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RTÉ freeze recruitment and funds amid ‘uncertainty over interim funding’

RTÉ

RTÉ freeze recruitment and funds amid ‘uncertainty over interim funding’

In an email to RTÉ staff today ahead of his appearance at the ILT/RTÉ Board Joint Oireachtas Committee today Director-General of RTÉ, Kevin Bakhurst stated there would be changes implemented to how RTÉ operates as viewers desert the broadcaster following a payment scandal that saw former The Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy leave the broadcaster as he became the highest profile personality to have been paid more than RTÉ public financial statements listed.

In late March of this year during a routine audit of RTÉ’s 2022 accounts, an issue was identified in relation to the transparency of certain payments. The broadcaster which is Ireland’s equivalent of the BBC – although has a mix of commercial advertising and a licence fee – have noted that on finding the financial concerns they commissioned Grant Thornton to carry out an independent fact-finding review on the matter in question.

Ryan was rolling in more dosh than viewers knew about, partly paid for by a public licence fee tax in Ireland

The matter in question concerns payments made to presenter Ryan Tubridy who hosted, until June this year The Late Late Show for RTÉ One television as well as a radio programme for the organisation. Official published wages of Tubridy from RTÉ turned out to be inaccurate with the presenter paid far more between 2017 and 2022.

RTÉ, like many public media organisations across Europe, is dual funded, meaning it relies on income from the licence fee and commercial activity to sustain its public services. Licence fee income represents c. 55% of RTÉ’s total income, with the balance coming from commercial activities. RTÉ’s dual funded model was recently reaffirmed by the Future of Media Commission.

Because RTÉ is dual funded, RTÉ’s commercial activities are restricted by statute and Ministerial decision. RTÉ is permitted approximately half the commercial airtime (on both radio and TV) of independent/commercial broadcasters.

Viewers are deserting RTÉ following the scandal

Director-General of RTÉ, Kevin Bakhurst, in an email to staff of the broadcaster, today stated that there would be a ‘ recruitment freeze’ for the foreseeable future as well as a halt to ‘discretionary spending’ to save cash. Viewers have been cancelling their licence fee payments since the scandal hit, along with a decline in ratings.

“I will be confirming that we are introducing a recruitment freeze with immediate effect and stopping all discretionary spend to preserve cash whilst we get clarity on our financial position in going forward. I regret having to do this as it will impact on our coverage and on our investment in equipment and our digital plans. However, given the steep fall in the licence fee and the uncertainty over interim funding, it is the only responsible thing that we can do.

“I hope we will have more clarity over interim funding in the coming days and weeks and of course I will update you in more detail when I can, but I wanted to share this with you in advance of speaking in a public forum.”

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