RTÉ’s cost-savings update won’t be music to everyone

Monday marks both a subdued moment for RTÉ’s public service benchmarks and a quietly significant moment for its stop-start cost-cutting efforts. On January 24, it will offload the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) to the National Concert Hall (NCH), reducing its annual cost base by around €8 million. Thanks for the music and goodbye.

As the date was confirmed, chief executive Dee Forbes described the occasion as “mixed emotion for us at RTÉ”, with the heartbreak of parting ways with friends and colleagues tempered by the joy that the ONS and the choirs “will now be on a firm financial footing within the NCH”.

It was, all told, a busy week for RTÉ management, with NSO’s transfer update closing a short gap between the launch of its Six Nations coverage (alongside broadcast rights partner Virgin Media Television) at Aviva Stadium and a virtual appearance by symphonic-long before the Public Accounts Committee.

There, amid various and sometimes frantic questions from committee members, the topic arose of how RTÉ is faring on its end-2019 target of saving €60 million over three years.

As always, a completely up-to-date picture of its finances remained elusive, with TDs saying the 2021 accounts were yet to be finalized. But Richard Collins, who was appointed chief financial officer of RTÉ just in time for the pandemic, hinted at turmoil ahead on the cost savings score. With one year to go from the end of the three-year period, there is “a risk” that the target of 60 million euros will not be met, he told the committee.

“Difficult to achieve”

“The world is constantly changing, there are a lot of risks. Inflation is coming our way now,” he said. “I think we were on the right track [but] I think it’s going to be difficult to achieve that. »

This will not have been music to everyone’s ears, although RTÉ’s track record of cost savings is still likely to be better than the track record of successive governments in implementing network funding reforms. half-promised public media that would reduce the need to make cuts in the first place.

The transfer from the ONS to the NCH was proposed by the Boaden Review of 2018, which was very well received by Montrose – despite his detailed documentation of RTÉ’s rather dismal treatment of his orchestras – as it recommended precisely the outcome desired by The direction.

With the government silent on the conclusions of the Commission on the Future of the Media regarding its public funding, it may be incumbent on RTÉ to organize new reviews of reduction of attributions and reduction of costs soon.

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