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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
David Young

Ryan Tubridy pay furore raises huge questions for RTE, says committee chair

PA Archive

The Ryan Tubridy pay controversy at RTE has raised huge questions about governance and accountability at Ireland’s national broadcaster, the chair of an influential parliamentary committee has said.

RTE apologised on Thursday after admitting Tubridy, its top earner and highest profile presenter, had been paid several hundred thousand euro more than it had previously declared.

In a statement, the RTE board said that between 2017 and 2022, Tubridy received a series of payments totalling 345,000 euros above his annual published salary.

Former Late Late Show host Tubridy, who continues to present a daily radio show on RTE Radio One, has said he was surprised to learn of errors in the broadcaster’s public statement about payments it had made to him.

He did not host his radio show on Friday morning, with comedian Oliver Callan stepping in.

Brian Stanley, chairman of the Oireachtas parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said the revelations were “shocking”.

Mr Stanley also called on outgoing RTE director-general Dee Forbes to answer questions on the furore.

He said any suggestion of RTE securing an increase to the licence fee is now “off the radar”.

Mr Stanley told RTE Radio One on Friday: “What I am scratching my head and wondering about is why did it take so long for it to come out in an internal audit?

Any talk of an increase in the licence fee in the current circumstances is completely off the radar
— Brian Stanley, Public Accounts Committee chairman

“This was going on for five years. And I think there is huge questions around governance and accountability.”

The Sinn Fein TD added: “I really feel sorry for the ordinary workers in RTE this morning and the journalists who have been endeavouring to do their best to bring a good service to the public and, by and large, they’ve done that, and some excellent work being done by Prime Time and other programmes on the channel.

“But here we have a situation at the top, unknown to all of those people down along the chain in RTE, unknown to Oireachtas, unknown to the Public Accounts Committee, and the very people who pay the licence fee and taxpayers money that goes into it not knowing anything about this.

“I’m just thinking about the public this morning who are waking up to this.

“You know that any talk of an increase in the licence fee in the current circumstances is completely off the radar. I don’t believe anybody would countenance it. What we need to see now is we need to see very upfront, 100% disclosure, not bits and pieces, not news management. This can’t come in dribs and drabs. We need people to come out that knew about this.”

Callan addressed the payments controversy as he opened the radio programme on Friday in Tubridy’s absence.

“It’s Friday – a bit of a weird Friday, I must concede,” he said.

“Clearly this is the last place I expected to be less than 24 hours ago, but here we are, and the reasons are fairly obvious, especially as I get to the review of the newspapers because the usual presenter of the show is the subject of every single front page.

“The wider media, it has to be said, do enjoy a good old RTE scandal – and boy did RTE whip up and serve a cool one for them with a flake on top and sprinkles of shambles.”

After encouraging listeners to contact the show with messages, Callan added: “We have a show for you and the ordinary decent staff of the programme have been working away as they always do very, very early in the morning.

“We’re all here to serve, and bear in mind they are at the receiving end of all those messages here and across the programmes today. It’s an RTE story, so on the one hand we could be accused of talking too much about ourselves, but if I ignored it this morning on this programme I’d be doing a disservice for you.”

After reading out newspaper headlines about the controversy, Callan added: “I’d say for everyone involved yesterday was like starring in a mini-private episode of Succession with the bombshells and the media chatter, phones buzzing, ‘who’s going to get the blame for this?’, and watching the thing about yourself on the news and television with a fresh pair of underpants within lunging distance, I’d imagine, for everyone concerned.”

The payments were uncovered after the broadcaster’s auditors alerted the board to some of the transactions.

Tubridy said he “can’t shed any light” on how the discrepancy had come about.

“Like many people, I’m surprised by the announcements made in RTE’s statement today regarding the errors in the reporting of its accounts,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“It is unfortunate that these errors are in relation to how RTE have reported payments made to me but I just want to be clear: this is a matter for RTE and I have no involvement in RTE’s internal accounting treatment or RTE’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 RTE treated these payments in the way that they did, nor can I answer for their mistakes in this regard.”

Management company NK Management, which represents Tubridy, said overpayments to the presenter are matters for which RTE has “sole responsibility and accountability”.

It added: “There is no issue whatsoever in relation to the payments being properly and lawfully due and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Ryan Tubridy or NK Management.”

Arts Minister Catherine Martin said she was “extremely concerned” at what has emerged and she will meet with RTE chairwoman Siun Ni Raghallaigh on Monday.

NUJ members at RTE were set for an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the controversy.

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