Top 10 RTE presenters’ pay to be published each year as Bakhurst promises reform

The new RTE director general called the revelations in recent weeks ‘one of the most shameful’ episodes in its history.

By Grinne N. Aodha
Wednesday 12 July 2023 22:30 BST
New RTE director general Kevin Bakhurst speaks to the media outside the broadcaster’s headquarters in Donnybrook, Dublin. Picture date: Monday July 10, 2023.
New RTE director general Kevin Bakhurst speaks to the media outside the broadcaster’s headquarters in Donnybrook, Dublin. Picture date: Monday July 10, 2023. (PA Wire)

The new director general of RTE has said that top earners’ salaries will now be published annually, after what he called “one of the most shameful” moments in the broadcaster’s history.

On his fourth day in the job, Kevin Bakhurst will tell TDs that it was “completely unacceptable” that the public and politicians were misled.

Mr Bakhurst is to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts on Thursday morning in what will be the sixth committee appearance over governance and finance issues at RTE within three weeks.

A number of probes have been launched into Ireland’s public service broadcaster, prompted after it said it had underdeclared its star presenter Ryan Tubridy’s earnings by 345,000 euro (£295,000) from the years 2017 to 2022.

Auditors at Grant Thornton are investigating whether Ryan Tubridy’s earnings were underdeclared by 120,000 euro from 2017 to 2019; but in an extraordinary back-to-back committee appearance on Tuesday, Tubridy said that this misreporting was due to how RTE had logged a loyalty fee he had waived.

The crisis at the broadcaster has widened beyond Tubridy’s pay to RTE’s internal financial, accounting and governance practices and its expenditure on corporate hospitality for advertising clients.

The Government has launched two external reviews into RTE, has announced a forensic accountant Mazars to look into RTE’s barter account, and has paused discussions on a new long-term funding arrangement.

At a protest held outside RTE offices on Wednesday, staff expressed concern that the fallout from the controversy could lead to a drop in commercial revenues from advertising and fewer people paying the obligatory TV licence fee.

Mr Bakhurst, who stood down RTE’s executive leadership board on Monday as he vowed to restore people’s trust in Ireland’s public service broadcaster, is to tell TDs on Thursday that the controversy is “one of the most shameful and damaging episodes in the organisation’s history”.

He will also commit to publishing the pay of the executives on his permanent “leadership team” annually, along with the top 10 presenters’ pay in RTE’s annual report.

A Grant Thornton report examining the fees paid to RTE’s top 10 earners for each year back to 2010, which has also been submitted to TDs, has “validated” the published figures for the other nine earners, Mr Bakhurst will say.

Mr Bakhurst will also state that RTE should not be “brokering or facilitating” commercial arrangements with its contractors, and that the level of fees in these contracts “are too high”.

“I am absolutely determined to implement the change and reform which will help us draw a line under this shameful period in RTE’s history and to rebuild trust in public service broadcasting,” he is to tell TDs.

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