Northern Ireland

Soap opera drama for RTÉ over Fair City pictures contract

An scene from Ireland's most popular soap opera, Fair City. Picture, RTÉ.
An scene from Ireland's most popular soap opera, Fair City. Picture, RTÉ.

RTÉ has backtracked on plans to shell out 240,000 euro (£207,000) in exchange for professional photographs on the set of the Fair City soap opera.

The Irish broadcaster announced it had suspended the tender process as scrutiny remains after the Ryan Tubridy payments scandal.

Director general Kevin Bakhurst said the decision was taken after a decision to halt discretionary spending.

The tender process had offered a maximum of 60,000 euro over four years, prompting questions from politicians after RTÉ had requested a multi-million support package of interim funding.

Funding problems have intensified in recent months after negative public reaction led to a sharp drop-off in licence fee revenue.

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Mr Bakhurst has said the amount of photography required and length of contract will be reviewed before a new tender process begins.

“Given the steep fall in the licence fee and the uncertainty over interim funding, and following last week’s announcements, we have decided to halt the current tender process for Fair City photography,” he said.

“While quality professional photography is essential to enable us to promote our programmes and engage audiences, it is not possible for RTE to commit to a four-year contract or to this level of spend given the challenges we now face.

“So, we have decided to take time to consider the best way to balance the needs of the series with the need to reduce costs where we can. We will continue to explore how we can cut costs and maximise funding of our public services through commercial revenue, while also working hard to restore trust in RTE.“

Fair City continues to be Ireland’s most popular soap opera, generating over 4m streams in the first eight months of this year, representing a 40 per cent increase each year.

After last week’s decision for a recruitment freeze and pausing discretionary funding, Mr Bakhurst said efforts would be made to decrease the salaries of top-earning presenters.

He also said the sale of RTÉ’s Montrose headquarters was being considered.