One of Ireland’s best paid public employees, television and radio personality Pat Kenny, has left Irish state broadcaster RTE (Radio Teilifis Eireann).
Kenny, who at one point commanded salaries well in excess of a million dollars per annum, dominated front page headlines this week with the announcement of his move.
After years of declining salaries, Kenny said he would be join radio station Newstalk to avoid “being dull”.
While his radio work remained popular, Kenny earned the nickname of ‘the Plank’ for his stiff and cringe-inducing performances shows on the main television network, RTE 1.
The 65-year-old had been in contract negotiations made more difficult by continuing public anger over the exorbitant salaries paid to RTE staff, and the recent announcement that every household in the state will shortly face a new levy, the ‘broadcasting charge’, to pay for the network’s services.
The move not to continue Kenny’s contract represents a radical departure for Ireland’s state-run broadcaster, whose top celebrities have long enjoyed a status equivalent to Britain’s royal family. A handful of RTE TV and radio presenters have come to wield political significant influence in their own right while earning salaries of over half a million euro (650,000 dollars) per annum.
One of their biggest stars, Gerry Ryan, died three years ago as a result of cocaine and alcohol abuse, bringing a new focus onto the lifestyles of the RTE celebs.
The station said yesterday it had tried to retain Kenny as a presenter during “lengthy negotiations” but added that “unfortunately we could not come to an agreement”.
The presenter himself claimed he was looking forward to the move.
“I am relishing the challenge ahead and looking forward to a new chapter in my career, with the world of independent broadcasting, helping to develop Newstalk into the talk radio of choice for listeners countrywide,” he said.