RTÉ reveal plans to transform their organisation following months of backlash

RTÉ have published a radical ten-point plan to transform their organisation following months of backlash regarding numerous controversies.

The document contains a list of new commitments and actions aimed at improving the overall quality of the organisation’s product while making a series of cuts to their planned expenditure for 2024 as part of a cost-control programme.

The New Direction plan details 10 key areas of reform, transformation and change:

1. A New Vision for Public Service
2. A New Approach on Value for Money
3. A New Take on Nationwide Production
4. A New Organisation
5. A New Strategy for Sectoral Support
6. New Digital Products
7. New Digital Experiences
8. New Protections for Free-to-Air Access
9. A New Approach on Financial Management
10. A New Framework for Better Governance

Among the key commitments in the plan are:

– A 50% increase in commissioning spend by 2028, as part of a hybrid-production model, which will see increased investment in independent production to access and support creativity across Ireland.
– A new ambition to better reflect Ireland by investing in production centres outside Dublin, including a planned Cork content hub, with renewed commitments to Limerick and Galway. In addition, the plan details a pathway toward digital transformation and personalisation, with increased investment in digital products and skills.
– A smaller RTÉ through investment in technology, skills and people, with a 20% net headcount reduction over the period of the 2024-2028 strategy, supported by a voluntary exit scheme.
– A range of financial and governance reforms, with the launch of new registers and reporting functions, including

i. a Register of Commercial Interests
ii. a Register of Commercial Activities
iii. Published Expenses
iv. Salaries of Leadership Team
v. Anonymised Top 100 Salaries

– The setting of 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.

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

Targeted Cost Reductions

About 90% of adults in Ireland access RTÉ’s content and services at least once a week. 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; 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 public funding gap, and to address these immediate and significant financial challenges, RTÉ will implement a minimum of €10m cuts in expenditure planned for 2024. These cuts will include:

– Cuts to content, to be confirmed in the coming weeks
– An initial and limited Voluntary Exit Programme, to deliver a headcount reduction of 40. This will be funded by the 2017 land sale proceeds
– Ongoing freeze on recruitment
– Ongoing pause on discretionary spend
– Postponement of a range of capital and strategic projects

Kevin Bakhurst, Director-General, RTÉ, says: “The document we have published today sets out the strategic direction and vision for a transformed RTÉ, and is the blueprint for RTÉ’s forthcoming Statement of Strategy 2024-2028. RTÉ’s unique public service character, and values, have guided each of the ten points in the outline plan.

As we await a decision on how public media in Ireland will be funded, we recognise the urgent need to restore trust. While RTÉ will become smaller in size across the life of this strategy, the scale of RTÉ’s public service ambition, and our ambition for the role that RTÉ will play in Irish life, will not be diminished.” 

The destination of this new direction plan is, ultimately, a better RTÉ. RTÉ will deliver high-quality programmes and content and will be more agile so that we can meet evolving audience needs. We will provide better value for money. We will work harder with the independent production sector and diversify outside of Dublin. Over its almost 100-year history, RTÉ has served the public through the talent, integrity and commitment of its staff. Whilst acknowledging that we need to reduce our workforce, we remain committed to supporting and developing the extraordinary people that we have both in RTÉ and across the industry.

2024 will be a challenging year and one in which we will have to manage our cost base carefully. Hard choices will be made. My hope, however, is that we will enter 2025 armed with a robust strategy that makes the best use of the monies available to fund our national media service, monies we will invest as wisely and strategically as possible to improve the invaluable contribution of public service media to life in Ireland.”

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