THE record fine of €200,000 imposed on RTE over the Fr Reynolds fiasco will end up in the hands of Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
According to Section 55 of the 2009 Broadcasting Act all fines made to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) have to be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer "in such manner as the Minister for Finance may direct".
The BAI had the option of imposing a fine of up to €250,000, but the sanction against the national broadcaster is still the biggest ever.
With RTE already facing a financial crisis, it will ultimately be the taxpayer who will have to pay the fine via the TV licence fee.
But there is also the estimated €1.2m in damages and legal costs that the defamation action taken by Fr Reynolds has already cost RTE -- and by extension the taxpayer.
In considering the level of fine to be imposed, the BAI has to take into account "the circumstances of the breach or the failure to co-operate with an investigation in question".
The act also stipulates that the Broadcasting Authority must consider the seriousness of the breach, the turnover of the broadcaster in the financial year ending in the year previous to the breach and the ability of the broadcaster to pay the amount.