RTE finally revealed 2011 salaries for its top talent yesterday. The last Top 10 was issued for 2009. We’re missing 2010 and we don’t really know what RTE paid presenters in 2012. RTE is the state broadcaster which has a monopoly on receipt of the licence fee. It lost €70m in 2011, see here the extract from its 2011 annual report
In the old media, you might hear that RTE “only” lost €17m in 2011, that was its deficit. That’s true but in addition, RTE lost €50m on its pension fund, and as we are all on the hook for the RTE pension fund, that loss comes back to us.
And who do the RTE Top 10 get paid? These are the RTE figures.
Does these people get additional income? Well, this week the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty tried to find out and this is what Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte responded, or actually this is An Ceann Comhairle’s response because the questions were disallowed.
And what about the loss on the pension fund in 2011 of €50m? Again, Minister Rabbitte was asked but here is the response via An Ceann Comhairle again.
I must admit that I don’t like the Number 1 best paid presenter on RTE, Pat Kenny. Not because of his talents as a broadcaster, even I can appreciate that the man is talented. We can all carp about personal styles and position on various matters, but the reason I don’t like Pat is that I have to spend 5 minutes of each day dealing with the European Commission and the EU Ombudsman over a request for the documents in support of Ireland’s biggest ever property tax break, for the development of the Ritz Carlton in Powerscourt in Wicklow where Pat reportedly owns property suites.
In 2009, it was Micheal Martin, then the foreign affairs minister who had to apply to the European Commission for permission to grant tax reliefs on the Powerscourt development which cost €200m. Minister Martin was criticized by the European Commission for the tardiness in submitting the application, which was some years after the development. Pat Kenny is understood to have benefitted from tax breaks on the development, and with the property downturn, Pat is understood to be nursing losses on the development, and with the development in examinership and prospective buyers trying to repudiate guarantees of income on the suites in Powerscourt, Pat must be facing a worrying time. He’s not alone, but every obstacle in getting at the documentation from the European Commission just raises my gander towards RTE’s highest paid presenter. The EU Ombudsman is currently dealing with the refusal of the European Commission to hand over the documentation for the state aid tax breaks given to rich folks at Powerscourt.
I would also love to know what, if anything, Pat gets from the various hawkers of books, records, events and businesses on his radio show. Perhaps he gets nothing, but we are none the wiser from Minister Rabbitte’s response above.
Ireland is a media market 1/15th of that in the UK. The payments made to its presenters are outrageous, and every time you get an error-ridden badly researched current affairs programme, I blame these salaries for the lack of RTE researchers and research. The last time Vincent Browne revealed his salary on TV3 in 2011, he was being paid €58,000 per year. TV3 presenters typically get paid €40-50,000.
RTE claims it is bound by the terms of its contracts, and as a legal entity that is correct, but we saw in the case of Thomas Crosbie Holdings recently where the Irish Examiner and other newspapers and radio stations were placed in receivership, and where the Sunday Business Post was placed in examinership, that companies that have unacceptable contracts can use legal mechanisms to extract themselves from those chains.
With RTE losing €70m per annum and paying the above salaries, RTE should be placed in examinership tomorrow so that new contracts could be offered at a fraction of these levels. Meantime, its presenters should be challenged about their outrageous salaries at every opportunity.