RTÉ’S HEAD of news and current affairs, Jon Williams, threw a clever feint with his new year’s message to staff back in January by telling them he was poised to become an Irish citizen (see The Phoenix 14/1/22). Clearly, this showed that the executive was not contemplating a move back to Blighty after burnishing his CV with a stint in ‘Éire’.
A few months later, he was handing in his resignation, catching everyone on the hop, but most particularly director general Dee Forbes, whose response hardly enhanced an image battered by failure to deliver the goods.
The latest news from Montrose indicates that the DG has bungled her handling of the delicate egos that proliferate at the national broadcaster.
Forbes, like other senior management, knew before his resignation letter was received that Williams’s second-in-command, Hilary McGouran, was due to retire around the same time, effectively decapitating the current affairs management team, one of the busiest and most demanding posts at RTÉ.
An effort to make an interim appointment, however, degenerated into further farce with Dee’s preferred quick fix a six-month temporary contract for Ray Burke, former RTÉ news editor. But this relatively simple, temporary arrangement collapsed within days as various delicate programmers nearly fainted with shock at the news.
Deirdre McCarthy (managing editor of RTÉ News, regions and radio) and Paul Ferris (managing editor at RTÉ News) had been numbers three and four, respectively, behind Williams and Hourigan. The duo had been drafted in to replace the two seniors following their exit but were not impressed with Dee’s personnel handiwork. Au contraire.
Neither were others and agitated representations were made to Forbes’s office about her mishandling of the appointment, interim or otherwise (especially otherwise).
All of this RTÉ diva-type behaviour would have been irrelevant had Forbes stuck to her guns. But instead she prevaricated and, in the process, let Burke know that there was a minor problem that was holding up the contract (which had been drawn up and signed).
The hack decided that he did not want to become embroiled in any further Montrose bickering (having had many years’ experience of same) and walked away, leaving poor Dee with egg all over her face, not for the first time during her tenure in charge of the national broadcaster.