Moya Doherty, who is chair of the RTÉ board, is finally set to depart next year, having overseen none of the long-needed reforms at the bloated national broadcaster.

Moya Doherty, who is chair of the RTÉ board, is finally set to depart next year, having overseen none of the long-needed reforms at the bloated national broadcaster.

HIGH-PROFILE departures, a Government bailout, legal threats and the prospect of a whole new top tier of management made it a mixed year for RTÉ. With a surplus of over €2m for the year and a €14m handout from minister Catherine Martin, the future should be looking more certain for the struggling national broadcaster.

As usual, though, that’s not the way at RTÉ. Claire Byrne threw a spanner in the works when she quit her Monday night live show. The RTÉ decision on her replacement was not to make a decision and instead give four staffers two programmes each for the current season. The result was a ratings disaster, with viewers abandoning the first offerings from newsreaders David McCullagh and Sharon Tobin in droves.

Whether ratings failures will follow the spikey departure of Des Cahill from GAA show The Sunday Game remains to be seen. But Cahill and fellow departing punters Pat Spillane and Colm O’Rourke made no secret of their dissatisfaction at the direction the popular show was taking. All RTÉ TV sports offerings have moved away from the punters playing a central role and some don’t like it. Joe Brolly and Eamon Dunphy are still hurling on the ditch and tossing the odd grenade in the direction of their former employer.

Other departures are likely to have a more long-term influence. Board chair Moya Doherty is to finally depart next year, having overseen none of the long-needed reforms at the bloated national broadcaster. Her appointee as director general, Dee Forbes, will accompany her in the spring.

Forbes’s legacy will be her inability to deal with the major issues, financial and editorial, facing the Donnybrook dinosaur. But her long campaign to get Government to pick up the inflated wage bill did finally bear fruit when Martin got €14m from the budget for her.

Head of news, the meteoritic Jon Williams made a quick exit in September. His deputy, Hilary McGouran, departed earlier in the year, with more than 20 people contracting Covid at her leaving bash.

RTÉ News is now riven with infighting as hopefuls jockey for position in the succession stakes. Veteran journalist Ray Burke refused to take up an offer of interim head when jealous hopefuls for the top job lobbied against him. A senior newsroom staff delegation also paid a visit to Forbes’s office to lobby against one potential candidate for the top news job.

Meanwhile, a lack of applicants for the top jobs of Washington and London correspondents delayed appointments for both positions. And in a disgraceful abandonment of its public service, RTÉ failed to send any reporters to cover the war in Ukraine, even while Government ministers were on almost constant tours of the country.

With two former staff members jailed for sexual offences in the last two years, at least two other sexual harassment cases in RTÉ before the WRC and the station running scared from Mary Lou McDonald’s lawyers, maybe editorial output wasn’t its real concern. And Shane Ross has been getting his pound of flesh after his book promotion – sorry, interview – about the Sinn Féin leader was dumped.

The station is top heavy with managers and has 1,800 staff. Some 119, most of them managers, were paid €100,000 each last year. Meanwhile, original output has decreased both in hours and in quality. Turkeys like The North Sea Connection saw viewers abandon the state broadcasting ship in their droves.

Ryan Tubridy droned on every morning and hinted that his time at The Late Late Show would end in a few years, with Claire Byrne quick to express an interest. Her radio show is under huge pressure from the ever-fresh Pat Kenny, who shows no signs of going anywhere and would love to outlast his rival.

An insider is the last person the national broadcaster needs as DG and, with no suitable insider candidates, staff want former TV3 head and current chief of An Post David McRedmond, believing he is the only person who can undertake the radical surgery needed to save the station.

Over on Virgin Media, after years of purges, the only significant departure was Simon Delaney from Ireland AM. Rising revenues and a very modest domestic output under Liberty Global have steadied the ship, as has a massively increased broadcasting fund available from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, where Virgin can compete for funds on a level playing field with RTÉ.

In Radioland, Bauer Media, owner of the GoLoud network of stations – Newstalk, Today FM, 98FM and Spin – wielded the axe in a big way but it’s Cash Call competition has been driving revenue and listenership figures.

Comebacks in 2022 include Eoghan McDermott on Australian TV, Gráinne Seoige on TG4 and, most spectacularly, Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ. Meanwhile, the 2 Johnnies survived the controversy over pretty tasteless comments in their podcast.

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