Thursday, 28 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
When I read last weekend that the Dublin broadcasting branch of the National Union of Journalists, NUJ, had called for presenters' fees at RTÉ to be capped at the top rate of Civil Service pay, I was pleased to see that journalists were responding to public disquiet about excessive pay at the State broadcaster, especially at a time when RTÉ has a major budget deficit. This motion was passed by 30 NUJ journalists, describing the celebrity salaries as indefensible. I have learned from Kevin Doyle's report in the Irish Independentthat the local NUJ branch is effectively being carpeted by the NUJ leadership for speaking out of turn and, in the words of NUJ boss, Séamus Dooley, having a meeting without senior industrial officials being present. It is to be presumed that if those senior industrial officials were present, we would have got a fudge of the kind that some would like to see, with some celebrity journalists having their salaries pegged to much higher salary scales in the commercial semi-States.
Since September, I have been in touch with the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Adviser to see how the law might operate in a manner that respects RTÉ's independence as a State broadcaster while ensuring that top presenters' pay is tied to recognisable, sensible public sector pay scales. I welcomed the NUJ branch's comments last Saturday but I said that a statutory approach would be needed to ensure that this goal could be achieved in a way that will be fair, transparent and that will stick. Seeing the infighting now going on within the NUJ, I am even more of the view that external statutory regulation is necessary. I hope that when I bring this legislation forward in the new year, the Seanad will take a strong lead with me on this.
Tá gá le bunús reachtúil, go háirithe de bharr an achrainn agus easaontas laistigh d’Aontas Náisiúnta na nIriseoirí i dtaobh na ceiste seo. Leadership works best when it comes from the top. As I understand it, there are many different levels on which one can be paid in RTÉ. If one is in TG4, one is paid at a lower level than other journalists in RTÉ. We all know about the so-called yellow pack journalists operating both in RTÉ and the independent sector. It was in another context that Senator Humphreys referred a few moments ago to the injustice being done to the next generation, who are being priced out of the housing market etc. If the younger generation working in journalism or teaching simply cannot aspire to the same salary and conditions as more famous people within the organisation simply because they are young and have come into the organisation later, that is no way to build and promote morale. It is no way to protect and promote excellence in journalism either. I am disappointed to see that there is division within the NUJ about this important matter. Our response as a Legislature must be to take a lead and bring forward the necessary statutory basis for sensible pay scales which, though it would by no means be the end of the problem, would help RTÉ with its deficit problem.