RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes Resigns Over Alleged Secretive Agency Payments

Dan Meier 26 June, 2023 

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes resigned this morning, following a week of scandal around undisclosed payments to TV presenter Ryan Tubridy.

Between 2017 and 2022, RTÉ paid Tubridy €345,000 more than the Irish public service broadcaster (PSB) published in its earnings reports. Forbes was suspended last week and has now tendered her resignation, arguing that “the Board has not treated me with anything approaching the levels of fairness, equity and respect that anyone should expect as an employee, a colleague or a person.”

In her resignation letter, Forbes explains that The Late Late Show presenter’s contract was up for renewal in 2020. The Board called for a 15 percent reduction in talent fees in order to reduce costs. “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,” says Forbes.

As a result, the show’s sponsor Renault entered a separate commercial contract with Tubridy, paying €75,000 into a barter account, effectively relieving RTÉ of a contractual payment it also owed in 2020. “We were motivated purely by the need to find a solution to honour the contractual obligation,” notes Forbes.

But a senior Irish media ad agency figure told the Sunday Independent that the payment represents “the tip of the iceberg when it comes to payments made by RTÉ by way of secretive credit notes.” The anonymous source alleges that the PSB paid over €50 million to agencies in the last 10 years, using this credit note system to distort the market and provide kickbacks.

“It’s problematic and there needs to be more scrutiny around it,” said the whistleblower. “And I am absolutely sure there will be now.”

“Fraudulent accountancy”

The broadcaster confirmed that its board members would appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee and Public Accounts Committee this week. Ireland’s media minister Catherine Martin has announced an external review of governance and culture at RTÉ, and a government decision on the PSB’s funding model will be paused pending the outcome.

The board also proposed a series of measures “to ensure that there is no recurrence of these matters”. Its remuneration committee is to take on oversight of the contracts for RTÉ’s top 10 earners, while the barter account used to facilitate Tubridy’s undisclosed payments will be brought under the control of the RTÉ finance department.

“Our priority is to ensure that public trust in corporate governance at RTÉ is restored,” said RTÉ Board Chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh. “We take this responsibility very seriously. We will work closely with the forthcoming external review to ensure that these issues are rigorously examined, so that full confidence in Ireland’s independent, public service broadcaster can be rebuilt.

“On behalf of the Board of RTÉ, I want to apologise again to the public for this breach of trust, and also to the staff of RTÉ who work so hard on a daily basis to serve the public.”

When the scandal broke, Sinn Féin TD and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Brian Stanley, accused the broadcaster of “fraudulent accountancy practices” on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “When you deliberately seek to hide money, when you deliberately seek to misrepresent accounts for whatever sum of money, that’s actually fraudulent accountancy,” he told the programme on Friday.

“This isn’t happening in any kind of a dodgy backstreet operation,” the politician added. “This isn’t Del Boy and Rodney, this is actually the national broadcaster.”


Follow VideoWeek on Twitter and LinkedIn.


About the Author:

Reporter at VideoWeek.
Go to Top