In late March of this year during a routine audit of RTÉ’s 2022 accounts, an issue was identified in relation to the transparency of certain payments.
On receipt of this information, the Audit and Risk Committee of the RTÉ Board promptly commissioned Grant Thornton to carry out an independent fact-finding review on the matter in question.
The facts have been established. The review was completed, and findings furnished to the Audit and Risk Committee of RTÉ on Friday last and discussed on Monday of this week by the Board of RTÉ.
The matter in question concerns payments made to presenter Ryan Tubridy, and the key points confirmed are as follows.
- In early 2020, discussions commenced concerning the renewal of Mr. Tubridy’s Presenter Contract.
- RTÉ was focused on achieving cost savings due to the wider financial circumstances of the organisation and the commitment given by RTÉ in November 2019 to, among a range of measures, reduce the fees paid to RTÉ’s top 10 most highly paid, on air presenters by 15%.
- Tubridy’s previously published remunerations for 2020 and 2021 show that he earned €466,250 and €440,000 respectively across those years, which by 2021 (first full year on new contract) appeared to represent an 11% reduction on his 2019 earnings. *
- The review conducted by Grant Thornton concerned a separate agreement under which Mr. Tubridy was guaranteed by RTÉ an additional annual income of €75,000 which was intended to come from a commercial partner.
- In making an agreement with the commercial partner, RTÉ concluded it on a cost neutral basis to the commercial partner, and the fee due to Mr. Tubridy was guaranteed and underwritten by RTÉ.
- Accordingly, under the terms of this agreement, a payment of €75,000 was received by Mr. Tubridy in July 2020 from a commercial partner, in exchange for a number of personal appearances a year.
- As part of this agreement, RTÉ in turn issued a credit note to the commercial partner thereby reducing the cost to it of its overall sponsorship arrangement with the organisation.
- The commercial partner did not renew this agreement for a second year, and since the agreement was guaranteed and underwritten by RTÉ, the payments were instead made directly by RTÉ to Mr. Tubridy’s agent (on his behalf).
- Tubridy received two payments of €75,000 (totalling €150,000), each in 2022 (being a payment for 2021 and a payment for 2022). It was these payments that prompted the review by Grant Thornton.
- These payments were recorded in the RTÉ Barter Account in 2022 at a value of €115,380 each (see notes to editor).
- In addition and following the furnishing of the findings of the Grant Thornton review, RTÉ carried out a review of Mr. Tubridy’s previously stated remunerations. Through this review, it was identified that Mr. Tubridy’s remuneration had been understated by RTÉ by a figure of €120,000 over the contract period of 2017-2019. The circumstances that led to this understatement by RTÉ are currently under examination.
As such, it is necessary for the Board of RTÉ to correct the public record in relation to Mr. Tubridy’s earnings from RTÉ during the period 2017-2022. They were, as follows:
- Earnings for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 were understated by €120,000.
- Earnings for the years 2020-2022 were understated due to the payments which went through the Barter Account.
- *In light of the above ‘actual earnings’, Mr. Tubridy’s earnings were €545,000 in 2019 and €515,000 in 2021, representing an overall reduction of 5.5% in 2021 earnings compared to his 2019 earnings.
The RTÉ Board considers the public misstating of RTÉ’s financial information to be a very serious matter and has moved as quickly as it could, once it had independently established the facts, to publish the correct figures.
At the request of the Board, RTÉ has this week conducted an internal review of the reporting of the remuneration of its top 10 most highly paid, on air presenters. This review has found that the full cost to RTÉ of its contracts with the other such on air presenters, has been correctly reported.
The Board has now requested that Grant Thornton review the contracts of RTÉ’s top 10 most highly paid on air presenters to independently validate that all remuneration figures have been correctly stated and accounted for by RTÉ. Grant Thornton will also review the understatement by RTÉ of Mr. Tubridy’s published remuneration by €120,000 in the period 2017-2019.
The Board is committed to ensuring that there is appropriate accountability for what has occurred. That process is ongoing, mindful of individuals’ rights, and affording them due process.
The Board has put steps in place to ensure there is no recurrence of these matters. These steps include:
- An internal review of contracts for the top 10 most highly paid on air presenters (now complete) and an external, independent review of the reported remuneration for the top 10 most highly paid on air presenters (soon to commence by Grant Thornton).
- Republishing the remunerations paid to Mr. Tubridy since 2017 in order to correct the record (as above).
- The pausing of all new material on air presenter contracts until the following processes are in place:
- The Remuneration Committee of the Board to have full oversight and approval of the terms of contracts relating to the top 10 most highly paid on air presenters in value and any material variations or amendments to those contracts.
- Bringing the Barter Account within the control of the Finance function and that specific controls are put in place to the operation of that account by RTÉ.
Chair of the RTÉ Board Siún Ní Raghallaigh said; “This is a matter of profound regret for the Board of RTÉ. We are well aware that this is a serious breach of trust with the public. On behalf of the Board, I wish to apologise for what has occurred. It is clear that RTÉ has fallen short of the high standards that it sets for itself and are expected of it. Once these issues came to light, we acted expeditiously to establish the facts and we are confident that the safeguards we have now put in place will ensure that nothing like this will happen again, and that good corporate governance is adhered to at all times.”
- A barter account is a common practice in advertising and marketing businesses where goods and services are traded through an intermediary company which charges a fee for its services.
- €150,000 was paid to Mr. Tubridy’s agent (on his behalf) from the barter account in 2022. This related to the guaranteed income for 2021 and 2022. It resulted in an overall cost to RTÉ, from this account, of €230,760 (inclusive of fees incurred through the barter account process).
Overall Earnings Reduction
Notwithstanding these restated earnings for Mr. Tubridy, RTÉ’s stated commitment to reduce the fees paid to RTÉ’s top contracted on-air presenters by 15%, remains largely achieved with an average reduction of 14.9% across 2020 and 2021, compared with 2019.