Earlier this month, Ireland’s national broadcaster announced that it was to reduce its expenditure by €60 million over the next 3 years. It intends on cutting the company’s top 10 presenters’ salaries by 15% while the Executive Board’s pay will be reduced by 10%. In addition to this, 200 jobs will be lost and there will be freezing of pay and tiered pay reductions for staff.
However, the most damning of these cuts is with the closure of RTÉ’S studios located in Limerick, and the cessation of digital stations RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ Gold, RTÉjr Radio and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra. The existence of Lyric FM will remain, albeit production being moved to studios in Cork and Dublin.
RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes has labelled it ‘one of the most defining moments in the RTÉ’s 93-year history’ and ‘an ambitious journey of transformation which will support it to provide audiences with the quality public service broadcasting that it wants and deserves.’
These circumstances are deeply unfortunate, but RTÉ maintains that this is a transformation that will provide Ireland with the services that it wants. However, this news was not received well by artists and the public alike.
Professor Desmond Fitzgerald, President of University of Limerick, offered to accommodate RTÉ Lyric FM on the University’s campus. Quoted in the Limerick Leader, he believes ‘the students in Limerick should have the opportunity to hear classical music.’
In terms of the cessation of the digital radio stations, Ireland’s older generations will be disappointed that RTÉ Gold is to be shut, as it mainly plays records that would resonate with the community of elders who would have grown up with RTÉ radio as a staple in their lives.
RTÉ Pulse’s removal will have an impact on young, upcoming artists as that is where they have a platform for radio play. Commenting on Twitter, young rapper OMEGA tweeted: ‘I don’t need to express how much of an effect it will have on artists. It is about the wonderful group of people who worked day in day out to give people like me a chance. Such a loss.’
I believe that while the financial cuts are necessary – RTÉ commented on their losses admitting that ‘between people who evade their TV licence fee and those who just watch RTÉ programming on the RTÉ player’, ‘over €50 million is lost to public broadcasting every year.’ – many of the cuts appear to be unbalanced. The top 10 presenters earned €3 million in total, with the top two earning €945 000 as of figures published by RTÉ in 2016. The wage bill for the top 10 presenters will still come in as an eye-watering €2.55 million.
While there is no doubt that RTÉ is in the midst of a financial crisis that has been brought about by the changing of how people consume media, the price to pay has not been in cutting top earners or board executives’ wages to more modest levels. The price of this is the loss of 200 staff, wage cuts for average workers in the company, and a more reverberating potential loss of cultural impact both with artists and listeners alike throughout the island of Ireland.
Luke Murphy – Arts & Lifestyle Writer