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Cutting Irish celebrity’s pay could be damaging to Ireland’s fragile psyche

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Pat Kenny - RTE host


Slashing the salaries of RTE’s top earners may be what the public wants, but sometimes we need to be careful what we wish for, writes Paul Allen.

A very dangerous mentality has seeped into the Irish psyche. Pay levels, expenditure and cut backs have, through necessity, rightly become a national obsession. However, we are in danger of becoming a nation that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

We are all eager to trim the fat but we must pay heed to the words of Warren Buffett — “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Bizarrely, there are those who would prefer the Taoiseach to travel to Brussels on Ryanair. There were even some fools during the Presidential election that believed our head of state should be paid the minimum wage and forced to drive around in their own car. It is this sort of misguided mentality that has focused the nation’s wrath on RTE’s stars and their pay levels.

Yes, some of RTE’s well-known presenters are paid an extraordinary salary, but it must be remembered they do an extraordinary job.

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The pressure, stress and intensity of the job was tragically underlined by the demise of the sorely missed Gerry Ryan. Even though he was one of the best paid golden boys of Irish broadcasting he died owing hundreds of thousands of euro.

People fail to understand that there is no job security and no pension in broadcasting. Worse still, all presenters live in constant fear of ratings. Those that face the chop can go from hero to zero in a matter of months, as Bull Island’s Alan Shortt underlined last week when he revealed he suffered depression when the phone suddenly stopped ringing after he lost his radio job.

But for those lucky enough to be on the receiving end, the principle of seemingly sensational salaries is simple — RTE pays its top talent to keep its top talent.

Ian Dempsey and Ray D’arcy are just two of RTE’s elite stars that, in the past, were tempted by the lure of lucre from commercial broadcasters. The fact Eamon Dunphy was being paid €100,000 by Newstalk for doing one radio show a week shows that there is money out there to do the same again.
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So who do you want as your national broadcaster — RTE or TV3? Who would you rather front the Late Late Show — Ryan Tubridy or Aidan Cooney? Who would you rather host Frontline — Pat Kenny or Alan Hughes?

What would Liveline be without Joe Duffy? What would the weekend be without Marian Finucane? Indeed, what would the Primetime Presidential Debate have been without Miriam O’Callaghan?

People seem to have forgotten that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

There are very few broadcasters with the natural talent to capture the eyeballs, the ears and the hearts of a nation. We lost Terry Wogan and Eamonn Andrews to the BBC. Now we could well lose one of Ireland’s most gifted broadcasters, Ryan Tubridy.

To lose two broadcasting icons may be regarded as a misfortune; but to lose another would be just downright carelessness.

Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.

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