Ireland: Broadcaster RTÉ reveals €337,000 spent on Nicky Byrne’s participation

Eyebrows are being raised in Ireland after national broadcaster RTÉ revealed it spent €337,000 on the Irish participation in Eurovision 2016. That is substantially more than what Ireland has spent in recent years — but RTÉ has a good excuse.

Details of the Irish spend for Eurovision 2016 were published following a Freedom of Information request made by the Irish Sun.

The amount of €337,000 is significantly more than the €254,000 RTÉ spent for Jedward’s participation in 2012. Back then, the spending was criticised. But it was also noted that costs were higher than average for 2012, due to the longer flights needed to travel to Baku and the limited choices in hotels.

RTÉ explained that their higher budget for 2016 was due to Nicky Byrne having been internally selected. The budget that would have normally gone to hosting the (already low-budget) national final Eurosong was instead allocated to the staging of the Irish entry, “Sunlight”.

The broadcaster also explained that “Nicky Byrne waived his performance fee in order to channel all available budgets into the stage production.”

But fans were left struggling to see where the budget went. When Nicky performed the song in Stockholm, his staging consisted of band members on raised platforms, and the same quality of LED graphics and lighting that all other acts had access to.

The staging of “Sunlight” compares poorly to the success of Jedward’s similarly low-budget staging for “Lipstick” in 2011. That managed to create one of the most iconic performances in Düsseldorf and earned Jedward the Marcel Benzençon Artist Award.

“Sunlight” placed only 15th in its semi-final, making it the third year in a row that Ireland missed out on the Eurovision final.

Part of Ireland’s 2016 expenses was the €88,472 Eurovision participation fee, which helps cover the expense of producing the show and gives RTÉ the exclusive rights to broadcast the popular television programme in Ireland.

Malta’s request denied

Irish journalists had better luck than their colleagues in Malta. A similar request made for details of PBS’s Eurovision 2016 spending was turned down last year by Malta’s Data Commissioner.

However, leaked documents suggested that the Malta delegation spent €108,264 on flights and accomodation, with expenses over €200,000. And this did not include any costs incurred for promotional activities prior to Stockholm, nor Ira Losco’s designer hologram coat, estimated at €60,000. One source estimated that the Maltese broadcaster spent well over  €1 million on Ira Losco’s bid for victory.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s RTÉ has again internally selected their act for Eurovision 2017. Under the guidance of X Factor UK judge Louis Walsh, former boy band singer Brendan Murray will sing “Dying to Try” for Ireland.