RTÉ Staff have been warned that cash reserves will be depleted in two years unless dramatic action is taken to pull its operational deficit back from the brink.

An external financial review of the station's fiscal health was carried out to see if the 2009 pay cuts could be reversed. But its findings instead showed that the station is set to lose about €30m this year based on current budget projections.

According to Montrose sources, staff were told at a heated meeting on Friday that the station could only sustain current losses for another two years. They were told: "The way things are going, if RTÉ's figures were to continue like this, the station's cash reserves would be depleted in two years."

However, sources stressed the station would never be allowed to go broke. Demands have been made in some quarters that the station's highest-paid stars, who earn hundreds of thousands of euro a year, should be forced to take significant wage reductions of up to 30%.

A deficit of €5m for 2010 is expected to be revealed when the annual report is published in March.

But it's a far more serious situation for this year, with €30m in losses anticipated because of a recent restructuring of the licence fee and record lows in advertising revenue.

Only further severe pay cuts, redundancies or a slashing of programme budgets can get the station back on course, sources have said, although further cuts to salaries will not be tolerated by unions.

Total income at the station is projected at €363m this year but the projected operational cost will be significantly more. RTÉ, by law, cannot operate at a loss.

Staff are now bracing themselves for further cost-saving measures this year although how they are imposed will depend on the incoming director general Noel Curran.

Cathal Goan is understood to be stepping down next month.

A spokeswomen for the station said: "2011 will be a very challenging year for RTÉ as with other media organisations."