“Proposed Pay Cuts for top presenters at RTE don’t go far enough”, says NUJ

“It is absolutely necessary to cut the ridiculous salaries paid to many presenters”                                            

The National Union of Journalists has expressed dismay over proposed pay-cuts at RTE.   According to the Irish Times (6th November), the public broadcaster has stated that it is planning substantial job cuts and a 15 per cent pay reduction for its highest earning presenters as part of a financial restructuring to save €60 million over 3 years.   The latest available figures from 2016 show that seven big names: Ryan Tubridy, Ray d’Arcy, Joe Duffy, Sean O’Rourke, Marian Finucane, Miriam O’Callaghan and Claire Byrne all earn well in excess of our own Taoiseach who is paid a paltry €207, 590.  (extra.ie) With a fifteen per cent pay cut, the top earners like Ryan Tubridy who was earning €495,000 in 2016 would be set to earn €420,750 and Ray D’Arcy who previously earned €450,000 a year would see his wages reduced to €382,500.

However, as TheJournal.ie have reported, a group of RTE journalists have said the broadcaster’s plans to cut the salaries of its highest earning presenters does not go far enough and that current salaries paid to top presenters are “indefensible” in view of the organisation’s financial difficulties. In what appears to be a common perception amongst the general public, Tom Byrne, postgraduate Economics student stated that, “the median income is €36,000 a year so anyone on €400,000 seems to be hugely overpaid and even a 50% pay cut would still leave them very generously compensated. Until the licence fee is restructured or there is more compliance, RTE should cut its cloth according to its measure which would not support the payment of salaries at the current rates.”

There has been considerable controversy in recent years over salaries paid to top presenters at a time when the organisation blames TV licence evasion amongst the general public for its current difficulties.  As Minister for Communications, Richard Bruton stated in the Dail in a debate over the financial challenges facing RTE, the main challenge for RTE seems to be how to “reposition a public service broadcaster to offer vibrant services to an audience whose methods of consumption of media are changing very quickly.” Television viewing figures have fallen dramatically and online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have taken over. Flagship television programmes such as “The Late Late Show” which regularly attracts over 600,000 viewers have also lost viewers recently.

In the Netherlands, there is a law which pegs top salaries in the Public sector to the Prime Minister’s and prevents anyone from earning more than €187,000. The RTE based branch of the NUJ have called for a similar approach and called on RTE management to immediately reduce salaries of top earners so that no-one in the organisation earns more than the top civil service salary of €207,000.  Bernadette O’Sullivan, former RTE editor and Associate Lecturer  in Journalism and Media Communications at Griffith College, said that RTE, “like all media today, is in crisis due to technological revolution” and that while “cutting the pay of the likes of Ray D’Arcy will not solve the problem….it is absolutely necessary to cut the ridiculous salaries paid to many presenters.” A view which many among the general public will no doubt agree with….

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