Friday 20 July 2018

RTÉ chief defends paying salaries of up to €495k to stars

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes
RTÉ director general Dee Forbes
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

RTÉ boss Dee Forbes had to defend sums paid to the broadcaster's highest earning stars as well as respond to claims staff are forced into so-called "bogus self-employment" contracts.

It came as the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) grilled her on RTÉ's use of TV licence-fee payers' cash.

The most recent figures for RTÉ's highest paid presenters show 'Late Late Show' host Ryan Tubridy was paid €495,000 in 2015 while Ray D'Arcy was on €400,000.

Ms Forbes told TDs that RTÉ currently has "inadequate resources" and seen a drop of more than €100m in the annual funds available to it between the years 2008 and 2016.

She said €60m in potential licence fee payments go uncollected due to an inefficient collection system.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the list of top 10 earners gave "the impression that RTÉ has shedloads of money" adding that it was difficult to argue that RTÉ was "short of money".

Ms Forbes defended the sums paid, saying it was 1pc of RTÉ's total cost base. She pointed out that it was incumbent on presenters to ensure strong audiences in order to be attractive to advertisers.

Ms Forbes also said there was a "competitive market place" for broadcasters who may go elsewhere.

"I recognise that it looks like a lot of money but there is a lot expected of those people," she said.

The PAC was told that there are 81 cases where individuals, including some of RTÉ's top stars, are paid through private companies and that the average payment last year was €66,700. The average pay to the highest earning stars is €300,000.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said presenters in the top 10 may find it "lucrative" to be a contractor paid through a private company. But he said there were other contract workers in RTÉ who claimed they are forced into "bogus self employment" with no rights to sick pay, holiday pay or trade union recognition.

He had clips of an RTÉ Radio news report on the issue played and asked Ms Forbes if she accepted the broadcaster had a problem with such arrangements and if they were "rife" in the organisation.

Ms Forbes said that would be an "unfair representation of RTÉ as an employer". She conceded there may be "issues". There was a review of the arrangements for contractors and its results were due shortly.

Irish Independent

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