‘From Mise Éire to Jenny Greene’ – Oireachtas Committee Discusses Future of RTÉ Orchestras
Representatives of RTÉ and members of the Oireachtas discussed the future of the national broadcaster’s two orchestras yesterday (10 October) at a committee meeting established by public petition.
The meeting follows a review in April that recommended that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra become part of the National Concert Hall. The RTÉ Concert Orchestra would remain in RTÉ.
The RTÉ NSO and the RTÉ CO are the only full-time orchestras in Ireland, but, due to cuts at RTÉ, the membership of the NSO has fallen from 81 to 68 players and the RTÉ CO from 45 to 40 players. The overall cost of the two orchestras in 2017 was just over €16m.
The representatives from RTÉ at the Oireachtas meeting included Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Head of RTÉ Lyric FM and RTÉ Orchestras; Rory Coveney, Special Advisor to the RTÉ Director-General; and Mathew Horsman from Mediatique (co-author of the orchestras review). The meeting was chaired by Seán Sherlock TD and included Deputies Shane Cassells, Martin Heydon, Denise Mitchell, Dara Murphy, Eugene Murphy and Brendan Ryan, and Senators Jerry Buttimer, Colette Kelleher and Diarmuid Wilson.
In his statement to the committee, Aodán Ó Dubhghaill referred to the financial difficulties that have led to cuts for the orchestras, and also the resulting low morale among orchestra members.
RTÉ has seen its total income decrease by c. €100m per annum (24%) between 2008 and 2016. Since 2016 commercial growth has been very modest and the TV Licence fee system remains unreformed….
While RTÉ orchestras have been relatively protected, their budget has declined by 11% in that period, much less than other areas of RTÉ output… we now have significant vacancies in our orchestras and have had to sharply reduce commitments to touring and educational activity. Morale within the orchestras has suffered, as indeed has the overall public value of our orchestral provision.
The review by Mediatique recommended a new model of funding for the NSO, within in the NCH, that would include broadcast fees from RTÉ, commercial revenue and a direct grant from Government.
In April, the Government and RTÉ both responded to the review and agreed that discussions would take place to progress the new arrangement. At the committee meeting, it was stated by Rory Coveney that while there has been contact between RTÉ and the Government departments, the terms of reference for the developments have not been agreed yet and there has been no formal meeting.
Several deputies stated that there was strong support for the continuation of the orchestras, particularly because they are they only two full-time orchestras in the Republic of Ireland and make a broad contribution to musical life
Seán Sherlock TD concluded the meeting, saying:
From Mise Éire right up to Jenny Greene… if you’re taking about cultural output, there is a clear thread… and the tie that binds them are the orchestras.
Read Aodán Ó Dubhghaill’s full statement below. In the following video, the discussion starts at 20:50.