What Does RTÉ’s New Strategy Mean for Music?

Dee Forbes, Director-General of RTÉ

What Does RTÉ’s New Strategy Mean for Music?

Strategy includes two new senior arts and music appointments plus an orchestral project for children.

RTÉ has published a new five-year strategy covering the years 2018 to 2022. The document, subtitled Renewing RTÉ for the Next Generation, contains various references to music and the arts, including two new senior appointments and an orchestral initiative for children.

According to the strategy, RTÉ will appoint its first Group Head of Arts and Culture as well as a Group Head of Entertainment and Music. The latter position was actually filled earlier this month by John McHugh. McHugh has responsibility for RTÉ’s entertainment and music output across television, radio and online but excluding RTÉ’s orchestras, choirs and quartet. The ‘Entertainment and Music’ strategy places a particular emphasis on ‘[deepening] audience engagement with music, especially Irish music’.

Orchestras: complex and evolving space
Regarding the station’s two orchestras, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the strategy states that ‘RTÉ will continue to be the leading provider of orchestral music in the country’, but that the recently announced review of orchestral provision will ‘make recommendations on ways to ensure the long-term vibrancy, quality and sustainability of RTÉ’s orchestral output.’

In an interview following the publication of the new strategy, Dee Forbes, Director-General of RTÉtold the Irish Times that, with regard to the orchestras, ‘The reason that we’re doing the review is to get an independent expert to look at us, but also to benchmark us with other countries and to see what is happening in that space, because it is a complex and evolving space. But it also has to be said that the preference would be to maintain two orchestras.’ She added: ‘This is bigger than RTÉ. This is a decision that will have to be taken by the Department along with Government.’

Speaking to the Sunday Business Post about the strategy, Forbes said: ‘It’s part of our remit to provide orchestral services to this country and it would be an awful shame for that not to keep going, but this is bigger than RTÉ and we will wait and see what the review tells us.’

The review is expected to be published within the next month.

The strategy contains another reference to the orchestras in the form of a new children’s initiative: the station will partner with Creative Ireland ‘to develop and deliver an innovative national project that inspires children to respond creatively to great orchestral music’.

Financial challenges
The strategy also contains several references to the station’s financial difficulties. It states:

Underpinning this strategy, we have made some financial assumptions. We have assumed that the licence fee collection system will be reformed by Government within the next couple of years and that the reform will lead to increased public funding from 2019. We have assumed commercial growth each year across the five years. We have also committed to efficiencies through staff reductions, content and service changes, and other measures.

Without this combination of public funding reform, commercial growth and increased efficiencies, RTÉ will not be able to adapt for the future or return to financial stability, nor will it fulfil its remit or provide the scope of services it does currently.

For more on the strategy, see below, or visit http://www.rte.ie/strategy/

Published on 25 February 2018

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