New director general to unveil changes within RTÉ

Kevin Bakhurst will lay out his plan to restore trust in the broadcaster starting with an email to staff on Monday morning

Widespread changes in the management of RTÉ will be unveiled this morning as the new director general, Kevin Bakhurst, promised action after weeks of controversy.

On Sunday evening the director of strategy, Rory Coveney, resigned from his role in order to make way for a “fresh lead team” within the organisation.

Mr Coveney, who is the brother of Fine Gael Minister Simon Coveney and who sat on RTÉ's executive board, came under pressure during Oireachtas hearings last week over RTÉ's decision to run the Toy Show the Musical project. He defended the project despite the fact it lost €2.2 million in its first year.

Staff will receive an email from Mr Bakhurst on Monday morning outlining his plans to restore trust in the organisation after it emerged that RTÉ underreported the salary paid to star presenter Ryan Tubridy.


It is understood Mr Bakhurst will on Monday morning outline sweeping changes around how RTÉ is run, beginning with a restructuring of the executive board which manages day-to-day affairs.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Bakhurst said that he would “be in contact with staff first thing in the morning via email, and I’ll be going around meeting people, trying to take questions and explain what we’re trying to do. The only thing I’ll say to people is it’s time for action now, that’s all we need.”

Later, Mr Bakhurst thanked Rory Coveney for his “diligence, energy and insight” after Mr Coveney stepped down from his role.

Mr Coveney said he had spoken with Mr Bakhurst and believed that “the tough job ahead of him would be made somewhat easier if he had a fresh lead team”.

Speaking in Cork, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Bakhurst would make announcements related to the restructuring of the RTÉ executive, as well as some changes around how to manage potential conflicts of interest.

“I wouldn’t see it as the end of the affair. I think it is the beginning of some changes that are important in RTÉ,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader said it would be an important week for the broadcaster.

Mr Varadkar also warned that people should not rush to judgment before hearing Ryan Tubridy and agent Noel Kelly’s highly anticipated evidence before two Oireachtas committees on Tuesday.

“I think it is a good thing that he [Tubridy] is willing to come before a committee and I am quite certain that he will be willing to answer questions and give his side of the story. I don’t like rushing to judgment. I really would say to people let’s not rush to judgment.”

In correspondence to Mr Tubridy and Mr Kelly, Public Accounts Committee chair Brian Stanley outlined a number of broad topics that committee members will be hoping to cover. These include details of payments made to Mr Tubridy between 2017 to date; details of his contractual relationships with RTÉ, including related payments and exit fees; and details of the agreement between Renault, RTE and Mr Tubridy.

Asked about the finances of the organisation, the Taoiseach said any request for a bailout in future would come with “consequences”.

“If RTÉ runs into a serious financial situation during the course of the year, well then we will have to consider that. But it has never been the case that any public body has been bailed out without there being consequences … If there is a bailout, it is always conditional,” he said

A spokesman for the Department of Media confirmed that in May, former director general of RTÉ Dee Forbes sought interim funding of €34.5 million ahead of budget talks. “Any decision on future reform of the TV licence system has been paused as RTÉ addresses its current governance issues,” the spokesman said.

Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne said the licence fee should be abolished and public-sector broadcasting should be funded from general taxation.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times