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Today FM chief Willie O'Reilly to leave for RTÉ

He is to start with State broadcaster on 1 January in newly-created role of Group Commercial Director as RTÉ tries to drive commercial revenue.

Willie O'Reilly, outgoing CEO of Today FM
Willie O'Reilly, outgoing CEO of Today FM
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 18.31

RTÉ HAS CREATED a new post of Group Commercial Director – and the head of Today FM is to fill it.

Willie O’Reilly has been CEO of Today FM since 1999 but previously he worked in RTÉ, where he was executive producer of the Gerry Ryan Show for ten years. A release from RTÉ said this morning:

During his time in Today FM he has managed changes of ownership from private individuals to Scottish Radio Holdings to Emap PLC and now Communicorp Ltd.

O’Reilly, also a former board member of the HSE, former president of the Institute of Directors and former chairman of IBI (Indepedent Broadcasters of Ireland).

Starting the new job on 1 January next, O’Reilly said:

Leading the commercial effort at Ireland’s national media organisation is an exciting challenge which I am very pleased to take on. All of us in media are required to be innovative, vigorous and exceptionally focussed in driving revenue performance.

RTÉ’s Director General Noel Curran – who last week said RTÉ would have 3o0 people fewer working for it by the end of 2011 than it had in 2008 – welcomed O’Reilly to the broadcaster saying that he brought with him “a wealth of commercial media experience in the private sector and a real appreciation of RTÉ’s unique role in this market”.

Curran has said that RTÉ has to start thinking more commercially while also making sure it is properly fulfilling its State broadcaster responsibilities. He also warned last week that some of RTÉ’s highest-paid employees may have to take pay cuts of up to 30 per cent. (We calculated what that would mean for the top earners here).

Today FM has been in the headlines itself in the past fortnight when it emerged that journalist Sam Smyth was being sacked from presenting the Sunday Supplement. He has presented it for over a decade but is currently embroiled in legal action taken against him by Denis O’Brien over remarks he made regarding the Moriarty Tribunal. Smyth’s investigative reporting essentially led to the creation of the Moriarty Tribunal.

That tribunal investigated the awarding of Ireland’s second mobile phone licence to O’Brien’s Esat Digifone. Denis O’Brien owns Communicorp, which owns Today FM and Newstalk. Anton Savage, presenter of The Apprentice: You’re Fired on TV3 and son of PR and communications gurus Terry Prone and Tom Savage, is to take over from Smyth in January while the station tries to find an interim presenter between that and Smyth’s last show no 6 November. One newspaper journalist told TheJournal.ie that he had turned down the job of interim presenter.

Labour Party Senator John Whelan last week criticised other journalists working in Communicorp broadcasters for not showing enough solidarity with Smyth.

Today FM released a statement this evening to pay tribute to O’Reilly’s “commitment and dedication” and said that he was responsible for both building audiences and revenue for Newstalk and Today FM and for “recruiting some of Ireland’s leading radio presenters”.

The chairperson of Communicorp, Lucy Gaffney, said:

I would like to thank Willie O’Reilly for his contribution to the growth and development of Today FM. During his term as Chief Executive of the station, Willie has proved himself as a capable executive and a man of the utmost integrity.

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