RTE does some excellent work…but gravy train must depart!




Speculation concerning the future of RTE has been a major story over the past few weeks. Let me state at the outset that I am a supporter of the need to have a quality state broadcaster. It is a fact that to have that service will always cost a lot of money to run and it must be paid for. Some of my best friends work for RTE and I know a lot of people in the organisation who work extremely hard and are not paid the kind of telephone number salaries that we hear mentioned with regard to the station’s elite stars.

  Some of the work that has been done by RTE over the years, especially in the area of news and current affairs, has been top class. They have uncovered and told many stories in Irish life that would never otherwise have come to the surface. The great work done by programmes like Prime Time Investigates has shed a light on corners of Irish life that no-one else could have done. So such programmes have done the public a great service over the years.

  RTE’s coverage of sport and the arts has also been excellent over the years, but all that does not mean that the station ought not to be subject to review like every other organisation in the country. I fully realise that cutting the salaries of their top stars will not solve the problems that RTE have. Having said that, I fail to understand how they can pay Marian Finucane over €300,000 a year for two weekend radio programmes that last less than four hours in total, €450,000 or so to Ray D’Arcy, and over €200,000 to Nicky Byrne,  who was already a very wealthy young man as a result of being in Westlife. (Was there no other young person fit to do that job for a fraction of the cost?).

  It is very hard to justify that kind of waste. Those salaries I’ve referred to total about €1m a year – for just three people! As someone who has worked on radio for over 30 years, take it from me that it’s not rocket science. Fifty grand a year would be plenty for most presenters, and none of them should be paid more than €100,000 a year.

  It is very clear that the ‘gravy train culture’ at RTE has to come to an end. It was interesting to hear Dee Forbes, the Director-General of the organisation (she earns €300,000 per year) complaining about the financial situation being so grave. She should look on her own doorstep to start with.

  In this era of so-called ‘fake news’ and social media, and with the arrival of subscription TV and radio, it’s a very changed media scene. But there is still room for the likes of RTE and the BBC. How they are to be funded going forward is a huge question for the authorities.

  The state broadcaster will always have a role to play, particularly in terms of news, sport, the arts and investigative journalism, and I don’t think we have been let down by RTE in that regard over the years.

  The reality is however that RTE will have to slim down and cut its costs. That being said, I would be strongly in favour of retaining as much of its positive output as we can into the future. Like every major organisation, it will be have to be reviewed and reorganised. The gravy train days may be over, but RTE should stay.