‘Disgusted And Disappointed, But Not Surprised’


Damien Tiernan (left) and Jon Williams RTÉ’s managing director of news and current affairs


RTÉ’s former south-east correspondent for 23 years Damien Tiernan – who recently stepped down from his €90,000-a-year job at RTÉ, took redundancy and started working at Waterford’s WLR FM radio station – outlined the reasons he left the State broadcaster.

He told journalist Colette Sexton in The Sunday Business Post that he took redundancy mainly “due to frustration at not being able to get stories on air”.

Mr Tiernan added:

“All of the correspondents in RTÉ are constantly trying to get stories on air, but the system does not allow that to happen as [well] as it could. That needs to be improved and the frustration around that is certainly one of the reasons that I left RTÉ. I couldn’t see myself begging to get stories on air for the next 15 years.”

He claimed, in the early 2000s, RTÉ’s studio in Waterford produced an average of 220 TV and radio stories a year, but in the past seven years this had dropped to between 50 and 60 stories a year for RTÉ News.

In a statement to Ms Sexton, RTÉ said it “didn’t recognise” Mr Tiernan’s figures.

Mr Tiernan also said:

The depth of talent and skill and passion within RTÉ is enormous, and that creativity is stifled at so many levels. For a supposedly creative organisation, it doesn’t know how to develop that creativity to make people confident of the future.

“RTÉ is in a great process of change, like other media organisations. Everybody is grappling with the changes, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You don’t need to get in consultants. You just have to work with the talent you have and make people happy in their jobs.”

Following on from this interview in the Sunday Business Post, the managing director of RTÉ Jon Williams tweeted the article with the message:

Agree RTÉ has brilliant correspondents – which is a why we’ve just appointed new regional correspondents in Dundalk & Belfast. Odd definition of “slashing”. Wish @damienwlrfm every success in new role.

Mr Tiernan responded:

Am disgusted, disappointed but not surprised by RTÉ basically calling me a liar with my figures Jon; RTE does not recognise my figures because RTÉ doesn’t care enough to ask someone to count them. And you were forced re reappoint North East Corresponden by unions after ye tried to downgrade role.

If you want to get into a public spat with me bring it on but I have better things to do (like playing an over 35 soccer match); I love RTÉ more than you will ever know.

And one thing, the regional section on the website and app is a joke.

Mr Tiernan will begin hosting WLR FM’s two-hour live show Déise Today from 10am today.

Tiernan: slashing of regional coverage was why I left RTÉ (Colette Sexton, Sunday Business Post)

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28 thoughts on “‘Disgusted And Disappointed, But Not Surprised’

  1. Owen C

    “If you want to get into a public spat with me” he says, after starting a public spat with RTE….

  2. newsjustin

    Interesting. And fair play to him for apparently turning his back on a secure number on good money.

  3. Mel

    Damien doesn’t come across well here in my opinion. He sounds immature.
    I also hate when people use ‘ye’ it’s poor form for a journalist.

  4. jonsmoke

    is this really an issue for him or does he just want publicity for his new career on the ‘wireless?

  5. Eoin

    What’s the commercial rationale for the voluntary redundancy of RTE’s South East correspondent, 49-year old Damian Tiernan? Won’t RTE have to recruit a new correspondent with similar experience to cover stories in that part of the country? If Damian was paid €90,000 a year by RTE, how much did he collect in voluntary redundancy after 23 years of service? Why is RTE making huge losses again?

    1. Fact Checker

      A lot of the salaried regional correspondents tend to cover the stories in a very leaden style as if they were writing a sixth class book report.

      The freelance ones – Seán Mac an tSíthigh in west Kerry for example – often seem to put a lot more effort in.

  6. Hansel

    I think in general that outside the greater Dublin region, representation by the “national” media is a problem. Stories outside Dublin are as likely to be covered by foreign media as the “national” broadcaster in many cases.
    A simple one is that you’ll regularly hear about “O’Connell Street” etc without context, even though there’s a few big O’Connell streets in the country.
    Or for instance when an extreme weather event happens outside Dublin, it often is under-reported in news segments.

    I realise and understand completely that journalists will focus on what’s of most interest to them – their local concerns – and I also understand that Dublin has a very large portion of the population, but to it feels like the “national broadcaster” has poor coverage.

    1. Fact Checker

      There are fifteen Trafalgar Squares in England.

      If you were listening to the BBC and they mentioned ‘Trafalgar Square’, which one do you think they’d be talking about?

      1. Hansel

        Of course you’re right Fact Checker, but that just aids my point, the UK is extremely centralised also and it has ultimately led to great inequalities which are partly to blame for Brexit. I often read leave voters complaining about the “London” media.
        We’re literally repeating the mistakes they’re making.

        1. Fact Checker

          I look forward to your thesis on how instructing RTÉ journalists to always say “O’Connell Street, the-one-in-Dublin’ will have a meaningful impact on regional economic performance.

