RTÉ’s plans to transform itself will see more focus on regional hubs.

Cork to benefit from ‘better RTÉ’?

Cork is to receive a new content hub as part of plans announced this week by RTÉ for the radical transformation of the organisation in a bid to regain the nation's trust.

One of the key commitments laid out in the plans, which will see an overall 20% cut in staff numbers, is an ambition to better reflect Ireland by investing in production centres outside of Dublin.

A statement released on Tuesday by RTÉ specified Cork as being a focus for this ambition, confirming a planned new content hub to be established on Leeside.

In July, amid rumours that RTÉ’s Cork headquarters may be sold, the broadcaster confirmed to the Cork Independent that it was fully committed to its operation on Leeside, with shows like 'The Today Show' and ‘Nationwide’ to continue to be filmed in Cork.

RTÉ, which has been at the centre of much negative attention since revelations regarding Ryan Tubridy’s pay, says it plans to cut costs by €10m in response to the “urgent need for transformation and a restoration of trust”.

The plan sets out the framework for the eventual strategic plan for 2024-2028, which will be provided to Government and the regulator in the new year.

The public are invited to give their views on the New Direction document at rte.ie/newdirection.

The plan also aims to deliver a 50% increase in commissioning spend by 2028 as part of a hybrid-production model which will see increased investment in independent across Ireland.

Importantly, the plan also promises to set a maximum pay cap (no salary will exceed that of the Director-General), and a review of and reduction of allowances, as well as an evaluation of options for the future use of the Donnybrook campus, including reducing the size of the footprint needed for RTÉ’s production and broadcast facilities.

Targeted cost reductions

According to RTÉ, 90% of adults in Ireland access RTÉ’s content and services at least once a week, and while RTÉ’s broad remit and obligations, set out in the Broadcasting Act, remain in place, total funding has now declined significantly.

“Longer-term decline due to systemic issues with the funding of the public media system has been overtaken by a widescale breakdown in trust arising from the recent controversy,” said RTÉ.

“In the second half of 2023, licence fee sales declined by a further 30%. This trend looks set to continue over 2024, which could result in a €40m decline in TV licence revenues.”

To help close this funding gap, RTÉ will implement a minimum of €10m cuts in expenditure planned for 2024. These will include cuts to content to be confirmed in the coming weeks, and an initial and limited voluntary exit programme, to deliver a headcount reduction of 40.

RTÉ will also look to continue its ongoing freeze on recruitment, as well as its ongoing pause on discretionary spend. It will also postpone a range of capital and strategic projects.

Commenting on the statement, RTÉ’s Director-General Kevin Bakhurst said that while RTÉ will become smaller, the scale of its public service ambition and its role in Irish life will not be diminished.

“As we await a decision on how public media in Ireland will be funded, we recognise the urgent need to restore trust,” said Mr Bakhurst.

“The destination of this new direction plan is, ultimately, a better RTÉ.

“2024 will be a challenging year and one in which we will have to manage our cost base carefully. Hard choices will be made,” he added.