The President of the University of Limerick, Professor Des Fitzgerald, informed RTÉ two months ago that UL had identified a location on campus to accommodate the Lyric FM studios, which are to be closed as part of a cost cutting plan at the public service broadcaster.
Last week RTÉ confirmed, following a leak to The Irish Times, that it was planning to shut Lyric’s Limerick base and relocate its presence between Cork and Dublin.
Staff in Limerick said they were disappointed and shocked after finding out about the closure, through the media. RTÉ said it had decided to postpone it decision in the wake of the passing of broadcaster Gay Byrne.
Many at the public service broadcaster have questioned whether there would be any significant savings at the station by closing Lyric’s studios in Limerick.
As reported in today’s Limerick Leader, Prof Fitzgerald confirmed in his letter to Ms Forbes that he had been “in discussion with RTÉ about accommodating RTÉ Lyric in UL” since he had been appointed the university’s president in 2017.
“And, indeed we had identified a location within the University Concert Hall,” Prof Fitzgerald wrote.
“This is part of a wider plan to support the arts, for example by providing the opportunity for young performers to develop their art in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.”
In the letter, Prof Fitzgerald added he was “surprised to hear” of the proposed closure of Lyric in Limerick, “although I was aware that a move to UL was unlikely”.
“Aside from our own disappointment, I was shocked to see that the only national station for classical and indeed a wide range of music was to be shuttered.
“There’s no doubt that along with politics and the press, broadcasting has adopted a populist agenda and that is arguably excusable given the deficit in RTÉ’s budget,” he claimed.
Prof Fitzgerald suggested it would be “pure vandalism to abolish an entity that over 28 years has brought classical music to life for so many”.
When asked if RTÉ considered UL’s offer, and, why this was not taken up, and if RTÉ was still considering whether the university could be a location for its mid-western news team, a spokesman replied: “The plan announced by RTÉ last week is an integrated plan, balancing the need to maintain core services for the public, including RTE Lyric FM, while reducing our costs.
“RTÉ will close its current studio in Limerick in 2020 and production of Lyric FM will move to Cork and Dublin. Consultations will begin shortly with all staff affected by the changes as announced today.”
“RTÉ will continue to provide a mid-west news service in Limerick,” the spokesman added.