RTE needs to show it has changed significantly, says new director-general

Kevin Bakhurst took up his role as the new director-general of RTE last week (Niall Carson/PA)
Kevin Bakhurst took up his role as the new director-general of RTE last week (Niall Carson/PA) Kevin Bakhurst took up his role as the new director-general of RTE last week (Niall Carson/PA)

The new director-general of RTE has said the broadcaster needs to show it has changed significantly in the wake of the controversy over undeclared payments to star presenter Ryan Tubridy.

Kevin Bakhurst also said RTE needs to keep “downward pressure” on presenters’ pay as he attempts to restore confidence in the crisis-hit organisation.

RTE has been engulfed in turmoil since it admitted it had under-declared former Late Late Show host Tubridy’s earnings by 345,000 euro (£296,000) from 2017 to 2022.

RTE pay revelations
RTE pay revelations RTE has been embroiled in controversy over payments to its highest-paid presenter, Ryan Tubridy (Niall Carson/PA)

The figure included three 75,000-euro (£64,000) annual payments received by Tubridy for proposed public appearances for Renault, as part of a tripartite agreement involving the sponsor, RTE and the presenter.

The furore has since widened amid further disclosures about RTE’s internal financial, accounting and governance practices and its expenditure on corporate hospitality for advertising clients.

Media minister Catherine Martin has since announced a number of probes into the governance of Ireland’s national broadcaster.

In his first major act as RTE boss last week, Mr Bakhurst stood down the broadcaster’s executive board and replaced it with a temporary interim leadership team.

In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, he played down the prospect of RTE requiring a funding bailout from government.

He told the paper: “We need to show that the organisation has changed significantly and is more accountable and more transparent and is worthy of being properly funded.”

He went on: “Lots of things are going to be different – primarily the way we oversee and govern commercial and the relationship between commercial and public service.

“We need to make sure that where there’s expenditure on client hospitality, that it’s properly documented, properly approved, and properly accounted for.”

With regard to shrinking the size of the organisation, Mr Bakhurst said he will keep all options under review.

“As things stand at the moment, you know, we need to stabilise the ship. I want to be ambitious and drive on with some initiatives, but a lot of them are about pricing and we need to see what’s happening with finances.

“I can’t take any options off the table. You’ve got to work with the money. We need to take some strategic decisions about the sort of areas that we want to remain doing.”

20th Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards
20th Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards Patrick Kielty (pictured with his wife Cat Deeley) was announced as the new host of the Late Late Show earlier this year (Damien Eagers/PA)

He added: “We need to keep the pressure downward on presenter pay. We had extremely good discussions with Paddy Kielty.

“For someone with his reputation and experience, I think he’s come at a very reasonable price.”

Co Down comedian Kielty was unveiled earlier this year as Tubridy’s successor as host of the Late Late Show.

Last month he revealed he will be paid 250,000 euro (£214,000) per 30-show season and has signed a contract for three seasons.

He will also get a one-off payment of 20,000 euro (£17,000) for pre-production between now and September, but has waived a further 50,000 euro (£43,000) worth of travel expenses available to him under his contract.