Ireland

RTE board chairwoman apologises for ‘lapse in oversight’ of Toy Show The Musical

‘The commercial risks associated with an undertaking of this nature were grossly underestimated,’ Siun Ni Raghallaigh said.

RTE board chairwoman Siun Ni Raghallaigh
RTE board chairwoman Siun Ni Raghallaigh

The chairwoman of RTE’s board has apologised for a “significant lapse in oversight” of Toy Show The Musical and committed to changes in governance so that it would not happen again.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh said that information was withheld from the board about Toy Show The Musical and that RTE executives should have been interrogated by board members “in a much more rigorous fashion”.

A Grant Thornton report commissioned by the RTE board was published on Thursday into the musical, which recorded 2.2 million euros in losses after a season at Dublin’s Convention Centre in 2022.

The board chairwoman apologised to the public and to the staff of RTE for a “significant lapse in oversight of the project”, and said changes would be made “to fully restore confidence in the organisation”.

“The board acknowledged the serious deficiencies now highlighted in the report at a board meeting last July and has since taken the necessary steps to ensure there is no repeat of these failures,” Ms Ni Raghallaigh said.

“The report finds that board approval was required for Toy Show The Musical, and it also finds that the formal approval of the board was neither sought nor provided for.

“The report clearly illustrates that the board was not kept appropriately informed about the project as it was being developed. External expert advice was ignored.

“Information was also withheld from the board. Significant contracts were committed to without the knowledge or approval of the full board.

“The executive should have been interrogated by the board on the project, on an ongoing basis and in a much more rigorous fashion.

“The commercial risks associated with an undertaking of this nature were grossly underestimated. The project was not appropriately stress tested.

“The report also highlights a failure in generally accepted accounting practices, in that sponsorship was not correctly presented to the board and all costs were not properly captured and linked to the project.”

She also expressed confidence in members of the current board who also sat on the board during the time of the Toy Show The Musical.

She denied that the members she resign.

Speaking on RTE’s News At One, Ms Ni Raghallaigh said that she has “every confidence in the board”.

“There is collective responsibility here not just on the part of the board but also on the Executive, and we accept the collective responsibility.

“These board members were there at the time, but I have every confidence in them.”

The Grant Thornton report, published on Thursday afternoon, does not name anyone involve and refers to them as ‘Person 1’ to ‘Person 26’.

The report stated that two individuals said there was little interrogation of the financials and audience numbers.

It also revealed that there was limited questioning about the show because directors did not receive documentation in advance of meetings, and the oral presentation of the musical in various meetings was presented as a “fait accompli” or as a “briefing”.

It was also revealed that RTE moved 75,000 euro in TV advertising money into ‘sponsorship’ for the musical.

The musical pulled in 45,000 euro in sponsorship, however in a 13-page report provided to the board in January and February last year, it stated that the event had sponsorship of 120,000.

However, on July 4 2023, RTE amended the sponsorship income figure to 45,000.

It emerged that 75,000 was taken from TV advertising revenue and transferred into the musical account.

The report found that there was “no justification” for recording the additional 75,000 as musical money.

The report also reveals who there was more concern about the creative project rather than selling tickets.

One individual who attended a board meeting on in March 22 2022 said there was “very little, if any, concern” about the audience numbers.

The individual, who is not named, said the concern largely centred around the creative project itself.

“The actual concern was about could we deliver a great show that wouldn’t damage The Toy Show,” the person added.

“In terms of people’s views on the financials and the audience numbers, there was conspicuously little interrogation of them, and because of people’s feeling and experience of this extraordinary phenomenon every Christmas, I think people believed that this show, as long as the show was good enough – even if the show wasn’t good enough, in the year one they thought it would do well because of The Toy Show, but that the reputational risk was if the show was bad, the it could be damaging to the TV project.”

Another unnamed individual said the project was “accepted very easily”.

“There was no forensic interrogation of the figures.

“I had said at the very start that you understand in this business that nine out of ten musicals don’t make their money back.”

Some directors also said that insufficient information was provided to attendees of various meetings, including board meetings, to enable them to fully identify and assess the risks of the show.

The author of the report said: “Some of the members of the RTE Board I met acknowledged that with hindsight, more questions should have been asked about TSTM (Toy Show The Musical).

The report also found that, based on documentary evidence, there was no evidence found in the minutes of meeting that the RTE board approved the show.

It found that no formal vote was taken by the board approving the musical.

The 2021 business plan drawn up for the Toy Show Musical showed that it was expected to generate millions of euros.

Three years of summary financials, shows total revenue in year one of 2,084,120 euro; year two of 2,124,120 euro; and year three of 2,254,278 euro.

The author of the report stated that they found no evidence that the 2021 business plan was shared with members of the RTE board.