Key report on RTