Thursday, 14 Nov 2019

Not viable for RTÉ to pay presenters more than the Taoiseach – senior minister

A senior government minister has said it is not viable for RTÉ to pay some of its presenters more than the Taoiseach.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys made the comments in the wake of RTÉ’s announcement that it is to cut 200 jobs and reduce the pay of top presenters by 15pc in the coming years as part of a substantial cost-cutting plan.

However, Ms Humphreys suggested that it may have to further when it comes to its top earners, saying she did not personally believe it is viable for the broadcaster to continue paying salaries in excess of what Leo Varadkar earns.

RTÉ’s top 10 earners collectively took in just under €3m in fees in 2016. ‘Late Late Show’ presenter and radio host Ryan Tubridy had the highest pay, earning €495,000 in 2016, the same amount as in 2015. Mr Varadkar earns just over €200,000 a year.

“RTÉ obviously have a system where they want to attract various different presenters, and they have set those salaries themselves and it’s up to them to decide if that if that model is viable into the future,” Ms Humphreys said.

“Really, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a matter for RTÉ if they think that model is viable, I don’t personally think it’s viable. I think that’s something they’re going to have to look at.”

  • Read more: ‘Big portion’ of RTÉ job losses will come from Orchestra move and Limerick closure – RTÉ director general Dee Forbes

“I’m saying to businesses every day of the week, you have to look at your bottom line, you have to look at your costs, and you have to look at your competitiveness and your productivity. So there’s a whole range of issues there that they need to look at.”

The Fine Gael minister also defended the government’s lack of action on the TV licence fee which has been unchanged for over a decade.

Speaking at the government’s Future Jobs summit in Dublin, she said: “I think it’s not just all about the licence fee here. I think RTÉ need to look at our business model and the need to look at the world of the future, exactly what we’re doing here today.

“We are asking businesses to look at how they’re going to manage, how they’re going to cope with new technology, and with the different ways that we’re going to have to live and work into the future and RTÉ needs to do that as well.”

At the same event Education Minister Joe McHugh and the Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell-O’Connor both declined to be drawn on the issue. Mr McHugh said it would be “premature” to comment on the pay of top earners and that RTÉ needed to be given “time and space” to implement its cost-cutting plan.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor added: “I think we now need to give them time, to give the unions time, to give the presenters time to work out a plan and I especially feel sympathy for the people that will be losing their jobs.”

  • Read more: ‘There will be lots of emotions’ – RTÉ Gold presenter Will Leahy on closure of digital radio network

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