Bakhurst speaks at NUJ rally urging ‘proper funding’ for RTÉ

Journalists and fellow trade unionists call for sustainable funding for national public service broadcaster

RTÉ staff gathered at the broadcaster’s Montrose campus in Dublin on Wednesday to protest over what they called the “continued uncertainty surrounding the future of RTÉ”.

RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst was among those to address the rally, which was organised by the National Union of Journalists and attended by journalists and colleagues from other trade unions.

The staff members called for “a sharp focus on the funding of public service broadcasting” following Wednesday night’s meeting of the Oireachtas Media Committee, which was dominated by the controversy surrounding the resignation of the former RTÉ chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh.

In a brief address, Mr Bakhurst thanked journalists and other members of staff for attending the rally. “I totally appreciate this has been a horrendous period for staff and I thank you all again for the incredible efforts you have made to keep the organisation afloat,” he said.


“The one thing I would say to you all is I am absolutely determined. It has been a rough few weeks for the organisation, and I am absolutely determined to make it a better organisation for you to work in, a better organisation for audiences, and to rebuild trust and pride in working here. That is my job and I am going to get on with it.”

Emma O’Kelly, NUJ Dublin broadcasting branch chairwoman was among a number of speakers who called for “proper and sustainable” funding to protect the broadcaster.

She said RTÉ needed “sustainable funding and we need adequate funding”.

Ms O’Kelly told the crowd of more than 100 attendees that the root of the recent scandals had been the issue of funding. RTÉ had been “desperately chasing funding and money streams from wherever they could get it and that is because we have been starved of public funding”.

“If you look at, for example the flip flops, the London clubs, the rugby seasons tickets, that is all because RTÉ was desperately chasing advertising funding. If you look at something like Toy Show The Musical it was RTÉ desperately looking for a goose that would lay a golden egg because we were starved of public funding.”

Ms O’Kelly said “we who work in RTÉ know there are very few golden eggs and quality programming comes from slow and steady and hard work by talented and creative individuals”.

RTÉ health correspondent Fergal Bowers said staff were “frazzled and frustrated” by recent controversies “yet they are doing an amazing job every day during this seemingly unending existential crisis”. He said it was time to put public service broadcasting on a properly funded and sustainable footing.

In a statement, Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary said the ongoing political controversies, “the carousel of allegations and counter-allegations and the drip feed of information have left an already demoralised staff reeling”.

He said: “What RTÉ workers now need is a sharp focus on the future.

“In our dealings with Siún Ní Raghallaigh, with the director general and with Minister Catherine Martin, we have stressed the need to learn from past mistakes and poor corporate governance while planning for the future.”

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Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist