The Irish Times view on Toy Show the Musical: making a crisis out of a flop

The contents of a report from Grant Thornton represent a further blow to RTÉ's already battered reputation

Among the many self-inflicted wounds suffered by RTÉ in recent months, the saga of Toy Show the Musical stands a little apart. The broadcaster’s ill-fated attempt to parlay the success of its most popular TV programme into a live entertainment event was already a matter of public record before the concealment of payments to Ryan Tubridy came to light. At the time it might have seemed no more than an embarrassing, albeit very expensive, addendum to the more serious failures identified elsewhere. Some might even have felt the broadcaster should not be penalised too harshly for taking a creative risk.

But the contents of a report from auditors Grant Thornton into the matter represent a further blow to RTÉ's already battered reputation. It is clear the board failed to interrogate the flawed assumptions underpinning the business plan for the project. The failure was particularly egregious given the amount of money involved. It is also inexplicable that the flagship of a new strategic push to diversify into a notoriously high-risk marketplace did not receive more scrutiny.

The report does not assign culpability or make judgments. But readers can see for themselves that the affair represents a grave failure of corporate governance. It is clear that, under the terms of RTÉ's own internal guidelines, the project should not have proceeded without formal authorisation. The report records a “diversity of views” among board members as to whether such approval was granted. It goes on to state damningly that it was not.

Grant Thornton also finds concerning evidence of further misleading accounting practices, similar to those revealed in the Tubridy payments case. A shortfall in sponsorship income was made up by moving ¤75,000 from an entirely separate advertising account. The revelation raises more questions about standards of financial reporting during this period and about the relationship between board and senior executives.


RTÉ chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh has apologised to the public for the “severe lapse”, and insists standards of governance have been transformed over the past year. She has expressed full confidence in the current board members who were in place while these events took place. The Taoiseach has expressed the view that the resignation of board members would not be helpful at this stage.He may be correct, but it is not a view that will be universally shared.

Most of the key protagonists in these events have moved on from RTÉ, but it remains to be seen whether the Government is satisfied that the reforms which have been implemented so far are sufficient. Just as importantly, it is still unclear when it is prepared to set forth its own vision for a model of public service media fit for purpose in the 21st century.