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RTÉ still paying rent on empty London offices

Presenter Sharon Ní Bheoláin in the RTÉ newsroom in Dublin
Presenter Sharon Ní Bheoláin in the RTÉ newsroom in Dublin

RTÉ has run up a £55,000 bill on empty London offices since closing down its British operation, according to media reports in Ireland.

In the nine months since the London bureau filed its final report, the broadcaster has found no new tenants and faces further costs as it still has the lease on the property.

The news marks the re-emergence of a sensitive subject for Britain’s Irish community, which was left stunned by RTÉ’s announcement in March 2012 that it would pull out of Britain entirely, despite it being home to almost 500,000 Irish-born people.

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The broadcaster argued that the move was a necessary part of its bid to tackle a £50million deficit.

Brian O’Connell, RTÉ’s former London Editor, told The Irish Post he was “surprised” to learn the national broadcaster has failed to find a new tenant for the building because rent was identified by RTÉ as one of main areas of potential savings.

Mr O’Connell said the broadcaster had not attempted to cut costs by sacking staff as four of the London bureau’s five staff were offered new jobs in Dublin, but instead targeted “operational costs”.

“It is surprising to me that the office is still empty after nine months because the initial objective of closure was to save money on the cost of running that office,” he said.

“So it is certainly surprising to me that after this length of time the office is standing empty, RTÉ is still paying the rent and it is not being sub-let.”

Although Mr O’Connell said he did not know the rental costs of the 1,600sq ft office, he confirmed that its Westminster location was a “very expensive part of town”.

A national newspaper in Ireland reported this week that £65,000 was a “conservative estimate” of RTÉ’s rent costs for the past nine months given by “sources within the television industry”.

At current exchange rates, that equates to a £55,500 bill for the empty building that had served as RTÉ’s London base since 1992.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster declined to comment on the estimate or provide the actual figure “for reasons of commercial sensitivity”, but confirmed that RTÉ still owns the lease on its former premises.

She also refused to confirm newspaper claims that another year remains on the lease, but said that breaking the contract would not be “cost-effective”.

“We remain very optimistic that an agreement with a new tenant will be finalised in the coming weeks,” the spokeswoman added.

“RTÉ is happy to reassure that, with the imminent sub-let, in addition to the savings on staff and running costs, full savings have been achieved.”

Asked whether RTÉ was planning to re-open a London bureau, she said: “The option of a London office remains under regular review, but there is nothing further to announce at this point.”

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Niall O Sullivan
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Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter

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