RTÉ selling its Cork base would be at odds with the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plans for expansion of the city, it has been claimed.
It emerged over the weekend that the national broadcaster is considering the possible sale of the Cork studio to resolve financial problems after its director-general Dee Forbes described its position as “unlike anything it has seen before”.
It has also been suggested that the building may be sold and leased back to RTÉ with Communications Minister Richard Bruton distancing himself from any decision and saying it is a matter for the broadcaster’s independent board.
Meanwhile, the staff at RTÉ’s city centre studio are “completely in the dark” about the rumoured sale of the broadcast studio at Fr Mathew St and have not been briefed since reports emerged about its potential sale.
Lord mayor John Sheehan said it is vital that RTÉ retains a strong presence in Cork.
“It would be extremely disappointing [if the studio was sold]. RTÉ has long had a presence in Cork going back to the day of Cork local radio. Obviously, stories in Cork could be covered from Dublin.
“However, I’d be worried this would inevitably lead to a Dublin-centric focus.
“The studio there is used for a multitude of reasons and the staff there would be a great loss. This would be very disappointing, particular at a time when Cork is on the up and there are so many plans in place for the city to grow,” he said.
A number of RTÉ TV and radio programmes are made in Cork, including The Today Show with Maura Derrane and Dáithí O’Shea and the John Creedon Radio 1 show.
Fine Gael councillor Des Cahill believes the licence fee payer in the south of the country deserves better and questioned how shows made in Cork could be produced for the same cost in Dublin.
“This seems totally at odds with the National Development Plan’s Ireland 2040 project that the national broadcaster would be exiting from a city that is starting the process of expanding.
“I don’t see how they can justify it from a financial point of view.
“Where is the five and 10-year plan for RTÉ as opposed to selling off land? It’s a public broadcasting company and we need that in Cork. We need journalists.
“Cork is the second city with a population of 500,000 people across the county — the biggest area of licence fee payers outside of the capital.
“When print media and broadcasters disappear, they are gone and they won’t come back. I would certainly be calling on RTÉ to look at this again. They should be expanding what they are doing in Cork, not reducing it.
“The TV and radio shows being made in Cork, I would suspect, have lower costs than if they were to be made in Dublin. I don’t understand the economics of selling off the studio.
Green Party representative Dan Boyle described the proposal as “short-sighted and wrong”.
“RTÉ could not be seen as the National broadcaster, fulfilling a public service obligation, without having a significant presence outside of Dublin.”
Independent councillor Mick Finn urged RTÉ to cut “exorbitant salaries” of its top-paid presenters before cutting services.