General News / June 28, 2023

A Brief Explainer On The RTÉ Payments Scandal

General News / June 28, 2023

A Brief Explainer On The RTÉ Payments Scandal

Words: Dylan Murphy

RTÉ and Ryan Tubridy are the centre of ongoing controversy around undisclosed payments which is undermining any of the broadcaster’s remaining credibility.

The simple answer to what the hell is going on is, Ryan Tubridy received €345,000 more than was disclosed by RTÉ over the course of six years.

This is a particularly tense issue because RTÉ publishes the earnings of its top earners every year and had previously stated that the former Late Late host earned €2.8 million between 2017 and 2022, when in reality the actual figure was more than €3 million. It’s even more infuriating for the public given 55 per cent of RTÉ’s income, around €200 million every year, is publicly funded through a licence fee.

What happened?

Tubridy stepped down from hosting the Late Late Show in March. In the same month, internal auditors uncovered issues around payments. Subsequently, external auditors Grant Thorton were hired to undertake an independent review.

Following the review, RTÉ released a statement on Thursday 22 June noting that between 2017 and 2022, Ryan Tubridy received €345,000 more than his annual published salary. A review found that RTÉ had guaranteed Tubridy an additional €75,000 a year which was intended to come from a commercial partner. However, after one year the commercial partner did not renew the agreement and RTÉ paid the fees in 2021 and 2022, subsequently resulting in the Grant Thorton review.

In a statement, Tubridy said, “Like many people, I’m surprised by the announcements made in RTÉ’s statement today regarding the errors in the reporting of its accounts.

“It is unfortunate that these errors are in relation to how RTÉ have reported payments made to me but I just want to be clear: this is a matter for RTÉ and I have no involvement in RTÉ’s internal accounting treatment or RTÉ’s public declarations in connection with such payments.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed to be at the centre of this story but unfortunately, I can’t shed any light on why RTÉ treated these payments in the way that they did nor can I answer for their mistakes in this regard.”

In the same statement released last Thursday, RTÉ revealed an internal review found that from 2017 top 2019 there was a further €120,000 in undisclosed payments.

Other presenters reveal salaries

On Friday 23 June, it was confirmed that RTÉ General Director Dee Forbes had been suspended on Wednesday 21 June before she resigned on Monday 26 June. Following this, a number of the broadcaster’s presenters revealed their salaries in the interest of transparency. Claire Byrne, Joe Duffy, Miriam O’Callaghan and Ray D’Arcy came out and stated their pay deals whilst sharing their disappointment at the situation.

Dee Forbes would not be attending Wednesday’s hearing in the Oireachtas Media Committee and Public Accounts Committee for health reasons. Since then, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on her to appear in the interest of accountability and transparency.

Yesterday, RTÉ cancelled an event for staff on July 7 and staff members protested outside.

Insufficient statements

Last night, RTÉ released a lengthy nine page statement on the €225,000 in hidden payments to presenter Ryan Tubridy between 2020-2022, but did not explain why Tubridy’s salary was underreported from 2017-2019. The statement that followed last night from the broadcaster said “there was no illegality and payments were made pursuant to an agreed contract” and in the “responsibility” section interim deputy director general Adrian Lynch said “no member of the RTÉ Executive Board, other than the Director General, had all the necessary information in order to understand that the publicly declared figures for Ryan Tubridy could have been wrong”. 

However, RTÉ did not say how or why Tubridy’s salary was under-reported from 2017 to 2019. Moreover, there’s no clarity as to why they chose to guarantee the €75,000 payments from a commercial partner or why the agreement existed in the first place.

Today, four members of the RTÉ Executive Board are attending Oireachtas Committee on Media about payments made to presenter Ryan Tubridy. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the government does not believe it is credible that the former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes was the only person with knowledge of payments to Ryan Tubridy.

The next logical place to turn attention towards would be the currently unknown payment terms of the new Late Late Show host Patrick Kielty.

Elsewhere on District: Ireland Has The Highest Prices In The EU.