Pay excessive by today's standards, says RTÉ head


RTÉ DIRECTOR general Cathal Goan has said there was “no question that by today’s standards” the salaries paid to its top presenters last year “were excessive”.

“I have to repeat that they were set at a different time in a different competitive reality where some of this talent might be up for poaching by other organisations and in RTÉ’s view at the time, they delivered value for money,” he told RTÉ News.

RTÉ’s top paid presenter Pat Kenny defended his salary, but said it was now one-third lower than what it was last year.

Mr Kenny earned €950,976 in 2008 and €922,949 in 2007.

He said he took a 25 per cent pay cut then and volunteered another 10 per cent along with other RTÉ top paid presenters this year bringing his salary down to €630,000, the same as it was in 2002.

“My last contract reflected a particularly buoyant time for RTÉ revenues, not least those generated by the Late Late Show. I am satisfied that the significant reductions in the fees paid to the company takes account of current economic circumstances while also reflecting my experiences over 37 years in broadcasting at RTÉ.”

Commenting on her pay of €301,667 last year, Miriam O’Callaghan said: “We live in a different county from a year ago . . . I have been sensitive to that by taking a pay cut quickly.

“I did my radio show for no extra cash,” she added.

Listeners, who contacted RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime programme were swift to condemn the salary levels, saying it was ironic that programmes like Liveline – presented by Joe Duffy – were used as a platform for criticising the pay and expenses of Oireachtas members.

Mr Duffy could not be contacted yesterday evening.

RTÉ said the salaries of the top 10 presenters had declined by an average of 11.5 per cent this year, but new contracts would be set at a point “far below what has applied in the recent past”.

Informed sources within RTÉ said that the top presenters would be offered contracts between 20 per cent and 30 per cent less than what they were earning during the boom years.

Radio and television presenter Eamon Dunphy, who entered the top 10 for the first time last year, said the €328,051 he earned at RTÉ was far less than he had done when he worked for the commercial broadcasters Today FM and Newstalk.

He said that he, along with other presenters, were bracing themselves for further cuts when their contracts come up for negotiation. “When my salary for this year is viewed, you’ll see that is the case. These salaries were negotiated in a different era, in a different world. Certainly, in my case and Im sure in other cases, significant and substantial pay cuts have been taken,” he said.

Fine Gael communications spokesman Simon Coveney said the figures would rub “salt in the wounds of the many people who have lost their jobs or taken significant pay cuts in an effort to achieve wage restraint”.

Labour communications spokeswoman Liz McManus criticised the decision to announce the figures late on Friday evening when they would receive “minimum attention”.

RTÉ’s head of corporate communications Kevin Dawson said that it had been the broadcaster’s intention to release them earlier in the day. “We were too far behind in terms of Project 2025 over the last couple of weeks. It took longer for us to get to the release of these figures than we anticipated.”