Friday, August 12, 2011

As RTE's Losses Mount; Is Tubridy Safe?

This week has seen the much trumpeted release for RTE's 2011/2012 schedule of tv programming. The media, press, PR peeps and RTE themselves have trumpeted the depth and breadth of Irish output in the upcoming season. And rightly so. A total of 110 home produced program's will be screened this year, 64 of which are returning shows. One high profile show not returning is The All Ireland Talent Show, which always seemed like a low rent X-Factor. Unfortunately it's axing could unleash something much worse on the nation, something we would have to endure for seven long years.

Joking aside RTE have made other positive headlines of late. They have delivered 48 of the 50 most watched TV shows so far in 2011, and 19 of the top 20 radio shows. The impressive performance in Radio is largely driven by RTE Radio One which has 8 of the top 10 shows in the country. 2fm has remained largely inconsistent, shedding 0.5% of its audience in the latest JNLR figures, keeping it in third place behind Today FM. Part of this loss can be put down to former Twitter user, and BBC Radio 2 weekend host, Ryan Tubridy's continued decline in listenership for his midweek show. Although he has lost 110,000 listeners in a year, the show is apparently safe, with a production team shake up hoping to steady the ship.

This all masks the big elephant in the room for RTE, even with an increased Tubridy listenership the station is facing massive losses. The last two years have seen losses of €16.5 million in 2009 and €4.7 million in 2010. The wages of it's biggest stars have come under threat too. The station doesn't release current salaries but in 2008 Pat Kenny was paid €950,976 in 2008, Marian Finucane received €570,000. and Ryan Tubridy earned €533,000. This was when Kenny hosted the Late Late, a nixer now filled by Ryan Tubridy, so you can expect 'Tubs' to be on a similarly inflated figure now. With Kenny no longer hosting the Late Late, but now his own current affairs show The Frontline one wonders how much of a salary cut he suffered in the switch.

This is big money at a time when staff at the station are subject to further losses and uncertainty. Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister, has said the broadcaster must reign in its expenditure saying 

"RTE can't go on incurring the kind of annual deficit that it is incurring and their costs simply have to be brought under control"
Of the inflated salaries he has said

"As far as the Government is concerned, we expect those earning most to contribute most to the savings programme."
But is all this just fluster on the part of the Minister?

Amongst all this to-ing and fro-ing Tub's has his eye on the bigger picture by snaggging himself a permanent to the big boys at the BBC. A station who could surely pay his wages and offer him a bigger profile. Of course this could be a conspiracy theory, a well work technique when contract negotiations are upcoming. With a BBC offer in his pocket Tub's would surely take it and not use it as leverage to remain on an artificially high salary at RTE? But the big question is would RTE, in it's weakened state, actually call his bluff?