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RTÉ crisis: 10 questions Ryan Tubridy is likely to face at today’s committee hearings

Presenter and his agent Noel Kelly are expected to face in-depth questions over payments scandal

Ryan Tubridy rejects RTÉ's claim he is out of contract as pay controversy deepens

Former Late Late Show presenter Ryan Tubridy will appear before both the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Oireachtas media committee on Tuesday. Together with his agent, Noel Kelly of NK Management, he is expected to undergo a grilling on everything he knew about the payments scandal currently rocking RTÉ.

Here are 10 questions he is likely to face.

1. Did he notice the discrepancy between what he was paid and what the public was told, and if so, why did he not ask questions?

Last month, RTÉ disclosed that Tubridy received €345,000 over the past five years that was not publicly declared before. With such considerable sums of money involved, he will likely be asked whether he knew of the discrepancy, and if not, how could he have failed to notice given the publicity surrounding top-earners’ pay? Tubridy has said RTÉ’s accounting of his payments contained “serious errors”. While he felt no responsibility, he nevertheless conceded he “should have asked questions at the time and sought answers as to the circumstances which resulted in incorrect figures being published”.

2. How much of his agent’s actions on his behalf was he made aware of?

Many of RTÉ’s top “talent” have agent representation. A key question for Tubridy is whether Noel Kelly simply delivered the goods in terms of pay and remuneration, or whether they had detailed discussions on exactly how those goods were delivered. Crucially, was Tubridy apprised of, or did he ask about, the details of his financial packages, where all the money came from and on what basis it was negotiated?


3. Was he fully aware of the terms of the tripartite agreement between his agent, RTÉ and Renault?

The tripartite agreement refers to an additional commercial deal with Renault, which sponsored The Late Late Show, whereby Tubridy would be paid €75,000 per year for making a number of personal appearances at Renault events. Committee members will want to know who knew what about this arrangement and when. In the lead up to one of its recent meetings, the PAC wanted RTÉ executives to tell them who had knowledge of this deal and who signed off on it.

4. Did he know the €75,000 aspect of the deal would be underwritten by RTÉ?

During an online meeting in May 2020 between Kelly, former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes and an RTÉ solicitor, a verbal guarantee was given that RTÉ would underwrite Renault’s commercial contract. Kelly will be asked about two consequent €75,000 invoices labelled “consultancy fees”. What communication, if any, existed between Tubridy and his agent about this? In his initial statement, broadly addressing the controversy, Tubridy said he could not shed any light on why RTÉ treated his payments in the way it did.

5. Did Tubridy feel this was all appropriate given the financial turbulence at RTÉ and the further uncertainties brought about by Covid-19?

Many view the controversy as indicative of a grossly unjust two-tier system in an organisation beset by financial problems. What is Tubridy’s view of his own payments in that context? The National Union of Journalists noted that just as Tubridy received assurances his payments would not be cut, many young workers were going without increments which had been suspended.

6. How does he address the change in tone between his two initial statements in the aftermath of the revelations?

PAC member and Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh has already said this information is required. As the controversy emerged, Tubridy issued two statements on June 22nd and June 23rd respectively. The first, a relatively terse expression of surprise and disappointment, set out his inability to explain any of the circumstances. The second, about three times the length, seemed more considered, admitting to mistakes in not ascertaining why incorrect figures had been published.

7. What was his response to written guarantees from Dee Forbes that he would not face any further pay reductions despite the ongoing uncertainty faced by other workers?

A letter sent to Tubridy by Forbes in July 2020 regarding his contract stated that “fees set out in this agreement will be paid by RTÉ without any reductions and RTÉ shall not make any request or inquiry from you in relation to a reduction in the agreed fees”. Again, in the context of financial pressures at the broadcaster and on some staff, Tubridy is likely to be asked for his thoughts on a guarantee his considerable terms would not be cut.

8. Does he feel he has the public’s support and does he feel it appropriate to return to the airwaves while internal reviews continue?

When the payments controversy settles down, the elephant in the room could well be Tubridy’s continued absence from the airwaves. It has been a question asked and sidestepped by others, but what does Tubridy think appropriate? With ongoing reviews into the affair, can he sit behind the mic again? Does he maintain his audience’s loyalty and trust?

9. What about the €120,000 loyalty payment?

According to reports, the only additional money due in Tubridy’s 2015-2020 contract was a loyalty payment of €120,000. RTÉ told an Oireachtas committee this was not paid, but chief financial officer Richard Collins said that “for an unexplained reason, that €120,000 was credited against his earnings between 2017 and 2019″, a factor now under investigation by Grant Thornton. TDs will want to know exactly what that means and what, if any, relationship it has to the money paid to Tubridy beyond what was publicly disclosed.

10. Why did he not help promote Toy Show the Musical?

Almost a subplot to the whole affair, Toy Show the Musical, the ill-fated attempt at cashing in on the festive Late Late Show tradition which lost more than €2 million, has drawn much fire as a metaphor for RTÉ’s financial profligacy. Tubridy was conspicuously absent from the promotion of the show. Why? At a recent Oireachtas committee, RTÉ's former director of strategy Rory Coveney said he “just wasn’t interested”.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times