RTÉ’s DIRECTOR GENERAL has warned that its top broadcasters could have their salaries cut by 30 per cent. Noel Curran also told an audience at Dublin City University last night that while the cuts might mean losing some stars to rival stations, RTÉ is prepared for this eventuality.
A statement from RTÉ confirmed Curran’s stance, saying that by the end of 2011 RTÉ will have 300 fewer staff than it had in 2008 and that further restructuring is on the way. The statement read:
The fees paid to the highest-earning presenters would reduce by in excess of 30 per cent, even if this meant losing some to commercial competitors.
Curran said that he was “very aware of the privileged position that RTÉ is in, particularly in the current environment” but that the State broadcaster would continue to pursue commercial income to support its six key priorities in programming. These, he said, included investigative journalism; arts and culture; innovation, including science and technology; children and young people; 24-hour news on demand; national events and major sporting events.
While highlighting the need to support the investigative journalism strand in RTÉ, Curran again reiterated the broadcaster’s apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds, against whom a Prime Time Investigates programme levelled serious sexual allegations in May. RTÉ was forced to issue a public apology to Fr Reynolds last week before its Tuesday night Prime Time programme and again on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday.
On the issue of RTÉ stars’ salaries, Curran mentioned no specific names. But if a 30 per cent cut were applied to the salaries of RTÉ’s highest-earning stars (as of the most recently released figures for 2008), their pay cheques would look like this:
Pat Kenny: 2008 - €950,976
With 30 per cent pay cut – €665,683
Marian Finucane: €570,000
With 30 per cent pay cut – €399,000
Ryan Tubridy: €533,333
With 30 per cent pay cut – €373,333
Joe Duffy: €408, 889
With 30 per cent pay cut - €286,222
Eamonn Dunphy: €328, 051 (in 2008, Dunphy had an RTÉ radio show as well as his punditry work)
With 30 per cent pay cut – €229,636
Miriam O’Callaghan: €301,667
With 30 per cent pay cut – €211,167
Derek Mooney: €286,809
With 30 per cent pay cut - €200,766
George Hamilton: €219, 833
With 30 per cent pay cut – €153,883
Seán O’Rourke: €218, 656
With 30 per cent pay cut – €153,059
DG Noel Curran himself complied with the €250,000 public service pay cap which was introduced in last December’s budget, as he is a direct employee of RTÉ. However, the highest-earning presenters don’t have to comply with the pay cap because they are self-employed contractors to RTÉ and not staff members. (With the exception of Derek Mooney and Seán O’Rourke who are employees, not contractors, according to RTÉ’s 2008 figures release).
In an exchange at the Public Accounts Committee on 9 December last, former Fiann Fáil TD Brendan Kenneally (he lost his seat at the general election) asked Aidan Dunning, Secretary General of the Department of Communications, if the €250,000 pay cap would apply to RTÉ’s top earners. Dunning replied:
On RTE, many people at the top of the scale, to whom the Deputy referred, are in a different category again in that they have established themselves as self-employed companies. It would be an operational matter between RTE and the individuals concerned as to the implications of the directive from the Minister for Finance in regard to what should be maximum salary rate in the public sector. I cannot give a definite answer at this stage as to what would be the implications of this in regard to RTE employees.
Kenneally said that he felt “Self-employed status is only a device to get around various decisions” and asked what the position would be when these contracts would come up for renewal. Dunning said that the Government had no role up until that point in regard to the contracts RTÉ agreed with individuals.