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The National Symphony Orchestra in the National Concert Hall. Mark Stedman/
note of caution

RTÉ 'cannot continue to fund' two orchestras

A review into RTÉ’s orchestras has found one should become an independent institution.

A REVIEW INTO RTÉ’s two orchestras has recommended that both be retained due to “their importance to Irish cultural life” but noted that the broadcaster cannot continue to fund both of them.

The review was commissioned last year as the broadcaster said the orchestras were operating in “challenging” financial circumstances.

The national broadcaster is legally required to maintain orchestras and choirs and at present operates the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

An independent review of their operation was carried out by former director of BBC Radio and BBC News Helen Boaden with the help of strategy consulting firm Mediatique.

That review has now concluded and found that neither orchestra be closed but noted that “the status quo is equally untenable”.

It found that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra “faces a serious threat arising from under-resourcing” and recommended that it be established as an institution in its own right and funded by government.

Alternatively, it said that it could be made part of the National Concert Hall.

If this additional State support does not occur, the review said the closure of one of the two orchestras would “regretfully” be its second choice.

It said that RTÉ could not could not continue to fund both orchestras “amid shifting consumer behaviours and preferences”.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we do not see how RTÉ can fulfil its fiduciary responsibilities to restructure its operations, re-balance spending opportunities, address shifting consumer behaviours and preferences and reflect public service objectives in the round if it must continue to fund both orchestras,” the review stated. / YouTube

The review also recommended that the RTÉ Concert Orchestra should continue functioning as a public service broadcasting orchestra and have its staffing “restored to its historical levels”.

The review further recommended that staffing at the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra also be returned to historic levels.

Following today’s publication of the review, Communications Minister Denis Naughten and Culture Minister Josepha Madigan both welcomed the recommendation that both orchestras be retained.

This included the proposal that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra be made a national cultural institutions either within or outside the National Concert Hall.

“The National Concert Hall since it opened has been the home of the National Symphony Orchestra which provides the backbone to the hall’s orchestral music programme. There is now an opportunity for the NSO to play an even stronger role as part of these wider developments,” Madigan said.

In 2016, the orchestras received 7.1% of RTÉ’s licence fee revenue, totalling €12.7 million. Accounts showed that the orchestras costs were €15.6 million, resulting in a €2.9 million deficit for the segment.

The full report into the RTÉ orchestras is available here

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