RTÉ NSO's Move to the NCH

The Sunday Business Post reports that RTÉ do not think they will make a saving of €8million euro or anything close to it upon the move of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) to the National Concert Hall (NCH) next year. However, the independent report from Helen Boaden and Mediatique commissioned by RTÉ begs to differ. The report details a partnership with the government and RTÉ in the running and funding of the NSO as an independent organisation (or part of the the NCH). The Boaden report outlined seven options open to RTÉ and the government, with the government agreeing to move the NSO to the NCH in 2021, however it looks like they will not partner with RTÉ as report suggested it should.

The 2018 annual report from RTÉ shows that the RTÉ music groups brought in €2.9m in revenue. RTÉ have yet to publish their 2019 annual report. The Boaden report suggests that the NSO brought in around €1.1 million in revenue in 2016, and cost the broadcaster €7.2m the same year.

According to the 2018 annual report from RTÉ the preforming groups had 207 performances in 2018, with the NSO making 79 of those, or the potential of €1.1million in revenue in 2018 also.

The total costs of RTÉ's performing groups came to €15.1m in 2018, of which €12.8m was provide to them from the Television License Fee.

The Boden Report outlines several options for the RTÉ performing groups:-

  1. The merger of both the NSO and NCO with a saving of €2m.
  2. The closure of both the NSO and NCO with a saving of €10m.
  3. The closure of the NSO with a saving of €6m.
  4. The closure of the NCO with a saving of €2.4m.
  5. No change with no savings.
  6. RTÉ increasing funding from the license fee by €1.5m.
  7. Make NSO Independent saving €2.5m (A co-governance option between the Department of Arts and RTÉ)

It seems as if the seventh option was taken by the government until you being to read the Boaden Report.

It says "NSO’s organisational independence and assumption of responsibility for its own future allows freedom of direction. Government involvement ensures wider stakeholder support, but also potentially leaves the NSO at the whim of future Gov’t spending decisions. RTÉCO revitalised with a clearer role in RTÉ’s broadcasting strategy. Broadcasting delivery safeguarded across both orchestras."

This is at a cost of €4.1m to the government, and provides a relationship between RTÉ and the NSO, including payment of broadcast rights and RTÉ to be on the board of the NSO taking on a governance roll.

However, it seems that the government have decided to fully fund the NSO via the NCH, with no RTÉ commitments towards broadcasting and no say in the organisation's governance.

Based on both Budget 2021 and the Boaden report RTÉ will make a saving in the region of €6m in 2021 (much like option 3 of the report) and the NSO will gain an extra €1,800,000 in direct funding from the government, bring funding to €8m plus any ticket sales when live performances return to venues.

The Boaden Report advised: -

1. A scenario where the NSO is independent of RTÉ does not mean the connections between both are severed. Careful co-ordination between RTÉ and the NSO and in all dealings with the NCH to ensure co-ordination of programming, performances and broadcasting.

2. An oversight body on which RTÉ is represented, responsible for the operations of the independent NSO. The broadcasting contract would be fixed for multiple years to ensure funding security and would need to be kept out of the regular cycles of funding review by the BAI.

3. It cautioned against funneling these contributions through the Arts Council, a key funder of non-RTÉ orchestral music. They felt that the significant funding of the NSO might "risk unbalancing the Arts Council’s overall remit".

However, it looks as if the Department has chosen to merge the NSO with the NCH with no relationship with RTÉ, however they are not funding the organisation via the Arts Council as advised in the report.

2018 RTÉ Preforming Group Costs as per RTÉ Annual Report 2018.

Total Cost €15,661,000
Commerical Sales €2,910,000
Licence Fee €12,751,000