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selling up

RTÉ should consider selling Donnybrook site if it is strapped for cash, says minister

Chair of the Oireachtas Media Committee says nothing should be off the table.

RTÉ SHOULD CONSIDER selling the Montrose site in Donnybrook if it is strapped for cash, according OPW Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, he said the national broadcaster is sitting on a huge asset with Montrose, stating that selling the land, which is home to its studios and offices, could yield upwards of €300 million. 

“If Virgin Media can broadcast out of an industrial estate in Ballymount, it begs the question why are RTÉ broadcasting out of one of the most lucrative sites in western Europe,” he said. 

O’Donovan said the broadcaster has “some neck” in coming back to the Government after the summer scandals, seeking an additional funding of over €50 million.

RTÉ have been “authors of their own destiny”, he said, stating that for years it has failed to deal with governance issues and wasteful spending. 

Ahead of RTÉ’s appearance before the Oireachtas Media Committee tomorrow, The Journal asked committee chairwoman Fianna Fáil’s Niamh Smyth if she agreed that the sale of the site at Montrose should a consideration. She said:

Absolutely. I think everything has to be on the table.

RTÉ is in a financial crisis and it cannot afford to say no to any idea right now, Smyth said.

“They have been asked for many, many years to restructure how they do things, to do things in an effective and efficient way. And their bottom line doesn’t add up.

“Whether that is you know, salaries, whether it’s property, whatever that is that have been asked, on many, many occasions before and the expectation is that they reconfigure in whatever way they need to do that to make the bottom line add up. And we haven’t seen that yet,” she said.

“They cannot come before the committee tomorrow, the board itself, or before a minister or before government and ask them to plug a hole with millions if they’re not going to be able to demonstrate what they’re doing themselves,” said Smyth. 

She said the details must be provided to the committee and Government as to what the future plan is for the national broadcaster.

Smyth said it is a very “reasonable expectation” that the Government would be given a detailed plan about what the future holds both on the public service side and on the commercial side of the business.  

More committee hearings

Donovan also took aim at RTÉ for carrying out what he described as a “data dump” on Oireachtas members, by forwarding on hundreds of documents to politicians last night ahead of the committee meeting tomorrow. 

When asked about the volume of correspondence that had landed in committee members’ email boxes, Smyth told The Journal more than one committee hearing might be necessary given the number of documents. 

“I’m not going to expect the committee members to have got through all of that. If they want to section it down, and break it down, bit by bit, and we have to do two or three hearings to get through, if there’s questions to be asked, we’ll do that,” said Smyth. 

Junior Green Party minister Ossian Smyth, speaking on RTÉ television last night, said the broadcaster will get additional funding in the budget, but warned it “will not be as much as it wants”.

Speaking to reporters at the Fianna Fáil party think-in in Tipperary, Finance Minister McGrath said the body that provides financial advice to Government, New Era, are examining RTÉ’s interim funding ask.

“So we await the outcome of that, but I would make the broader point that in any negotiation, whether it be one minister to another or one State supported body looking for funding from the Exchequer – you rarely get everything you want,” he said.

The Government will consider the request and take on board the independent advice from New Era and a decision will be reached in the coming weeks, said McGrath.

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