The Irish Times view on RTÉ radio departures: why does 2FM exist at all?

The pop station offers a service which is already provided by commercial competitors

To lose one high-profile radio presenter might be regarded as a misfortune. To lose four within the space of a month suggests that something is afoot behind the scenes at 2FM, RTÉ's pop music station.

The departures of Jennifer Zamparelli, Doireann Garrihy and The 2 Johnnies mean 2FM has gaps to fill in all its key daytime slots. That need not be a disaster; any radio station whose mission is to appeal to younger listeners needs to be capable of refreshing its roster on a regular basis.

But it seems a remarkable coincidence that such a rash of departures should take place just weeks ahead of the introduction of new transparency requirements on presenters’ commercial activities. 2FM head Dan Healy did not deny that these played a part in the mass exodus, although he insists other factors are also at play.

Under Healy’s stewardship, 2FM has regained some market share from its commercial rivals. It has done so in part by signing up presenters who had already developed their own personal brands as influencers and podcasters. The downside of that strategy is that those presenters may calculate that reduced budgets and heightened scrutiny mean a post-scandal RTÉ is no longer worth the trouble.


The real question, however, is why 2FM exists at all. Some argue that the channel fulfils the third part of public service broadcasting’s remit to “inform, educate and entertain”, and that it also performs the vital task of reaching a younger cohort than any other RTÉ service. But both these needs are adequately met by commercial competitors. And it would surely be a better public service to invest in reaching younger audiences via streaming rather than old-fashioned linear radio.

The missing part in this jigsaw is clarity on how much 2FM costs and what revenue it generates. Recent reports have criticised the blurred line between RTÉ's commercial and public service activities. The leaner, more accountable organisation which director general Kevin Bakhurst has promised will need a clearer, more convincing argument on 2FM’s behalf to justify its survival.