Public anxious about pay levels at RTÉ – Bruton

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There is anxiety among the public about the high level of pay for some RTÉ staff, Richard Bruton has said.

RTÉ confirmed it is seeking to cut its workforce by 200 as one of a series of measures to tackle its financial crisis and reduce costs by €60m over the next three years.

Salaries for the 10 highest-paid RTÉ presenters, who mainly work as contractors rather than staff, added up to €3m in 2016.

Communications Minister Mr Bruton was asked today if he thought it is appropriate that some RTÉ staff earn more than the €200,000 the Taoiseach is paid to run the country.

There is no doubt some personalities arguably attract additional revenue because of their activities, but I think they have to balance that because they have realised some of the pay levels are too high

He said: “There is a lot of anxiety among the general public that some of these pay levels are too high. The plan outlined by RTÉ would see a 10-15% cut in some of those salaries but pay is ultimately a decision for the management and board at RTÉ.

“They have to decide what the best route is to deliver a sustainable model for public service broadcasting.”

On Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was not going to comment on salaries of RTÉ staff compared to his.

“I’m not going to get into issues about what other people are paid or not. There are lots of people in RTÉ who don’t earn big salaries and are working very hard for the money they make,” he said.

The plan, sent to staff on Wednesday, said RTÉ will reduce fees paid to contracted on-air presenters by 15%.

It said it would consult staff and unions on a number of initiatives, including a pay freeze and tiered pay reductions for existing staff.

RTE director general Dee Forbes receives a salary of €250,000, a €25,000 car allowance and pension contributions of €63,000 – bringing her total package to €338,000.

Mr Bruton said he put forward his concerns over high levels of pay when he met the RTÉ board on Thursday and they have committed to cutting salaries.

I think what we need to see is public service broadcasting adapting to a very changed environment

“The board have recognised that it (cutting pay) does form part of the solution and there needs to be leadership of it from those in high positions, but ultimately they have to find a balancing act,” he said.

“There is no doubt some personalities arguably attract additional revenue because of their activities, but I think they have to balance that because they have realised some of the pay levels are too high,” he said.

He said the TV licence fee evasion has contributed to a loss of revenue for RTÉ and that a new tender to collect the charge has been put out that should bring down the evasion rate from 14% to 7%.

Asked if he thinks RTÉ will be around in five years’ time, he said: “Undoubtedly. I think what we need to see is public service broadcasting adapting to a very changed environment.”

He said a lot of the content RTÉ makes is very high quality but it needs to attract younger audiences who have migrated to different online platforms such as Netflix.



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