The national broadcasting service, RÚV, fired 60 employees yesterday, sparking public protest directed both at broadcasting management and parliament.
According to a press release from RÚV, the firings were prompted by a bill from the parliamentary Budget Committee, which proposes cutting funding to RÚV by 500 million ISK. Páll Magnússon, the director of RÚV, says budget cuts will also mean that “some programming on radio and television will be dropped, other programmes will be shortened, and others will be changed or thinned out. News spots will also be reduced [in frequency] and shortened.”
The news of the firings sparked protests, with over 1,600 joining a Facebook group which criticised both parliament for the cuts and RÚV management for the firings, in addition to “tremendous wage differences within RÚV, and a lack of respect for experienced, educated and dedicated employees.”
Of those who joined the group, hundreds assembled at RÚV offices, forming a ring around the building while Páll met with employees.
Páll spoke to reporters at the meeting’s end, which he described as “a difficult meeting about a difficult decision.”
The director re-iterated that the firings were due to proposed budget cuts, explaining that while RÚV has been able to reduce operational costs over the years, they had left programming costs untouched. He also said that those fired will not be hired back so long as the proposed cuts remain.
The news of the firings also brought to mind the words of Progressive MP Vigdís Hauksdóttir, who is also the chairperson of the Budget Committee. Last August, Vigdís told radio station Bylgjan that she was less than satisfied with how RÚV operates.
“I am of course in this budget streamlining group, and it covers everything,” she said at the time. “I think an unnatural amount of money goes to RÚV. Especially when they don’t do a better job at reporting the news. They are fond of a particular platform, and lean to the Left. Everyone who wants to see that can see it. I assure you this is true, and can confirm it whenever and wherever that [RÚV] is very pro-EU.”
At the time, Vigdís’ words were taken as a not-so-thinly veiled threat to make severe cuts to RÚV. She denied that she was making any threats about RÚV, contending that her remarks were taken out of context and that she was only speaking for herself personally; not as chairperson of the Budget Committee.
The Budget Committee’s proposal has not yet been approved by parliament – it still needs to be debated on the parliamentary floor and fine-tuned in committee, a process that could take weeks or even months.