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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Sandra Mallon

RTE shake-up as new Director General outlines radical plan to save station

RTE’s new Director General Kevin Bakhurst has outlined a raft of ideas to save the station – as four of the old executive board were replaced yesterday.

Mr Bakhurst told how he believes RTE’s ex-Director General Dee Forbes should be answering questions in front of an Oireachtas committee into how she ran the organisation.

In an unprecedented move, Mr Bakhurst invited the media for a lengthy press conference yesterday afternoon, where he revealed to us how he sees the future of the station, saying he “understands” the anger from licence fee payers.

In his remarks, he said he is thinking about making RTE “smaller”.

READ MORE: New RTE Director General Kevin Bakhurst stands down entire Executive board of RTE on first day in job

He added: “We need to look at all services. 2FM remains a valuable service to RTE.

“It’s commercially successful. It’s innovative and it is appreciated by young audiences.

“We need to provide services that touch young audiences and audiences that are hard to reach.

“We have to look at what we can afford to carry on doing. Maybe RTE needs to be smaller in years to come. My immediate priority is to stabilise where we are, to rebuild trust.”


Four of the old executive board were replaced as Mr Bakhurst made sweeping changes on his first day in the hot seat.

Those gone from their roles are Geraldine O’Leary, who was the Director of Commercial, Richard Collins who was the Chief Financial Officer, Jim Jennings who was Director of Content and Director of Strategy Rory Coveney.

Mr Coveney had announced his resignation on Sunday while Ms O’Leary revealed yesterday she was taking early retirement.

They were replaced by Vivienne Flood who will be Head of Public Affairs, Mike Fives who will be Group Financial Controller, Niamh O’Connor who will be Deputy Director of Content and Conor Mullen who will take on the role of Head of Strategy & Commercial Compliance.

In addition, an external Corporate Governance Expert is to be recruited. But Mr Bakhurst declined to reveal if the executives who have stood down continue to be paid, saying: “There’s different arrangements.

“Obviously two people have resigned or taken early retirement so there are different arrangements.

“I don’t really want to go into the individual arrangements because there is a process going on around that so to be fair to them and also, I think to be proper and respect their confidentially I think it is fair not to do that right now.”

Asked if he thought he might sell off 2FM, he said: “I think we have to look at all options going forward and that is a matter for the board as well.

“Those decisions will be taken further down the track.”

Mr Bakhurst said it can be a genuine concern that RTE loses talent to competitors, given the move of former Late Late Show host Pat Kenny to Newstalk in 2013.

But he added that now, RTE is “100%” willing to lose talent to save money.

He also praised Patrick Kielty ahead of his Late Late Show debut. Mr Bakhurst said: “I think we need to continue the downward pressure on top presenter pay. I did have some contact with Paddy Kielty along the way and he has behaved impeccably. I would like to thank him for that.

“I think he is going to be a great success and I look forward to working with him. Paddy sets a new benchmark. My experience here was in my time here, we lost one high-profile presenter because he was offered more money by one of the commercial radio stations. Pat Kenny. So that shows you there is a market.”

Asked if he thought RTE stars were worth their money, he said: “The audiences rightly expect high-quality presenters. A number of presenters have a real value to our commercial department and so attract
sponsorship and advertising to a programme, so these are the
considerations you make about how much you pay people.”

Asked if he was willing to lose talent in order to save money, he said: “Yes. I’ve done it before. 100%. I am also willing to lose talent if the negotiations don’t go well on new contracts.”

Mr Bakhurst said he is looking at how RTE is run, adding: “I’m trying to pour over everything and when we discover stuff, we will make it

“We’ve got a forensics account coming in from the Government. I suspect there may be more stuff that comes out but when it comes out, we will put it out in the public domain.”

Mr Bakhurst also revealed his own salary which, he said, is “a lot less” than what he earned at Ofcom in the UK.

He told reporters: “My salary is €250,000, I get a car allowance, I think it is €25,000. That is my overall package. It is less than I was earning at Ofcom.”

Asked about RTE broadcasters taking part in commercial arrangements, Mr Bakhurst said: “I think the new register of interest that we are drawing up as a matter of urgency will deal with some of these issues. Some people will be allowed to do things but they will have to operate within the guidelines with the right information to do it and the right transparency around it.

“We are not going to prohibit people from doing everything but there has to be, for our licence fee payers and for everyone else, a degree of transparency.”

Mr Bakhurst said he is trying to take the most “professional judgement” that he can on behalf of the organisation and “on behalf of licence fee payers”.

He admitted he had recused himself from an examination of a car loan arrangement involving sport reporter Marty Morrissey due to their friendship. Mr Morrissey apologised last week for taking part in an “informal” arrangement where he used a Renault car after emceeing a dozen events for the brand over a five-year period.

He said he returned the car “voluntarily” on June 23 after reflecting on the controversy at RTE and concluding that the “ad hoc” arrangement was “an error ofjudgement”.

Mr Bakhurst said that interim deputy director general Adrian Lynch would probe the matter and other potentially similar issues involving other staff. He said: “Everyone knows Marty is a good friend of mine. So I’m not involved. I’m deliberately not involved in that.

“I’ve asked Adrian Lynch to oversee not just Marty but a number of other cases that we’re trying to tidy up and get information on. So Adrian Lynch is running that process.

“And he needs to get all the information together and then decide what the outcome will be on that.

“I have deliberately not got involved in this process because I don’t think it’s appropriate because he’s a friend of mine.” Bakhurst also said he learned of Morrissey’s car loan arrangement last week, and had never asked his friend how he paid for his vehicle.

He added that he has friends “across RTE” and if there are issues around anyone else who he is pals with, he would “absolutely” recuse himself.

He said: “I think that’s the right thing to do.”

But when asked why Morrissey was allowed to continue broadcasting at the weekend, while Tubridy was taken off air immediately, he said: “The difference between those two is that there was no licence payers’ money lost in the case of Marty Morrissey.”

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