THE Irish Government has today confirmed that two separate reviews of the state broadcaster RTÉ will be undertaken following the unreported payments scandal which has engulfed the organisation in recent weeks.
On June 22 it was revealed that the publicly funded broadcaster had failed to fully declare payments made to the outgoing Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy.
The RTÉ Board confirmed the broadcaster had paid Mr Tubridy €345,000 more than it had previously declared – an issue it had uncovered in March during a routine account audit.
According to the board, RTÉ understated Mr Tubridy’s earnings from 2017-19 by €120,000, while it failed to declare three subsequent payments of €75,000 each.
Mr Tubridy, who denied any wrongdoing, said the issue was ‘a matter for RTÉ’ but later added that he should have questioned the difference between his payments and what RTÉ had claimed he earned.
On June 21, a day prior to the statement made by the Board, Dee Forbes, Director General of RTÉ, was suspended.
In the days that followed the revelation Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed “a serious breach of trust and truth” had occurred “between RTÉ and the Government, the Oireachtas and the people”.
Catherine Martin, Minster for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, said the revelations had “caused untold damage to RTÉ’s reputation”, and committed to an independent review being undertaken into the governance and culture at RTÉ.
Today Minister Martin published the “terms of reference of an independent examination of RTÉ”, while confirming the appointment of “two Expert Advisory Committees, composed of experts in their field, to oversee the two different strands of this examination”.
The examination will be supported by professional services firms engaged by the Minister’s department, she added.
“The first words spoken on Teilifís Éireann sixty-three years ago were on the potential for the new service to present the good and the true, and to instil vigour and confidence in the people of Ireland,” Minister Martin said today.
“Since that time, public service broadcasting in Ireland has, when it is at its very best, fulfilled that potential.
“RTÉ has provided a space whose foundations rest on a trust built by the staff of public service broadcasters over generations, a trust that is not only one between a broadcaster and its audience, but between a national institution and the people of this country.
“This trust can only be sustained if the common good prevails over individual interest, and if public service broadcasters truly demonstrate ‘the character of a public service’, as set out and as they are required to do under our Broadcasting legislation.
“That is why the revelations of over almost two weeks have been so shattering – they have been an affront to everything that public service broadcasting is meant to stand for,” she added.
“In failing to abide by the standards required of a public service broadcaster, RTÉ has lost the trust of the people and of its own staff.
“Our job as Government is to help rebuild that trust.”
Ms Martin went on to confirm that a “wide-ranging and comprehensive examination of the fundamental causes of the failures in RTÉ, one that also charts a clear path to prevent their recurrence” would now take place, in the form of two separate reviews.
The first review will “examine and make recommendations on the measures necessary to build stronger governance structures and to reform the organisational culture in RTÉ”, Ms Martin explained.
This review will be overseen by Professor Niamh Brennan, Dr Margaret Cullen and a third person who will be appointed in the coming days.
The second review will “examine how external RTÉ contractors are engaged, the fees paid and a number of important HR matters, with a particular focus on gender equality, diversity and inclusion and including issues that have been raised with me by RTÉ staff representative bodies”, Ms Martin added.
This review will be overseen by Brendan McGinty, Patricia King and a third person, who will also be appointed in the coming days.
Ms Martin expects to receive the final report of the reviews within six months of their start date, she adds, with interim reports due to be “submitted as required”.
The Culture Minister will also be appointing a “forensic accountant to examine the books or other records of account of RTÉ in respect of any financial year or other period”.
This will initially direct its focus on the barter account and address any other off-balance sheet accounts, she confirmed.
On Friday, July 7, Ms Martin will meet the incoming RTÉ Director-General Kevin Bakhurst and Chair of the Board of RTÉ Siún Ní Raghallaigh to discuss how the broadcaster will cooperate with the preparation of reviews and the immediate next steps they will be taking on their part.
“The measures I have announced today are the beginning of the process of restoring trust in RTÉ and to ensuring that it, once again, shows that it has ‘character of a public service’,” Ms Martin added.
“I am confident that it will be successful if all those involved show the dedication to the truth that is the mark of public service broadcasting at its best.”