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'RTÉ has to work it out': Minister says salaries of highest paid stars should be looked at

Reports have suggested that RTÉ may axe Lyric FM or sell off its Cork studio as part of an overall bid to cut costs.

Image: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

RTÉ NEEDS to work out its own strategy to help win over younger audiences and become financially stable into the future, Minister for Communications Richard Bruton has said.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme, the minister wouldn’t be drawn on reports around potential cost-cutting methods that RTÉ might employ given its current financial state.

In a letter to staff earlier this month, RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said that the broadcaster’s financial situation is unlike anything it has seen before and that everything it does is being reassessed. 

Forbes said that commercial revenues and public funding were both “significantly below” what is needed to operate RTÉ in its current form.

On Prime Time earlier this week, it emerged that the programme understands RTÉ is in talks about “cutting deeply into areas it is legally obliged to deliver” and is “considering the future of Lyric FM”.

Another potential casualty is the broadcaster’s Cork studio. The Mail on Sunday today reported that RTÉ is looking to sell it off, lay off workers and cut pay. 

Minister Bruton said today that RTÉ needed to “transform itself to meet that challenge” it finds itself faced with.

He said the government was looking at reforming the licence fee, with plans to tender out the collection of the €160 a year to help cut down evasion of the payment. In 2024, then, you will need a TV licence for the use of devices like laptops and tablets under the government’s plans.

“There’s no doubt we have to see RTÉ respond with routes that will build its digital content and digital platforms,” Bruton said.

It’s up to RTÉ to decide what’s the optimum strategy. We’ll have to kick the wheels on any strategy developed by RTÉ.

When pushed on the potential demise of Lyric FM or the closure of the Cork studio, Bruton said he would need to see any proposals from RTÉ “in context” and added that ministers don’t dictate the content of public service broadcasting. 

“Ordinary listeners and viewers are changing their behaviour,” he said. “We have to respond to these changes.”

Bruton was also asked if RTÉ needs to address the salaries of the highest paid stars. An editorial in today’s Mail on Sunday was put to the minister which said that RTÉ presenters should not be paid more than the Taoiseach who earns over €180,000 a year. 

Bruton was asked if the paper had a point. “I think they do,” he said. “I think the Oireachtas has voiced its concern around this.”

He said that RTÉ’s argument is that its top stars are important for the broadcaster in winning its audience share.

“They have to test that proposition,” the minister added.

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Sean Murray

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