Northern Ireland

Thousands scrap TV licence payments in the Republic following RTÉ payments scandal

RTÉ Director General Kevin Bakhurst has thanked those who continue to pay their TV licence. (Niall Carson/PA)
RTÉ Director General Kevin Bakhurst has thanked those who continue to pay their TV licence. (Niall Carson/PA)

TV licenses in the Republic experienced a six per cent drop in July as the Irish broadcaster faces questions about payment scandals.

Revelations about payments to the former Late Late Show presenter Ryan Tubridy first emerged on June 22, as well as other spending on corporate hospitality.

Figures obtained in a written question by the Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin showed that TV licence sales and renewals dropped by 5,837 during a five-week period across June and the first week of July compared to the same time last year.

The vast majority, 4,191, came in the first week of July.

It is estimated this amounts to a loss of revenue of around €933,920.

Tasked with restoring RTÉ’s reputation and public trust, the new Director General Kevin Bakhurst has thanked those who continue to pay for the licence at a time when there’s a “dark shadow” over the broadcaster.

“They have every right to feel let down,” he said.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate that we are working hard to rebuild trust in this organisation, and we will continue to do so. We must.”

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New RTE chief ‘to contact Ryan Tubridy within a week to discuss future'

Last week, Mr Bakhurst said he would be contacting Ryan Tubridy directly to discuss his future with the broadcaster.

While promising to treat him fairly, he indicated he would not speak personally to his agent Noel Kelly about the matter.

Mr Tubridy has remained off air from his weekday radio show since the scandal first broke, and with the level of negative media attention his future at the broadcaster remains in serious doubt.

Ryan Tubridy's future at RTÉ remains in doubt as questions over undeclared payments continue. (Niall Carson/PA)
Ryan Tubridy's future at RTÉ remains in doubt as questions over undeclared payments continue. (Niall Carson/PA)

Asked if the state would have to increase financial support to RTÉ, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I hope not. As I’ve said before, I’m going to continue to pay the TV licence fee.”

He added that the TV licence “funds a lot of the media production and broadcasting that we all value, whether it’s sport or children’s programming, Irish-language programming, music, all those things that really have nothing to do with the recent controversy”.

The data on TV licence sales was provided to Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin in a written response to a Dáil question put to Minister for Media Catherine Martin.

Ireland’s former communications minister, Richard Bruton, called the drop in licence fees “a very worrying trend” and said the government was wrong to reject a proposal last year of moving from a licence fee to exchequer funding.

“It’s just not sustainable to be collecting money on the basis of ownership of a TV,” he told RTÉ.

“Who is consuming all their media through owning a TV? Then there’s substantial numbers who don’t pay and who avoid and then there’s the substantial cost of collecting,” he said.