RTÉ has confirmed that it is to avail of the Government's Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme due to the severe impact on both commercial and TV Licence revenue caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a bulletin to staff, Director-General Dee Forbes forecasts that revenue from both sources could collapse by 25-35% this year.

Ms Forbes outlined various changes in operations to ensure continuity of key services, and said there have been large increases in audiences across every demographic since the pandemic began.

While the broadcaster is doing everything it can to minimise the impact of the pandemic, Ms Forbes said there has been a sharp reduction in advertising spend particularly on television, and that the outlook for the remainder of the year is very unclear.

She also noted that licence fee revenue has also been heavily impacted, especially as many people cannot travel to the Post Office.

"With both revenue streams seeing large declines, we are forecasting that these revenues could be reduced by 25% - 35% for the year," Ms Forbes said. 

She outlined measures taken to respond to the fall in income, describing them as the first in what will inevitably be a series of responses to the current crisis and to the changed economic realities that will come in its wake.

They include a 10% pay reduction for the executive board, a 15% cut in top talent fees, a pay freeze across the organisation since 1 January, and cessation of all but essential recruitment and contractual employment.

The broadcaster has also asked staff to use 50% of their annual leave entitlement before the end of June where possible, and has cut or deferred productions, both independent and in house, primarily in sport and drama.

RTÉ has also deferred all but essential capital expenditure, and put in place working capital borrowing facilities.

Ms Forbes acknowledged that while these measures are significant, they will not in themselves close the gap between costs and revenues, and said it is inevitable that additional measures will be required in the weeks and months ahead as the crisis evolves and the economic outlook becomes clearer.

She confirmed that RTÉ is engaged in "high level dialogue" with the Government on a range of issues including the public health crisis, additional emergency measures and longer term structural reforms to sustain public broadcasting beyond the crisis.

In a statement, the RTÉ Trade Union Group said the company had informed unions yesterday that it was intending to avail of the scheme for certain employees for a period of ten weeks.

It said RTÉ had indicated that the subsidy would be calculated based on average weekly pay during the months of January and February.

Under the scheme, the Government subsidises to varying degrees the pay of workers earning up to €76,000 - but the employer may top up the employees' pay up to a maximum of 100% of average net weekly pay.

The TUG said RTÉ had confirmed that it will top up all participating employees "to the maximum".

The TUG said: "The subsidy payment is not subject to tax at the point of payment but Revenue have confirmed that this payment is a taxable benefit and will be taxable later in the year."

It said it is awaiting further guidance from Revenue on how this will work.

The TUG advised all members participating in the subsidy scheme to contact their local tax office for advice on how to adjust tax credits to reflect the scheme payment and avoid a tax liability later in the year.