‘Lyric has a role in the culture and musical life of Ireland’ – Lyric FM Staff Want Proper Consideration of Station’s Future in New Report
Following the statement yesterday by RTÉ to defer the decision to close the Lyric FM studios in Limerick, staff of the station have said they now want proper consideration of the station’s role in Irish musical life and in public service broadcasting.
The government announced on Tuesday (10 Dec.) that it is setting up a new commission on public service broadcasting to chart a path for the next ten years. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar requested that RTÉ defer its decision to close the Lyric FM studios in Limerick until after that commission delivers its report in September 2020. Yesterday, the Director General of RTÉ Dee Forbes said, ‘Both the Chair and I had the opportunity today to discuss the matter and agreed that RTÉ can accede to the Government’s request.’ Part of the new commission’s work is to consider ‘how [public service broadcasting] should contribute to supporting Ireland’s cultural and creative sectors.’
Forbes and management staff of the station appeared before an Oireachtas Communications Committee meeting yesterday. Despite requests from several TDS and Senators they were unable to provide detail on financial savings from closing the Lyric studios. The staff have repeatedly argued that no costings have been provided explaining why the studios should be closed.
Eoin Brady, a producer with RTÉ Lyric FM, told the Journal of Music today (12 Dec.) that while the staff are relieved that the decision has been deferred, they now want the station’s role in Irish music and culture to ‘form a part of the report’.
Our reaction would be that we hope that the future of Lyric is now articulated and considered in an informed way…. Lyric has a role in the culture and musical life of Ireland and any decision about Lyric should be made bearing that in mind and its role in public service broadcasting.
TDs and Senators repeatedly focused on the issue of Lyric FM at the Oireachtas meeting on Tuesday. Senator Paul Gavan of Sinn Féin said he was ‘completely perplexed’ that no detail had been provided on the proposed savings. Deputy Timmy Dooley of Fianna Fáil said that the station is already cost-effective and that ‘the business case stands up… it makes absolute and appropriate sense that Lyric would be retained in Limerick’. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett of Solidarity – People Before Profit said Lyric ‘is a unique guardian of music, culture, original music, new music… it brings music that isn’t heard by a mass audience to a mass audience… it would be incredibly retrograde to even consider winding it down.’
Forbes said that the decision to close the Lyric studios in Limerick was part of a wider cost-cutting plan and that ‘the level of financial crisis we’re in … means taking lots of half-a-millions or four hundred thousands from various places to come up with an overall number.’ RTÉ recently published a new strategy that seeks to reduce costs by €60m over three years, including a headcount reduction of 200 next year.