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RTÉ shelved plan to move Lyric FM to UL after discovering it would 'cost more' than staying in Limerick studios

RTÉ announced plans to close the Lyric studios and split the station’s output from between Cork and Dublin.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

RTÉ SPENT TWELVE months investigating the possibility of relocating Lyric FM to the University of Limerick but shelved the plan when it discovered the move would have cost “more” than keeping Lyric at its current headquarters, at Cornmarket Square, according to a reliable RTÉ source.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for RTÉ said they could not confirm or release specific costs in response to separate claims by reliable sources in Lyric, that it will cost RTÉ between “€700,000 and €1 million to dismantle” its state of the art studios at Cornmarket Square.

Last week RTÉ announced plans to close the Lyric studios and split the station’s output from between Cork and Dublin, as part of drastic cost-cutting measures.

A reliable RTÉ source said that a move to UL would “ultimately have cost more than remaining in Cornmarket Square” but they could not give specifics on the proposed costs.

UL President Professor Des Fitzgerald wrote to RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes last September offering to “help sustain” Lyric and that the University Concert Hall had been “identified” as a location to accommodate Lyric.

However, revealing more clarity about the proposed relocation to UL, a source in RTÉ said that members of the broadcaster’s operations, technical, and site crew “examined a number of buildings in UL” following initial talks of a potential partnership.

“In late 2018, RTÉ did explore surrendering Cornmarket Square and moving into the UL Concert Hall. With a view to exploring that, a business solution around that was costed, but, ultimately the cost of the move when you apply commercial rental rates, which would be applied to such an arrangement, plus the cost of the fit-out, meant that, from RTÉ’s perspective the solution wasn’t viable,” they said.

RTÉ tasked an individual to start “heading up the project in terms of heading up the examination and assessment of the space”.

The source argued:

It’s potentially not as black and white as RTÉ turning its nose up at what looks like a very generous offer. It was something that was explored and costed, but ultimately the decision taken primarily around costs, it wasn’t financially viable.

RTÉ has successfully relocated a number of studio bases outside Dublin, including Galway (Hynes Building to GMIT), Athlone (Athlone IT), Dundalk (Dundalk IT) and Waterford (WIT).

The RTÉ source said it was “far from the case” that the station simply dismissed any potential partnership with UL to house Lyric. They added there was “nothing negative” about forming a partnership specifically with UL.

When asked for comment, an RTÉ spokesperson responded that “the figures” from its analysis of costs of a proposed move to UL “are commercially sensitive and are not available”.

A spokesman for UL responded: “No cost analysis, carried out by RTÉ, was ever shared with University of Limerick so as to allow the plans to progress.”

While initial commercial costs were identified, UL was not given the opportunity to consider any ways to mitigate RTÉ’s potential relocation costs.

The spokesman added that “Dr Fitzgerald’s offer to RTÉ remains in place and UL still believes that the co-location of Lyric FM on the campus would be advantageous to both organisations”.

“It would allow Limerick to continue to host this valued national radio station on a campus which also houses the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance,” the UL spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for RTÉ confirmed that it is longer considering a move to UL.

“RTÉ will continue to provide a mid-west news service in Limerick, however, we cannot comment on the location at this time,” they added.

A special meeting of Limerick’s joint local authority is to take place on Friday to seek a reversal of RTÉ’s decision to close Lyric’s Limerick base.

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David Raleigh

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