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22nd Jun 2023

RTÉ admits ‘serious breach of trust’ over Tubridy’s overpayment scandal

Katy Thornton

Minister for Media Catherine Martin has said she is “extremely concerned” by the details which have come to light.

RTÉ has issued an apology after understating Ryan Tubridy’s annual earnings between 2017 and 2022.

The Irish public service broadcaster issued a statement from its board regarding the matter on Thursday (22 June). In it, the board says that during a routine audit of RTÉ’s 2022 accounts in March of this year, an issue was identified in relation to the transparency of certain payments.

As such, the Audit and Risk Committee of the RTÉ Board commissioned accounting company Grant Thornton to carry out an independent fact-finding review on the matter in question.

“The facts have been established. The review was completed, and findings [were] furnished to the Audit and Risk Committee of RTÉ on Friday last and discussed on Monday of this week by the Board of RTÉ,” the statement reads.

Confirming the matter related to payments made to Tubridy, the board listed a number of key points.

It says that back in early 2020, discussions commenced concerning the renewal of Tubridy’s presenter contract and that RTÉ was focused on reducing the fees paid to the broadcaster’s top 10 most highly paid on-air presenters by 15%.

Tubridy’s previously published remunerations for 2020 and 2021 showed that he earned €466,250 and €440,000 respectively across those years, which by 2021 appeared to represent an 11% reduction on his 2019 earnings.

“The review conducted by Grant Thornton concerned a separate agreement under which Mr. Tubridy was guaranteed by RTÉ an additional annual income of €75,000 which was intended to come from a commercial partner,” the statement reads.

“In making an agreement with the commercial partner, RTÉ concluded it on a cost neutral basis to the commercial partner, and the fee due to Mr. Tubridy was guaranteed and underwritten by RTÉ.

“Accordingly, under the terms of this agreement, a payment of €75,000 was received by Mr. Tubridy in July 2020 from a commercial partner, in exchange for a number of personal appearances a year.

“As part of this agreement, RTÉ in turn issued a credit note to the commercial partner thereby reducing the cost to it of its overall sponsorship arrangement with the organisation.”

However, the board states that the commercial partner did not renew this agreement for a second year and that, since the agreement was guaranteed and underwritten by RTÉ, the payments were instead made directly by the broadcaster to Tubridy’s agent on his behalf.

“Mr. Tubridy received two payments of €75,000 (totalling €150,000), each in 2022 (being a payment for 2021 and a payment for 2022). It was these payments that prompted the review by Grant Thornton,” it adds.

“These payments were recorded in the RTÉ Barter Account in 2022 at a value of €115,380 each.”

In addition to this, and following the furnishing of the findings of the Grant Thornton review, RTÉ is said to have carried out a review of Tubridy’s previously stated remunerations.

The board states that through this review, it was identified that Tubridy’s remuneration had been understated by RTÉ by a figure of €120,000 over the contract period of 2017-2019.

It adds that the circumstances that led to this understatement by the broadcaster are currently under examination.

The RTÉ Board has since corrected the public record in relation to Tubridy’s earnings from RTÉ between 2017 and 2022 to the following:

Earnings for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 were understated by a combined total of €120,000, while earnings for the years 2020-2022 were understated due to the payments which went through the barter account.

Based on the new information, Tubridy’s earnings were €545,000 in 2019 and €515,000 in 2021, representing an overall reduction of 5.5% in 2021 earnings compared to his 2019 earnings.

In a statement, Chair of the RTÉ Board Siún Ní Raghallaigh said:

“This is a matter of profound regret for the Board of RTÉ. We are well aware that this is a serious breach of trust with the public.

“On behalf of the Board, I wish to apologise for what has occurred. It is clear that RTÉ has fallen short of the high standards that it sets for itself and are expected of it.

“Once these issues came to light, we acted expeditiously to establish the facts and we are confident that the safeguards we have now put in place will ensure that nothing like this will happen again, and that good corporate governance is adhered to at all times.”

At the request of its board, RTÉ this week conducted an internal review of the reporting of the remuneration of its top 10 most highly paid on air presenters.

“This review has found that the full cost to RTÉ of its contracts with the other such on air presenters, has been correctly reported,” the board’s statement reads.

“The Board has now requested that Grant Thornton review the contracts of RTÉ’s top 10 most highly paid on air presenters to independently validate that all remuneration figures have been correctly stated and accounted for by RTÉ.

“Grant Thornton will also review the understatement by RTÉ of Mr. Tubridy’s published remuneration by €120,000 in the period 2017-2019.”

The RTÉ Board has said it is committed to “ensuring that there is appropriate accountability for what has occurred” and that it has “put steps in place to ensure there is no recurrence of these matters”.

Minister for Media Catherine Martin

Meanwhile, Minister for Media Catherine Martin issued her own statement on the matter, which reads:

“I am extremely concerned at the details which were contained in RTÉ’s statement today.

“I have spoken with the RTÉ Chairperson today, and have subsequently written to her requesting that she meet with me and officials of the Department. The meeting has been arranged for Monday.

“I have asked the Chair to set out in that meeting, in detail, the issues involved, the steps the Board is taking to deal with the matter, the follow on action that will be required, and the timeline for these actions.

“The public rightly expect much higher standards of transparency and accountability from Ireland’s Public Service Broadcaster. It is unacceptable that these have not been met.

“It will be critical for the Board to identify whether there are wider governance issues that need to be examined and addressed, and to ensure that there is appropriate accountability for what has occurred.

“It will be equally important for the Board to demonstrate that it is putting in place appropriate structures and processes to prevent a recurrence of a matter of this nature.”

This article originally appeared on JOE


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