Thursday 19 April 2018

RTÉ chief faces grilling by TDs on gender salary balance and finances

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes will be asked to appear before TDs and senators to explain what RTÉ is doing to tackle concerns over gender pay inequality. Photo: David Conachy
RTÉ director general Dee Forbes will be asked to appear before TDs and senators to explain what RTÉ is doing to tackle concerns over gender pay inequality. Photo: David Conachy
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes is to be grilled by an Oireachtas committee on gender pay balance and the broadcaster's finances when the Dáil reconvenes in the autumn.

Communications committee chairperson Hildegarde Naughton has said she will be writing to Ms Forbes to ask her to appear before TDs and senators to explain what RTÉ is doing to tackle concerns over gender pay inequality.

She also said she believes RTÉ should go further than publishing the fees for its top 10 most highly paid presenters.

While the broadcaster has indicated it will reveal the list shortly, Ms Naughton says this doesn't go far enough and RTÉ "should publish the details of all presenters/broadcasters earning more than €100,000".

The Fine Gael TD said there's a requirement for transparency from RTÉ and the information should be published if it's legally permissible and not in breach of contracts.

The issue of pay at the broadcaster blew up in the wake of the BBC publishing a lengthy list of its highest earners last week.

Questions over gender pay equality at RTÉ were raised after it was revealed that newscaster Sharon Ní Bheoláin is earning up to €80,000 less than her co-anchor Bryan Dobson.

Ms Naughton referred to RTÉ's announcement that it is to conduct a review of gender equality across the organisation.

She said "this is pretty incredible" and asked: "How have we reached the stage in 2017 where Ireland's public service broadcaster is examining if there is any discrimination between sexes.

"Answers are needed and promptly," she added.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, another committee member, said Ms Forbes has previously discussed her restructuring plans in response to RTÉ's financial difficulties including a €20m deficit in 2016.

He said he expected the matter to be discussed when RTÉ appears before the committee.

Mr Dooley also said it's "right and appropriate" that RTÉ is conducting the review.

He wants to see the results published and if discrepancies are identified a plan needs to be "put in place to rectify that sooner rather than later".

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he expects issues of pay and gender to be raised with Ms Forbes in the context of a detailed engagement on a range of issues at the broadcaster.

He said RTÉ has to be transparent about its pay and "particularly around issues of gender equality and pay".

But he also said RTÉ's "difficult financial situation" will be discussed.

Separately, Mr Dooley launched Fianna Fáil's Independent Broadcasting Bill, which seeks to increase support for the broadcasting of local news at independent radio stations around the country.

He said media organisations are "starved of revenue" with the drift in advertising spending towards social media platforms and this "makes it near impossible" for them to provide the level of news coverage expected. He wants to fund the scheme with part of the proceeds from the Government's efforts to reduce TV licence fee evasion. Currently around €40m of the fees go unpaid.

Under Mr Dooley's proposals 30pc of the recovered licence fees would go to a public broadcast scheme. He urged Communications Minister Denis Naughten to prioritise initiatives to tackle evasion.

Irish Independent

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