RTÉ BROADCASTER Marian Finucane has taken to the airwaves to defend her six-figure salary.
Finucane, who presents two two-hour weekend shows on RTÉ Radio One, spoke to Ray D’Arcy on Today FM yesterday morning to discuss the publication of a collection of interviews from her Saturday Interview programme between 2005 and 2011 before talk turned to her salary.
Finucane was the fourth-highest paid RTÉ radio presenter in 2009, earning €513,270.
Asked yesterday about her salary, she said she feels uncomfortable about the focus on her wages, but that “the world has transformed” and she has taken three pay cuts – “everything that was asked”.
“There’s been an understanding that that was then and this is now. That contract was negotiated really in the context of the fact that the weekend had worked out very well, if you know what I mean.”
She said she never threatened to leave RTÉ to increase her salary, although they would have known she gave it consideration at one time.
Questioned about her weekly working hours, Finucane said she works much more than people perceive, adding:
Would you say to the editor of the Sunday Times that he works one day a week?… You know as well as I know that the on-air time is the payback for the other work. And you do the work and then you get to go on air. And that’s as simple as that.
The Sunday Times editor Frank Fitzgibbon later responded to her comments on Twitter, saying: “Cheek. Other than a diary item in Atticus we ignored her extravagant pay package…”
In the latest JNLR listener figures released late last month, Finucane’s Saturday show lost over 60,000 listeners, falling to 335,000 from 403,000 last year. Her Sunday show fell from 365,000 listeners to 335,000, according to an Irish Times report.
Finucane’s colleague Joe Duffy also recently defended high wages among RTÉ’s top presenters. He said that although he had agreed to a further pay cut and said that changes had to be made within the organisation to keep it viable, he said the salaries had been agreed “fair and square” through negotiations with RTÉ.
The broadcaster’s director general Noel Curran said last month that some of RTÉ’s presenters could face a 30 per cent salary cut.
Speaking to D’Arcy about the interviews selected for the new book, Finucane said she chose Mary Coughlan’s interview over Brian Cowen’s partly because Coughlan had said much more than the former Taoiseach did. She also said that Cowen had gone into the interview with the attitude of the radio presenter being ‘the enemy of the people’, she said.
Finucane also said that she didn’t feel that you had to like the person being interviewed, and that she did not meet with the interviewees in advance of the programme because “the spontaneity” is better for listeners.