RTE considering transferring part of Montrose site for social housing – Director General

Director general Kevin Bakhurst said he wants a smaller organisation and one that will produce more projects outside the capital.

RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst (Brian Lawless/PA)
Kevin Bakhurst RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst (Brian Lawless/PA)

RTE is considering transferring some of its Montrose site to the Land Development Agency (LDA) for social housing, according to Kevin Bakhurst.

The RTE’s director general said he has held talks with the state body and the Government about the possibility of the LDA acquiring the land.

Mr Bakhurst said that as part of its plans to reduce the size of the organisation, the national broadcaster could also potentially sell parts of its campus in Donnybrook.

“There are other things that could be valuably done with the site, whether we sell it or whether we look at is there something useful that could be done about social housing or whatever. We will look at that in due course, but that’ll be over a period of years,” he told Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder show.

“We have talked to the Land Development Agency, we talked to Government.

“I think if we can get a proper public funding settlement that we can invest in all these things, I think there will be a merit in looking at is the land suitable for social housing or something similar, rather than us trying to sell it.”

Asked about his future plans to restructure the broadcaster, Mr Bakhurst said he wants a smaller organisation and one that will produce more projects outside the capital.

He said Cork is becoming a major production centre for RTE.

“It’s also about investing much more with the independent sector and becoming a creative driving force for Ireland, so that the money that comes into RTE is not spent within RTE alone, but it’s actually spent with our brilliant independent producers around the country,” the director general added.

Meanwhile, Mr Bakhurst said he and the Minister for Media Catherine Martin have agreed to explore the potential of putting caps on exit payments.

He said he wants to ensure that exit payments are “exceptional” and transparent.

“And also if there is a way of exploring less use of confidentiality agreements, but as the report today makes clear, that’s a very common thing in a legal settlement,” Mr Bakhurst added.

“But I said to the minister that I would certainly go away and look at all those options. But when I took external legal advice over the last couple of days about that, the advice was, you need to be quite careful.”

RTE has come under renewed pressure in recent weeks after it emerged that some of its former executives received exit payments.

There have been demands from across the political landscape to disclose details of the exit payments, however legal advice has warned against such disclosure.

Mr Bakhurst said that putting a cap on payments under voluntary exit schemes could have an impact on junior staff.

“I think it’s really clear RTE is going to have to be a smaller organisation. We’ve talked about voluntary exit schemes,” he added.

“If we put a cap on payments under those schemes in place, for example, it means that the burden would fall on more junior staff in terms of reducing headcount.

“I want to be as fair as I can, and I don’t want to tie the hands of the organisation. Because one of the messages I’ve got very much is that there are some brilliant managers at RTE, but overall, there’s probably too many.

“That’s what I should be looking at and I’ve already said we’ll try and target people earning over 100,000 a year. If you put a cap on exit packages, they won’t take it.”