Major changes are being introduced at RTE over its libel of a Catholic priest and, separately, there are to be redundancies and cutbacks in a bid to save €25million.
On Tuesday afternoon RTE’s head of current affairs Ed Mulhall announced his retirement and the editor of Prime Time Investigates -- which libeled the priest -- Ken O’Shea has resigned from the program over the libel.
Father Kevin Reynolds is understood to have received a settlement of €1 million for the libel.
The program, which was broadcast last May, falsely accused Reynolds of raping a minor while working as a missionary in Africa and fathering a child by her. Mulhall had had been director of news and managing director of news and current affairs for a total of 14 years.
Shea has resigned as editor of current affairs, but is not resigning from RTE. He is being transferred to an assignment in television reporting to the commissioning editor for RTE Two.
The Prime Time Investigates program will not be returning to air, and a new current affairs investigations unit will be set up supplying television, radio, and online news.
A separate announcement last weekend showed RTE faces losses of unidentified major sporting events, and it is to close its London bureau under some of the most swinging cuts in its history as it endeavors to save €25 million.
The national broadcaster is hoping to cut staff costs by €15 million over the next two years. It is seeking to make the rest of the savings through extending the 30% salary cut that previously hit the top 10 stars to now include the top 20 earners, cut the amount to be paid out in sports rights coverage by 25%, reduce payments for foreign shows by at least 10%, and axe the London office.
Voluntary redundancies of up to 200 personnel are being sought, following on 190 staff lost in a first round of redundancies completed last year.
The scale and detail of the cuts were contained in a bombshell letter to staff from director-general Noel Curran.
Both the National Union of Journalists and the Trade Union Group within RTE expressed dismay at the decision to close the London office.
Curran said RTE was facing a deficit of €20 million by the end of the year that was “not sustainable.” He said urgent measures had to be taken to deal with it.
The decision to cut payments for sports events by 25% means RTE will not show events if it cannot negotiate a lower price to show them. It has no specific sporting events in mind at present.
All of the embattled broadcaster’s significant sporting contracts – such as the GAA Champions League European soccer – are already tied to a three-year contract and will come up for renegotiation by 2014.
Head of sport, Ryle Nugent, admitted they may lose one or two major sporting events as they rein in spending.
It is the latest round of cost-cutting measures in RTÉ that started in 2008 when the full affects of the recession first became apparent. RTÉ has taken €80 million out of its budgets since then.