          1. Hansel

            I know your mention of a “thesis” was a simple glib comment, but I took the time to google it and it looks like there’s been some interesting research on this.
            The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 131, Issue 1, 1 February 2016, Pages 381–422

            In short, you can centralise government, but only to the point where voters still feel looked-after by those central resources, and there’s a “perfect” point where centralisation is efficient and voters feel like the government has their interests at heart.

            The central government is monitored mainly by the most informed regions and as a result it has better incentives than the average local government. At the same time, however, its incentives are to serve the informed and neglect the uninformed, so it must be forced to provide at least some public goods uniformly to avoid unacceptable distributive distortions.

            Here’s another interesting one that somewhat spins-off from the above:
            Voters support protectionism, because they learn more about the trade barriers that help them as producers than those that hurt them as consumers.
            In short, you want people to get lots of news reports about their industry and how the government agencies are working for them or else they’ll prefer more protectionist measures and tarriffs.

            Which (finally) is where Brexit becomes very much a case-in-point.

          2. Fact Checker

            I know plenty about regional economic performance.

            I just don’t think the needle can be moved much by how journalists refer to places.

            Btw, RTÉ actually has a staff member whose job it is to tell journalists how to pronounce obscure place names!

    2. Spaghetti Hoop

      That’s absolutely not true. I listen to a lot of radio, RTE and others, and it is very regional.

      The RTE news bulletins are generally very poor though. They follow very populist lines.

  7. John Jefferies

    Did Mr. Tiernan say anything about the level of bias on RTE news and current affairs coverage? Take the ongoing coverage of Venezuela for instance, RTE have equalled and surpassed the utter bias of the likes of Fox and CNN in their coverage and their almost complete exclusion of any voices opposing the US led, EU supported coup attempt. Coverage of the nurses dispute has been equally problematic with emphasis on “disruption of patients” rather than the nurse’s pay grievance and the haemorraging of nurses to other countries where they are better paid. It would be most interesting if some departing journalist or staffer could blow the lid on the omerta within RTE regarding its choice of news stories, choice of interviewees and the “line” of coverage of both international and domestic stories. Take today’s RTE online headlines for instance. Among the top stories we have crocodiles in Australia where they’re hardly in short supply. We also have a story about puppies rescued from a well (in Italy) which may tug at the heartstrings but is hardly a major news story. Earlier in the week we had relevant stories dropped for coverage of choirs looking for new members and fake US Superbowl merchandise in Atlanta.

  8. Paulus

    I didn’t realise the regional corrs were paid that well; I know they’re pretty much on call to cover tragedies, weather events etc…but still!

  9. dan

    So RTE were paying someone 90k a year to cover 1 to 2 stories a week. And Dee Dee wants her screen tax introduced so we can all pay those insane wages. Not a chance.

  10. Jake38

    Typical RTE news broadcast on a Sunday….

    Item 1) “The Minister for X has said…………………………..(this is after he said something previously on Marian Finucane or whatever.)

    Item 2) “Someone died in a car crash………………..(why do all deaths in car crashes merit reporting on the national news? Why not deaths from other causes? It’s a mystery.)

    Item 3) De GAA.

    That’s it.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      I do recall an RTE top-of-the-hour news bulletin reporting that [some Irish B-listing household name] was voted out of the next round of Strictly Go Dancing / Dancing with Ice or with Stars or whatever the hell it is. Nuts.

    2. Hansel

      Exactly, it’s very simple: they do a quick ring around the office, ask each of the departments what they’re at, and that’s the “national” news.
      If it snows in D4 then “the country is at a standstill”. Possibly with an OB from the gates outside the studio.

      The entire Bus Éireann service can shut down for weeks and it’s a footnote in RTE reporting.
      The intercity road can be shut down between Cork and Waterford for weeks and not be reported.
      The entire Air Traffic Control system outside Dublin can shut down and barely make the news.

      They are really really bad at covering things that don’t matter to D4.

  11. Johnny Keenan

    WTF! 60 news stories a year. That’s €1300 a story. I know it’s not calculated like that. It’s an indication though that RTE have no problem giving €90000 (of tax payers and license fee) a year to a regional journalist as long as they don’t have to listen to him.
    That’s why Waterford Whispers exist.

    1. Frilly Keane

      It’s also an indication of the spend RTÉ had in regional programming

      And more importantly
      Of their decision to de-vest from it.

      This unseemly spat is an indication of Montrose’s attitude to its non-Dublin audience.

      I personally would prefer to see them reverse that decision and create more opportunities for regional news and programming direct from regional locations, or outposts if you like.

      Under the assumption that 50% of their licence take is earned from outside Dublin; it makes sense – to me anyway, that we should expect them to allocate /match that contribution with a genuine committment to regional programming.

      Which In My Opinion is what they should be obliged to maintain.

      But that’s just me Johnny

      (btw I appreciate Damien opted for Voluntry Redundancy, and wish him well, he will be a significant loss to RTÉ)

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