RTÉ spent 12 months investigating the possibility of relocating Lyric fm to University of Limerick, but shelved the plan when it discovered the move would have cost “more” than keeping Lyric at its current headquarters, at Cornmarket Square, a senior RTÉ source has told the Limerick Post.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the station told this newspaper that he could not confirm or release specific costs in response to claims that it will cost RTÉ between €700,000 and €1million to “dismantle” Lyric’s headquarters at Cornmarket Square.
RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes has announced plans to close the Lyric studios and split the station’s output from between its Cork and Dublin studios, as part of drastic cost-cutting measures at the national broadcaster.
A source at RTÉ told the Limerick Post that a move to the University of Limerick would “ultimately have cost more than remaining in Cornmarket Square”.
However, an official spokesperson for the station confirmed that they are no longer considering a move to UL.
“RTÉ will continue to provide a mid-west news service in Limerick, however we cannot comment on the location at this time,” they added.
The Limerick Post has learned that, over a 12-month period between 2017 and 2018, RTÉ “seriously considered” moving Lyric fm to the University Concert Hall.
A member of the station’s operations, technical and site crew “examined a number of buildings in UL” as part of this consideration.
“In late 2018, RTÉ did explore surrendering the Cornmarket Square studio and moving into the UL Concert Hall. A business solution, based on that proposition, was costed but it was found to be impractical.
“Ultimately the cost of the move when you apply commercial rental rates, which would be applied to such an arrangement, plus the cost of the fit-out, meant that, from RTE’s perspective the solution wasn’t viable,” the RTÉ source said.
Management in Donnybrook tasked an individual with “heading up the project in terms of leading the examination and assessment of the space”.
“It’s potentially not as black and white as RTÉ turning its nose up at what looks like a very generous offer. It was something that was explored and costed, but ultimately the decision taken primarily around costs, it wasn’t financially viable.”
RTÉ has successfully relocated a number of studio bases outside Dublin, including Galway (Hynes Building to GMIT), Athlone (Athlone IT), Dundalk (Dundalk IT) and Waterford (WIT).
The source said it was “far from the case” that RTÉ simply dismissed any potential partnership with UL to house Lyric fm.
They added there was “nothing negative” about its consideration of a potential partnership with UL.
A spokesperson for RTÉ responded that the figures in its analysis of costs for a proposed move to UL were “commercially sensitive and are not available”.
A UL spokesperson said: “No cost analysis, carried out by RTÉ was ever shared with University of Limerick so as to allow the plans to progress.”
“While initial commercial costs were identified, UL was not given the opportunity to consider any ways to mitigate RTE’s potential relocation costs.”
“Dr Fitzgerald’s offer to RTÉ remains in place and UL still believes that the co-location of Lyric FM on the campus would be advantageous to both organisations.”
“It would allow Limerick to continue to host this valued national radio station on a campus which also houses the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance,” the UL spokesperson added.
Meanwhile Limerick Labour Party TD, Jan O’Sullivan has called on RTÉ to immediately engage with UL to discuss Dr Fitzgerald’s offer to help secure the future of Lyric FM in Limerick.
“This is a genuine offer from the President of the University. Lyric already has close ties with UL as part of the huge cultural contribution the station makes to Limerick and the Mid-West.”
Deputy O’Sullivan has succeeded in getting agreement for a Dáil debate on the future of RTÉ this Thursday.
“I will be arguing strongly for RTÉ to be true to its public broadcasting remit for the whole country. They cannot just up-sticks and pull out of Limerick to save a tiny fraction of the overall budget.
“This is grossly unfair to staff working in the station who are based in Limerick and to the city that has embraced Lyric and supported the station for so many years,” Deputy O’Sullivan concluded.