Decision on public services media funding to be taken before summer – Tanaiste

Micheal Martin said the Government is awaiting two reports around the governance of RTE.

Micheal Martin said the TV licence is likely to remain a significant source of revenue for RTE in 2024 and 2025
RTE sign Micheal Martin said the TV licence is likely to remain a significant source of revenue for RTE in 2024 and 2025 (Liam McBurney/PA)

The decision around the funding of public services media is set to be taken before this summer, Tanaiste Micheal Martin has said.

Mr Martin said it is “sensible” that the Government awaits two reports commissioned by Culture Minister Catherine Martin on the governance of RTE.

However he said the TV licence is likely to remain a significant source of revenue for the national broadcaster in 2024 and 2025.

“The three party leaders are agreed with the minister that we do need to resolve this in terms of the model, but then it will take time, so the licence fee will be a significant revenue earner for RTE certainly in 2024 and I will even hazard a guess into 2025 until a new system has bedded down,” he told RTE Radio’s This Week programme.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin
Brexit Stakeholders Forum Tanaiste Micheal Martin (Niall Carson/PA)

“We would hope to get a decision made this year, hopefully before the summer recess but then it’ll take time I would envisage to work that system through and to have it fully up and running.

“There are different perspectives on this, that’s natural. I take a particularly fundamentalist view on the editorial independence piece and the separation of media from being too dependent on any given government support at any given time.

“I just think we need to put in guard rails… because the new funding arrangements are not just about RTE, but other stations, local and national and print media too.”

Speaking after attending the Munich Security Council, Mr Martin added: “All we’re hearing here, networking with other countries, meeting tech companies, it’s all about election manipulation, it’s all about social media and the degree to which misinformation and disinformation can really prevail.

“This is very key to the survival of our democracy. So we’ve got to get it right and we’ve got to get the fundamentals right, in terms of how we structure it, and a new funding arrangement.”

On Saturday, RTE’s director-general Kevin Bakhurst commented on the exit arrangements for four former executives – director of commercial Geraldine O’Leary, director of legal affairs Paula Mullooly, director of strategy Rory Coveney and chief financial officer Richard Collins.

Saying he was restricted following legal advice, Mr Bakhurst said Ms O’Leary retired from RTE and did not receive an exit payment while Ms Mullooly left to pursue another opportunity and did not receive an exit payment.

RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst
Kevin Bakhurst comments RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst (Niall Carson/PA)

He said Mr Coveney agreed that he should stand down, his role became redundant and an exit payment was offered by RTE and accepted.

Mr Bakhurst went on: “Following independent mediation, Richard Collins, RTE’s former chief financial officer, departed RTE by mutual agreement, with a binding confidentiality clause that was agreed to by both sides and in the interest of fairness and respect cannot be breached.

“As I have said before, in relation to all the exits, I have sought an update to the legal advice previously received.”

Asked for his view on Sunday, Mr Martin said: “As a general principle, where any organisation has been funded by the public via the licence fee in this case and taxpayers’ money, there should be full transparency in terms of salaries and packages more generally.

“RTE needs to build up trust with the people in respect of how it is governed, its governance and its administration, and I think the new director-general is doing everything he possibly can to do that.

“But as a general principle, I do believe that salaries and so forth and indeed packages should be fully transparent.

“The indications are that he has certainly been constrained in these specific cases.”