strategy document said the achievement such objectives was contingent on a new deal with the Government on future funding of public service broadcasting.

Responding to the publication of the RTÉ plan, a spokesman for Government confirmed that a tranche of funding worth €20m has now been released to the organisation, with further funding expected to follow as reforms are rolled out within the broadcaster.

The spokesman confirmed that it is still the intention of Taoiseach Simon Harris to make a final decision on the future funding model for the station by the Dáil’s summer recess in mid-July. Discussions are ongoing between the three Coalition parties.

The Green Party favour replacing the licence fee with direct exchequer funding but there is pushback from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Newly-appointed Minister for Finance Jack Chambers will have a major role in the final decision, too, and will likely align with the views of his predecessor Michael McGrath who was opposed to direct exchequer funding.

Mr Harris previously suggested that the TV licence-collection system could be reformed in such a way that it would see the fee reduced for households.

The new money follows €16 million in interim funding last year, with a further €20 million to be released by the Government later in 2024 “subject to further progress on implementing reforms”.

The strategy commits RTÉ to “further financial transparency” by publishing leadership team annual earnings in its annual report along with the earnings of the top 10 on-air presenters.

In a separate document setting out a new governance framework, RTÉ said it will not enter into confidentiality agreements about any exit payments to outgoing staff “that preclude it from disclosing details of the settlement reached in the financial statements”.

However, it such agreements may still be required in “exceptional circumstances and on foot of legal advice that they are necessary in the circumstances of the case”.

It added: “When, in those circumstances, confidentiality agreements are entered into, parties to the agreements should be given prior notice that they may be subject to disclosure in any case where an overriding public interest is identified or when required by law.”

The governance document said RTÉ now requires certain staff and contractors to make an annual return under the register of interests. A new register of external activities by presenters will be published every three months from July.

The broadcaster will set up a “disinformation unit” in its news and current affairs division next year and appoint a disinformation correspondent. From 2025, it will also produce a new daily news podcast.

“Continuing reform of governance and internal controls is paramount in RTÉ's ongoing efforts to restore the trust which was so badly damaged over the past year,” Ms Martin said after briefing members of Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

“I welcome the work already undertaken by RTÉ, and in particular welcome the further commitments which the chair and director-general have now given to continue this reform process.”

Ms Martin said she hoped reforms would help transform the broadcaster into a “more equitable and transparent organisation and employer”.

Staff at RTÉ were presented with the broadcaster’s strategy by Mr Bakhurst at a ‘townhall’ meeting on Tuesday afternoon. All of the organisation’s staff were invited to attend in person or online.

After the meetingm union representatives said the staff were “angry and confused” as the implications of the changes being envisaged started to become clear.

“Kevin Bakhurst said in five years-time the goal was that we would be news and current affairs, sport and some other, unspecified programmes but the Late Late Show and Fair City will be gone. That’s the plan,” said NUJ branch chair Emma O’Kelly, who is also co-chair of the wider Trade Union Group.

“My concern is the Late Late Show is hugely profitable, massively profitable. It is absolutely intrinsic to RTÉ. It’s also a very delicate programme. What if it is sent out to the independent sector and fails? Where is RTÉ left them? Because if the Late Late Show fails, then that’s obviously hugely problematic.”

Trevor Keegan, who is also a co-chair of the TUG said there is a fear the loss of the programmes to Montrose would have significant knock-on effects, “It’s not just about moving a team from Fair City or the Late Late Show,” he said. “Those teams are supported by many different sections of this company… staging, lighting cameras, wardrobe, makeup. Where are those people going to go?

“So you have the potential for 400 people taking voluntary redundancy, but then the final number being maybe double that because management end up saying ‘we have no work for these ancillary services with those two big productions having gone out the door’.”

In November, RTÉ published the initial version of its strategy which provided for actions under 10 headings, including financial management, public service and production.

The plan, which has since been the subject of an internal consultation process, proposed a 20 per cent cut in the number of jobs at the broadcaster – equivalent to the departure of 400 people – a 50 per cent increase in the spend on independent productions and a move towards more production in regional centres including Cork, Galway and Limerick.

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Problems first emerged at the broadcaster after it emerged that its best paid presenter at the time, Ryan Tubridy, had received more pay than RTÉ had publicly stated.

The substantial financial packages received by departing senior executives has been one of the more contentious issues at RTÉ over the past year with former chief financial officers Breda O’Keeffe and Richard Collins as well as Rory Coveney all being handed six figure sums as they left their roles.

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New guidelines on commercial work by staff outside of the broadcaster have been introduced and are believed to have contributed to the departure of a number of high profile presenters, particularly from 2FM.

The station had announced in recent weeks that Jennifer Zamparelli and the 2 Johnnies were leaving and on Monday Donncha O’Callaghan announced on social media that he also depart from his role as one of the presenters of the breakfast show on July 5th.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times