RTÉ Try To Stem The Tide Amid Revelation After Fresh Revelation

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Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee - Oireachtas TV

RTÉ’s“careless stewardship and indifference to proper process” are hampering plans to revitalise the ailing public service state broadcaster according to chair of the RTÉ board Siún Ní Ragahallaigh as she addressed the Oireachtas Media Committee on Wednesday .

She said that the payments scandal surrounding RTÉ has caused an “erosion of confidence” in the board as officials appeared before the Mefia Committee.

Ms. Ní Raghallaigh also told thise gathered that RTÉ should once again come under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Adrian Lynch, the acting director general of RTÉ formally apologised for the drip feed nature of information which included several items being delivered late on Tuesday.

Ní Raghallaigh said that such inconsistent supply of information from the executive clearly made it difficult for the board to address the full matter before it.

Adrian Lynch also said that the man who kicked the whole scandal off, albeit unintentionally and indirectly, presenter Ryan Tubridy continues to be paid by RTÉ.

There were negotiations going on about a radio contract, those negotiations – as a result of all of this – were suspended. So currently, as we said, we are still paying Ryan Tubridy and there are certain elements of the contract that are in dispute with the agent.”

Car Loans

Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley asked about brand ambassador deals, and whether someone who was in receipt of a car allowance also had brand deals to which Adrian Lynch told committee members that he was aware of one instance where a staff member had a “loan of a car“.

My understanding is that car has been returned,” he said. Clare man Dooley asked how long the car had been on loan. “I believe for a period of five years,” Lynch said, adding: “That was not approved.”

Senator Dooley later asked when the car was returned. “Yesterday!,” replied Lynch.

Former RTÉ chairwoman Moya Doherty said she was “personally bewildered and devastated” by the crisis over payments in Donnybrook.

What has come to light in the past few weeks confirms unacceptable behaviour and, like many others, there are questions I am looking forward to hearing comprehensive and detailed answers to.

The latest revelations suggest that unfortunately more questions will arise as the crisis deepens.

RTÉ Chief Financial Officer Richard Collins was grilled by Fine Gael’s Brendan Griffin as to why he said last week that there was only one barter account.

He said there was one barter account but “in terms of how it is looked at financially” but three companies feeding into it.

“There is nothing new here”, he insisted. “Everything was going onto the balance sheet together”.

Deputy Griffin read out details from the barter accounts to the committee, including an agency and client summer party at €20,900, suggesting that they did not fit into categories for the correct use of the barter account.

There was also an agency breakfast and lunch series for €13,000, tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert costing €12,000, a golf outing costing €7,500, and tickets to Robbie Williams and Phil Collins for €6,358.

I’ve heard of let me entertain you but that’s a bit ridiculous“, he said. “This isn’t a barter account – this is a slush fund“, he added.

Underwriting

Former Chief Financial Officer Breda O’Keeffe said she was involved in presenter Ryan Tubridy’s contract negotiations until March 2020, but that she provided a “comprehensive handover” to current CFO Richard Collins and that she was not aware that the deal with Tubridy had been underwritten by RTE until last week.

O’Keeffe also directly contradicted evidence given by Collins last week that he was only in the job a few days when the deal happened.

O’Keeffe said there was no consideration of the broadcaster underwriting a commercial agreement involving Ryan Tubridy and Renault before she left in early 2020.

O’Keeffe said the first she heard of RTÉ’s decision to underwrite the deal – a move that resulted in the broadcaster paying 150,000 euro to Tubridy when Renault did not renew the arrangement in 2021 and 2022 – was through media reports in recent weeks.

My recollection is that Mr Tubridy’s agent requested that the commercial agreement be underwritten by RTE and this was refused,” she told the Media Committee.

She added: “When I left in March 2020, an RTE guarantee on the proposed Renault agreement was not on offer, as far as I was aware.”

Anger

Reacting today the National Union of Journalists branch representing RTÉ employees said workers are “incredibly upset and reeling” following further revelations at the broadcaster.

The contrast between the lavish spending we are hearing about and how ordinary staff were being treated during these years is staggering,” it said in a statement.

RTÉ education correspondent and NUJ lead Emma O Kelly said RTÉ was paying for membership at a private members club in London while its London correspondent Fiona Mitchell was using toilets around the city as an office to report on Brexit.

Fiona was forced to use toilet facilities in cafes as a quiet space to record her voice for TV and radio reports,” O’Kelly said.

She added that in the same period NUJ members were “upset and anxious” over with Covid payment issued as well as precarious contracts and other pandemic-related challenges.