RTÉ board ‘should have asked more questions’ on Toy Show the Musical, chair to tell Oireachtas

RTÉ will ‘become an organisation the country can be proud of’, Bakhurst to tell media committee in wake of reports on loss-making show and on staff exit packages

Kevin Bakhurst will pledge that “RTÉ will once again become an organisation the country can be proud of” when he appears before the Oireachtas Committee on Media on Wednesday.

In the wake of a string of controversies to hit the national broadcaster, Mr Bakhurst, RTÉ's director general, will tell politicians “we will strive to run the organisation to the highest governance standards, driving transparency and accountability.”

The chairwoman of RTÉ's board Siún Ní Raghallaigh will also appear before TDs and Senators.

She will tell the committee: “As has already been acknowledged, there have been serious deficiencies in governance and, on behalf of the RTÉ Board, I would like to take an opportunity at the outset to again apologise for those failings and to assure this committee that there can be no repeat of these failings, given the controls that have now been put in place.”


Senior figures from RTÉ have been invited back before the committee in the wake of the Grant Thornton report on the loss-making Toy Show the Musical and the separate McCann Fitzgerald report voluntary exit scheme payments at the broadcaster.

The Grant Thornton report found the board of RTÉ was not formally told about the musical production until after a contract had already been signed with the Convention Centre Dublin to host it.

The McCann Fitzgerald report found that an exit package paid to RTÉ's former chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe had not been brought before the executive board of the broadcaster before being approved.

Mr Bakhurst will say these are the last two RTÉ-commissioned reports on last summer’s revelations.

He adds: “these investigations have created the clarity we need to put in place the root-and-branch governance reforms necessary to ensure these mistakes cannot happen again.”

RTÉ's difficulties began when it emerged that undisclosed payments were made to former Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy.

Separate questions later emerged about RTÉ's spending on corporate hospitality and governance issues and there has been a significant drop in the number of people paying the TV licence in recent months.

Mr Bakhurst will tell the committee that it has been a “difficult and dispiriting time for RTÉ”.

“I and my leadership team are determined to address every issue that has emerged.

“I know that a very different and better organisation will emerge from this crisis.

“The process of earning back trust is already under way,” he adds, saying there is a new leadership team in place and “we are adhering to better standards of information exchange, assessment and decision making.”

Mr Bakhurst will say: “Public service is at the heart of a new vision for RTÉ” and that a new strategic framework for the future has been published “which focuses on enabling RTÉ to play a stronger role within the creative economy, to deliver value for money, and to be more reflective of the lives of people in Ireland.”

He will close his opening statement saying: “We remain committed to correcting the errors of the past, so that we can create a sustainable future for RTÉ and public service media in Ireland.”

Ms Ní Raghallaigh will tell the committee that the report on Toy Show the Musical “confirms a significant lapse in oversight” of the show.

She says it finds that Board approval was required for Toy Show the Musical and that “formal approval of the Board was neither sought nor provided for”.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh says the report: “clearly illustrates that the Board was not kept appropriately informed about the project as it was being developed” and the “commercial risks associated with an undertaking of this nature were grossly underestimated.”

She adds: “it is also clear to me that the Executive should have been interrogated by the Board on the project, on an ongoing basis and in a much more rigorous fashion.

“In this regard the Board acknowledge that they should have asked more questions, and it is a source of regret for each member that they did not.

“We take collective responsibility for the Board’s responsibility in this debacle.”

Ms Ní Raghallaigh will also say: “the future funding of RTÉ is also obviously of ongoing concern”.

She adds: “I want to assure this committee, and the public, that the Board is focused on driving the change necessary to fully restore confidence in the organisation, and to working with Government to establish a sustainable funding model that will ensure that in line with its statutory obligations, RTÉ can continue to deliver on its important public service media remit.”

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times