270 STAFF LEFT RTÉ in 2012 with employee numbers now 21 per cent below 2008 levels.
The staff cuts contributed to cost reductions of €18 million last year but the station still reported a net deficit of €65.2 million last year.
In it’s annual report published today the station reaffirmed its commitment to breaking even in 2013 with the culmination of what it described as a ‘considerable’ cost cutting programme. An RTÉ spokesperson explained that much of the cost savings from staff reductions in 2012 will become apparent this year and did not reduce costs in 2012.
The station said that it ran an operating profit of €2.2 million in 2012 with the net deficit in large part due to a once-off restructuring charge of €46 million. Much of this restructuring expenditure arose from costs associated with staff leaving through voluntary programmes last year. The small operating profit is also an improvement on an operating loss of €2.5 million in 2011.
“However, while economic circumstances remain uncertain, it is a slimmer and more efficient RTÉ that faces into the future,” wrote RTÉ chairman Tom Savage. “One outcome of these necessary measures has been the departure of many valued and experienced colleagues who have given decades of service to the organisation.”
Savage added that the digital switchover in October last year and the launch of SAORVIEW was achieved with minimal complaints from the public and was a success both in terms of penetration and financial benefits to the exchequer.
The report claims that €874 million was raised for the state from the sale of the communication spectrum arising from RTÉ’s successful delivery of the digital switchover via Saorview.
Director-General Noel Curran described cost-cutting measures in 2012 as the “most radical” since the broadcaster began in slimming its cost base in 2008.
The report also detailed editorial changes the station put in place last year as a result the BAI Report into the Prime Time Investigates Programme Mission To Prey and the upheld complaint following RTÉ’s Frontline presidential debate.
“Recovering from and implementing important changes in response to very serious editorial mistakes in two current affairs programmes in 2011 was a key priority for RTÉ throughout 2012,” according to Curran.
Curran added that as part of that process the station established a new investigations unit to engage in investigative journalism while providing multimedia rich content. He said that the station is putting what it has learnt into practice:
There will always be risks and we will of course make mistakes, such is the nature of journalism. Having learned difficult lessons, combined, all of these measures were designed to minimise the risk of serious editorial mistakes happening again while at the same time supporting and nurturing challenging and important current affairs journalism in RTÉ.
Savage also referenced the controversies saying that revised journalist guidelines were introduced and distributed to staff and specific social media guidelines were introduced.
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte laid the report before the Oireachtas today and said that he was satisfied with RTÉ’s progress in implementing recommendations arising from the BAI report.
The Minister made clear however that the organisation must achieve a “break even positon, at least, in 2013″.
RTÉ’s annual report for 2012 is available in full HERE.