Exodus of 2FM presenters not linked to transparency rules, says RTÉ

Laura Fox named as Jennifer Zamparelli’s replacement as 2FM boss says it is ‘nuts’ to say station’s future is under threat

RTÉ has dismissed claims that star presenters Jennifer Zamparelli, the 2 Johnnies and Doireann Garrihy were leaving 2FM because of new transparency rules on earnings outside the station.

Zamparelli and the 2 Johnnies — Johnny “Smacks” McMahon and Johnny “B” O’Brien — this week said their 2FM shows were ending, a fortnight after Garrihy said she would broadcast her final breakfast show at the end of this month.

Laura Fox, a presenter on RTÉ TV’s Ireland’s Fittest Family, was named on Friday as Zamparelli’s successor.

New transparency rules on external earnings and a new register of interests follow a storm of controversy over lax RTÉ governance after disclosures about Ryan Tubridy’s money.


Interviewed on Friday, 2FM station chief Dan Healy said the new regime was not the prime reason for the wave of departures.

“Reality is it’s nuanced,” Healy told the Claire Byrne show on RTÉ Radio 1. “It played a role to an extent but it’s not the reason. It just isn’t.”

The national broadcaster will this summer start publishing a regular list of presenters’ approved work outside RTÉ.

According to RTÉ, this covers ad hoc work such as “speaking engagements, chairing meetings, joining a panel/discussion group, promoting commercial ventures including draws, raffles, prizes [and] some brand ambassador arrangements”. It also covers “participation in charitable events/launches/promotions, opening or launching a facility, being a member of a judging panel, book launches [and] requests to write newspaper column”.

The “register of external activities” will set out any pay in bands up to €1,000, or €1,001-€5,000, €5,001-€10,000 or greater than €10,0000.

These lists of earnings will be published quarterly but an initial release in July will reflect any external activities in the first six month of 2024. “RTÉ has stated the register … will include summary details of approved activities for the quarter,” said the broadcaster.

It is understood the July list is likely to include any approved external earnings by Zamparelli, the 2 Johnnies and Garrihy in respect of the period they were on the air since January. Their external earnings are the subject of considerable speculation, although they are not clear from publicly filed accounts for companies they own.

As part of the drive to tighten its governance, RTÉ has also introduced a separate register of interests to capture interests separate from those covered by the external activities register.

However, RTÉ said it won’t be publishing the register of interests. “No public body publishes the register of interests of its staff, nor will RTÉ. It would be illegal to do so under the Ethics In Public Offices Acts and [the general data protection regulation],” said the broadcaster.

Mr Healy said the register of interests would not be an obstacle when it comes to hiring presenters with significant social media profiles and potential for external earnings. Still, he declined to say whether any of the departing presenters had refused to sign the register.

“I’m not going to go into any of that,” he told Byrne. “All I’m saying is that we will publish that towards July time.”

Despite losing four high-profile presenters in two weeks, he insisted 2FM had a bright future and claimed it was “amazing” the station was making front-page news.

When it was pointed out that some people were asking whether 2FM should be closed down, Healy said “it absolutely should not be shut down”.

Such questions would never be asked of BBC Radio 1, he said. “To go from people leaving the stations to closing it down is nuts.”

Fox took to Instagram on Friday evening to thank Zamparelli for her support “on and off air”.

“I moved up from Galway eight years ago wanting to get a job in 2FM with not a breeze how I was going to go about it and I did every job under the sun to get here,” she said.

There were “so many people I want to thank but there’s one person in particular and that’s Alan McQuillan”, she continued referring to the RTÉ broadcaster who died in 2019 at the age of just 37.

“He championed me from day dot on RTÉ Pulse and got me across the hall to 2FM. He used to lurk around hallways with me to run into the bosses and come in at 5am to make sure I was set for covering weekend breakfast but more importantly, he was the absolute craic and a great friend and I’m sad he’s not here today to celebrate with me but I know he’d be so buzzed.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor