Ireland’s RTÉ faces ‘root & branch’ review into Dee Forbes & Ryan Tubridy payment controversy

Dee Forbes

Irish pubcaster RTÉ is facing a “root and branch” review into the controversy over undisclosed payments to presenter Ryan Tubridy, which led to the resignation of director general Dee Forbes.

Forbes, the former Discovery exec who joined RTÉ in 2016, was suspended and then stepped down from her role late last month after it emerged that presenter Tubridy had received a series of payments totalling €345,000 ($378,000) above his annual published salary between 2017 to 2022.

Catherine Martin, Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, has now ordered an independent examination into the broadcaster, which will explore the case.

The investigation will be divided into a review of governance and culture, and a review of contractor fees, human resources and “other matters”. It will be led by two three-person advisory committees, who will oversee the work of a professional services firm that will be appointed to deliver the reviews.

The committees will work in parallel and coordinate with the government, with the process expected to take six months.

RTÉ controversy & context

The case centers around the renewal of Tubridy’s contract several years ago, which was taking place at the same time as discussions around RTÉ’s commitment to reduce the fees paid to its top talent.

An agreement was struck that was set to include payments from a commercial client to the presenter in return for the provision of three events annually. However, the pandemic meant some of these events could not be delivered, which ultimately led to RTÉ having to provide payment itself via a commercial barter account.

Forbes has apologised and said she acted in good faith, but added that she took responsibility for her part in the events. Questions have also been raised about payments between 2017-2019, but the former RTÉ chief said she had “no knowledge” of such payments.

Martin will meet with the incoming director general of RTÉ, Kevin Bakhurst, and the chair of the RTÉ Board, Siún Ní Raghallaigh, on Friday.

She added: “Ever since the first broadcast of its predecessor Raidió Éireann, RTÉ has provided a public space for the people of Ireland to speak to and of one another.

“At its best, it has held up a mirror to Irish society, one that has demonstrated not only the best in our society but one that also revealed its injustices, both glaring and sometimes all too hidden. In doing so, RTÉ has been sustained not only by the tireless work of its staff over the years but also through the trust of the people.

“That trust has been shattered. The independent, root and branch examination of RTÉ I am announcing today is the beginning of our efforts to restore that trust.”

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