No plans for Tubridy to return to presenting role, RTE says

Director general Kevin Bakhurst said trust between the two parties had broken down.

Jonathan McCambridge
Thursday 17 August 2023 21:47 BST
Ryan Tubridy is a former host of the Late, Late Show (Niall Carson/PA)
Ryan Tubridy is a former host of the Late, Late Show (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Wire)

RTE has announced there are no plans for Ryan Tubridy to return to his presenting role at the Irish national broadcaster following a controversy over the under-declaration of his salary.

Director-general Kevin Bakhurst said negotiations with Tubridy about returning to his radio show had concluded after stating that trust between the parties had “broken down”, but added the “door is still open” for a future return.

Mr Bakhurst said he was “particularly disappointed” with Tubridy’s response to a highly-anticipated report into the presenters earnings, which the director-general claimed “questioned” corrected figures for the period of 2020 and 2021.

Tubridy has been off-air since June 22, when controversy over the under-declaration of his salary was first revealed by the RTE Board.

Mr Bakhurst said: “We went into negotiations with Ryan in good faith and in the hopes of reaching an agreement that would see Ryan return to his RTE Radio 1 show.

“I have decided not to continue with negotiations and, as such, there are no plans for Ryan to return to his presenting role with RTE at this time.

“Despite having agreed some of the fundamentals, including fee, duration and hours, regretfully, it is my view that trust between the parties has broken down.”

On Wednesday, following the publication of a report into Tubridy’s earnings, the former Late Late Show host said he wanted to re-establish trust with listeners.

However, his response to the report also drew some questioning from RTE as he maintained the review “made it clear” that his actual income from the broadcaster in 2020 and 2021 “matches what was originally published” in February as his earnings for those years.

It is imperative that all parties are aligned in one key respect: the misstatement of fees should never have happened.

Kevin Bakhurst

RTE had chosen to upwardly revise its publicly stated figures for those years after it emerged Tubridy was paid additional money for a commercial arrangement with Renault, that was also underwritten by the broadcaster with fees being paid to the presenter through a UK barter account.

In his statement announcing the end of negotiations, Mr Bakhurst said: “Public statements made without consultation appear to question the basis for the necessary restatement of fees paid for services for 2020 and 2021.

“As I set about a programme of recovery from this crisis, it is imperative that all parties are aligned in one key respect: the mis-statement of fees should never have happened; and the correct re-statement of those fees is accepted by all.

“I have been clear since I took up the role of director-general of RTE that I am absolutely committed to restoring trust in this organisation following a shameful period in our history. To achieve this, and fully draw a line between our recent past and present, we must acknowledge and accept the issues that have arisen.

“Who knows what the future holds, but for now I am concluding the negotiation with Ryan, and focusing on delivering a range of important changes to the operation and culture of this organisation as part of the essential work to restore trust in RTE.”

Speaking to RTE News, Mr Bakhurst said he was “particularly disappointed” with Tubridy’s statement and that he had spoken to the presenter about his decision.

He added: “I would say he was shocked and disappointed. It was a difficult conversation.”

The director-general said RTE was in a “good place” in negotiating his return when the statement came out.

He said: “We had a core agreement for Ryan to come back and the statement issued, which, you know, once again, questioned the newly-stated salaries which are correct.

“I just think for the sake of rebuilding trust, which is my focus with the organisation, we can’t afford to be questioning the facts that are out there.”

He added: “I don’t actually feel Ryan was best served by the people around him who advised him on making that statement.”

Asked about the potential for Tubridy to return in the future, Mr Bakhurst said: “Now is not the right time for Ryan to come back, we need to focus on rebuilding trust with the audience. But the door is not shut forever.”

A spokesman for a media agency representing Tubridy told the PA news agency he was not making any comment on the matter.

The RTE board said it notes the decision of Mr Bakhurst regarding Tubridy.

In a statement, it said: “The Board supports the ongoing work of the Director General and his interim leadership team.

“The Board fully accepts the findings of both Grant Thornton reports. We will be making no further comment on this matter.”

In a statement from her Department, Media Minister Catherine Martin noted the decision.

The Department said it was “an operational and editorial decision” for the director-general to make, adding and it “would not be appropriate” for the minister to comment on the matter given the editorial independence of RTE.

However, the statement added: “What remains of utmost importance is that RTE concentrate its efforts on restoring the trust and confidence of the public, and fulfilling its important role as a public service broadcaster.

“Restoring this trust requires continued full and open co-operation with the independent reviews established by Minister Martin, as well as the inquiries of the Oireachtas, and a tangible commitment to reform.

“The RTE chair and DG have committed to full co-operation and taking immediate steps to address the failings in internal controls and governance, which is to be welcomed.”

The minister has ordered reviews into RTE’s governance in the wake of the scandal.

Tubridy, who had been the station’s highest-paid employee prior to his decision to leave the flagship Late Late Show earlier this year, had said he wished to return to presenting his radio programme but was awaiting a decision from Mr Bakhurst regarding his future.

In his Wednesday statement, he said: “I am committed to re-establishing the confidence and trust of my colleagues and listeners, and I hope that any fair assessment of the findings of today’s report will help in this regard.”

He added: “I want to acknowledge the huge support that I have received in recent weeks from people across the country; many cards and letters, greetings on the street and words of support from people I bumped into meant an awful lot to me and I appreciate them all very much.”

Tubridy, who spent hours appearing before parliamentary committees probing the payments scandal alongside his agent Noel Kelly, first appeared on RTE as a child reviewing books and films in the 1980s.

The 50-year-old went on to have a varied career at the broadcaster, reporting for radio programmes before eventually presenting a Saturday-night talk show and ultimately taking over as host of the broadcaster’s flagship talk serial the Late Late Show.

The position also saw the Dublin native hosting the annual Late Late Toy Show special featuring anticipated toys for Christmas and, in recent years, a major charity drive.

After 14 years at the helm, Tubridy announced he would step down from the position earlier this year but continued to present his daily radio show until the payments controversy emerged.

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

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