RTÉ advertises for next director general as Dee Forbes nears end of seven-year term

‘Chief executive and editor-in-chief’ role at Irish public service broadcaster ‘must ensure RTÉ's place in Irish public life’, job ad states

RTÉ has advertised for a director general to succeed Dee Forbes and “take the organisation forward in a rapidly evolving media landscape”. Ms Forbes’s seven-year term is due to come to an end this July and the appointment process is expected to take a number of months.

The director general role is both “chief executive and editor-in-chief” of the public service broadcaster, with the person appointed having responsibility for overseeing both the public and commercial operations of RTÉ.

He or she “must ensure RTÉ's place in Irish public life, be culturally engaged, digitally knowledgeable and have strong editorial judgment”, the job advertisement states.

The ad, published on Friday, says the candidate should demonstrate “a track record of successful leadership within complex organisations” and have the business acumen to make sure RTÉ “remains on a sound financial footing in a challenging commercial environment”.


The closing date for applications is January 20th with the statutory appointment made for a fixed term of seven years.

As well as experience in the implementation of transformation in an organisation, he or she should also have “digital fluency and the vision to bring technology to life”, the ability to manage “a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders” and be able to show strategic thinking, decisiveness, agility, energy, resilience and integrity.

The advertisement does not specify experience in the broadcasting or wider media sector as a requirement.

Executive search firm Spencer Stuart is managing the process on behalf RTÉ, to which the Government recently appointed a new chairwoman, former TG4 chairwoman and Ardmore and Troy Studios chief executive Siún Ní Raghallaigh.

Ms Forbes was named director general in April 2016, succeeding Noel Curran. She joined RTÉ from her London-based role as president and managing director of Discovery Networks Northern Europe, proving that it was not necessary to be an internal candidate or a former executive for RTÉ to fulfil the criteria. She was also the first woman to do the job.

Her early years as director general were marked by an attempt to streamline management structures at the State-owned media organisation and keep wider costs in check amid an established pattern of decline in commercial revenues and difficulties in shoring up public funding.

While RTÉ subsequently clawed back some sports rights lost to rivals and found a way to finance flagship Irish drama content through international co-production deals, the competition it faces at the television end of the industry – RTÉ's main source of commercial revenue – has intensified along with the rise of streaming services and a more fragmented media landscape.

This means Ms Forbes’s successor will face many of the same issues, including the battle for clarity on the future of the licence fee and attracting younger audiences while securing enough income to both fulfil its broad public service obligations and avoid the financial deficits of recent times.

“RTÉ is an organisation that is at the heart of public life in Ireland, interacting with 90 per cent of the population each week,” the recruitment ad states.

RTÉ's dual-funded model means that it “must stay true to its public service purpose and its editorial independence”, it continues, while generating the commercial income necessary to maintain its statutory remit.

“As technology transforms the way audiences consume content, RTÉ must compete with global suppliers and media services. It faces complex opportunities and challenges across editorial, technology, finance and regulation.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics