Following the announcement on Thursday 30th of November of the cost cutting measures RTE are taking, including shutting down production of Fair City for two months, The Writers’ Guild of Ireland are gravely concerned to see that once again writers, who are low paid to begin with, are going to have their work and income further eroded.
Many of our members write for Fair City, RTE’s flagship soap opera, and all of the Fair City writing team are incredibly proud of the work that they produce, and the stories that the show brings into Irish people’s living rooms, four nights a week. The show has been on air for 34 years, creating stories and characters that have become part of the fabric of Irish society. RTE’s New Direction document mentions “ensuring that creative Irish talent gets the opportunity to have their work reach audiences” and aims to “increase original Irish drama to 60 hours per year by 2026” seemingly ignoring the fact that RTE already produces 100 hours of original, audience grabbing drama every year through Fair City.
And while we understand that drastic cuts have to be made, cutting the number of episodes, and the amount of work available to Irish writers seems directly at odds with this proposed commitment to creating more drama. In a time when the cost of living is rapidly increasing, writers on Fair City have not received a pay increase since 2008. At the same time, RTE negotiated a 6% pay increase in 2023 with the RTE Trade Union Group. These cuts will now mean an effective 16% cut to script fees that are already too low.
We are also concerned about the impact these cuts will have on the important role the show has in developing new creative talent, for writers, as well as other creative members of team like our colleagues in script editing and directing.
Through Minister Catherine Martin, this Government has been a great supporter of the arts, and the film and TV sector. We urge them now to do everything in their power to protect the livelihood of writers and to do everything within their power to lessen the impact these cuts will have on writers, without whom no RTE drama including Fair City, would exist.
On behalf of the board