RTÉ director-general Dee Forbes resigns over undisclosed payments

Dee Forbes

Dee Forbes, director-general of Irish broadcaster RTÉ, has announced her resignation following the controversy over undisclosed payments to presenter Ryan Tubridy.

On Friday, 23 June, the broadcaster announced that Forbes had been suspended two days earlier. She had been due to step down from her role at the company next month.

The RTÉ presenter had received a series of payments of €345,000 ($378,000) above his annual published salary between 2017 to 2022.

In a statement, Forbes said, “I have engaged with and consistently co-operated with the processes directed towards answering questions surrounding payments to Ryan Tubridy. Much of the information in the Grant Thornton Report furnished to the Board of RTÉ has emerged in recent days.”

She revealed in 2020 that RTÉ had began discussions around the renewal of Tubridy’s contract which contained contractual payments that had been negotiated and put in place prior to her appointment at the broadcaster. Discussions on the new contract were taking place during RTÉ’s commitment to reduce the fees paid to RTÉ’s top talent by a further 15% as part of a wider cost cutting strategy.

She added, “As Director General, I led the discussions with the agent for Ryan Tubridy together with other RTÉ senior executives. We were keen to make a cost saving for RTÉ in respect of a contractual payment which was due to be paid. At the same time, we were attempting to retain Ryan Tubridy’s services as a valued presenter and negotiate a new contract, with the agreed 15% cost cutting target in mind. In an effort to find a solution to the budgetary challenges, we explored if a long serving commercial partner might take on a commercial relationship directly with Ryan Tubridy.

“Following detailed discussions including numerous internal communications over many months with RTÉ colleagues, including finance and legal colleagues, an agreement was reached which delivered cost savings for RTÉ. This agreement meant that the commercial partner would enter into a separate commercial contract with Ryan Tubridy for €75k in exchange for the provision of three events annually.

“As a result of the negotiated cost saving agreement, RTÉ would no longer be liable for a contractual payment that was due in 2020. This new commercial agreement required that RTÉ guarantee and underwrite the €75K payments.”

“The commercial partner agreed to this new business relationship with Ryan Tubridy, but they required the change to be cost neutral, as they were in the final year of a three-year sponsorship contract and this was done by issuing a credit note for €75k against their airtime.

“I did not at any stage act contrary to any advice. Unfortunately, the pandemic restrictions meant that the commitment to the commercial client could not be met in 2020 and 2021 and was only delivered in 2022. The commercial partner informed us that the commercial arrangement was not going to work for them in the long term. At this point, only one €75k payment had been made.

“Payment was sought for the 2021 and 2022 contractual commitments that now fell to RTÉ under the guarantee even though RTÉ had never expected to become liable for them and had not budgeted for them. Because of the commercial nature of the arrangement, it was decided to pay the invoices from the commercial barter account which was in credit. We were motivated purely by the need to find a solution to honour the contractual obligation.”

“This statement is directed to the events of 2020-2022. I understand from media reports and RTÉ’s statement that the Board has raised questions concerning payments to Ryan Tubridy between 2017-2019. I have no knowledge of those payments and the Board has not raised those questions with me.”

Forbes went on to apologise and said she acted in good faith, but takes responsibility for her part in the events that led to her resignation.

The Minister for Media Catherine Martin has announced an external review of governance and culture at RTÉ.

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