The Director General of RTÉ has said if a ballot is not passed by staff on proposed pay cuts at the public service broadcaster, she believes the issue will be "back around the table again and probably at the industrial relations tribunal".

Speaking on RTÉ's The Business programme, Dee Forbes said that in 2019 they outlined their vision for the public broadcaster future's and how to be sustainable, which is dependent on three things. 

"It really depends on us stablilising and increasing revenue, increased public funding but also us reducing our cost base," she said.

Ms Forbes said they have committed to reducing the cost base by €60 million over a three-year period and staff is part of that.

"It is not the biggest piece, it is about 15%," she said, adding that pay cuts on their own are not going to sustain the organisation.

The proposal on the table is a two-year deal, Ms Forbes said. 

"Across that two-year period we have to work very very hard to ensure the way we are working and adapting as an organisation is future-proofed."

She said if the ballot passes a working group would be in place to work through a lot of issues. 

"I think that is a core thing here, there is a working group to tackle a number of things."

One of those issues, she said, is grades in RTÉ, with over 160 grades. She said they need to be simplified.

She said RTÉ has been agile and had to adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic and those learnings need to be taken into the future. 

"Lets be candid, since I've come in to organisation we have been on a project of transformation and making it future-proofed."

Ms Forbes also said the future strategy outlined in 2019 is "very much in play", despite Covid-19 arriving one year later and everything being "thrown up in the air". 

She said the method for funding public broadcasting is the license fee and acknowledged the widespread view it is no longer fit for purpose. 

"There is €50 million being lost to the Irish creative sector through non-collection or evasion each year. We have and continued to ensure that message is out there."

She defended the target of €121 million of commercial revenue for 2021.

Ms Forbes said while last year was better for revenue than expected, being back in lockdown again has meant a very difficult first couple of months.

She said there were some very ambitious plans to diversify revenue which has not been possible. 

"We had plans to take our brands and make them events that people could see but all these was put on hold because of Covid."

Audiences have been incredibly strong during the pandemic and continue to be, Ms Forbes said, adding that "advertisers are coming to us because we have premium Irish content and offering big audiences. So it is on the up."

She said their hope with the Media Commission, which was put in place to tackle funding, is for a "clear roadmap" on the funding of public broadcasting and a plan too for the rest of media in Ireland.

Addressing RTÉ's voluntary exit plan, she said it is about "reorganising ourselves with less staff."

She said the money from the sale of the RTÉ land has to be ringfenced to firstly reduce debt, secondly for exits and thirdly for capital. 

"Capital is probably one of the most under-invested areas in this organisation. It is an old, ageing infrastructure. The majority will go on capital." 

She said whether it is a new newsroom or studio it will be about improving quality for great output for the audience. 

All the reviews of RTÉ by numerous independent bodies over recent years state to fulfill its requirements it needs more funding, Ms Forbes said. 

Addressing the ongoing commentary on various things in RTÉ, including the salaries of top earners, she said: "What is being shown over the last number of years is those costs are coming down. Our top earners have taken a 15% cut, the executive board have taken a 10% cut, some 20%."