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Lyric FM staff to RTÉ board: 'Bluntly put, corporate priorities have always been elsewhere'

A letter signed by “all staff of Lyric FM” wrote to the board of RTÉ on 18 September.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE STAFF OF Lyric FM wrote to the board of RTÉ to say that despite its loyal listenership, the station has not been prioritised or supported by management.

The letter also states that Lyric’s presence in Limerick “sends a very powerful message” and that abandoning Lyric would “deal a devastating blow” to trust in RTÉ.

A 12 September report on PrimeTime said RTÉ was considering the future of Lyric FM, and that the station could be axed and turned into an online-only offering as part of the restructuring plan for RTÉ

The letter, released to TheJournal.ie under a Freedom of Information request, states: “Over the past twenty years we have worked hard to create a loyal listenership and to become an important part of the daily lives of people in this country and beyond.”

It detailed the “heartening” correspondence presenters, producers and staff had received from listeners to express their support, but also “outrage at what has been suggested in the reports”. 

“They have instanced numerous different facets of our output which enrich their lives from the music we play, the concerts we schedule and out features content. We feel duty bound to bring both the depth and strength of their feeling to you to you on the board”.

On 6 November, RTÉ announced that Lyric FM would stay on air, but that its production would be moved from Limerick and split between Cork and Dublin, resulting in some job losses.

On 10 December, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar requested that this plan to move Lyric FM be put on hold pending the outcome of the public service broadcasting commission.

The next day, RTÉ said that it would be deferring the decision. 

The letter

The letter, dated 18 September and signed by ‘all staff of Lyric FM’, states that it would be “impossible to detail” all the instances of Lyric giving musicians a platform for their work:

We are an integral part of the musical and artistic life of the country. We have achieved all this while not always enjoying the level of support from RTÉ that we would have expected.
We have endured through major staff cutbacks and a lack of corporate and marketing support for the work we do. Bluntly put, the corporate priorities have always been elsewhere.

“Yet it is clear that the public sees us as a core part of RTÉ’s public service offering. It is in this context that we would like to remind you of your obligations as the board of RTÉ to uphold the public service objects of RTÉ.”

The letter acknowledges “that times are hard and the media landscape unstable”. 

For this very reason, public trust in RTÉ is at a premium and we think anything other than supporting RTÉ Lyric FM at this time would deal a devastating blow to that trust and would lead to a perception that RTÉ no longer takes its public service obligations seriously.

It also says that Lyric FM’s presence in Limerick “sends a very powerful message that RTÉ is committed to the artistic and cultural life of the nation”.

RTÉ response

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, RTÉ sent out a generic response on the public service broadcaster’s restructuring plans.

“RTÉ welcomes the Government’s decision to form a Commission on the Future of Public Service Broadcasting. Central to the Commission’s work must be reforming the TV Licence system – fixing it is vital not only for public media but for the broader creative and audiovisual sector.

“RTÉ recently published its revised strategy. In addition to targeting €60 m in savings over the next three years, RTÉ called for Government to address the broken funding system as a matter of urgency. 

“RTÉ welcomes the continued reversal of cuts made over several previous budgets to the subvention for free TV licences. Nonetheless, the situation remains grave. RTÉ will continue to take the necessary actions to change so that it is sustainable and relevant for Irish audiences.

“RTE also notes the statement from An Taoiseach about deferring the decision on RTÉ lyric fm. RTÉ will give this full consideration and will respond in the coming days.”

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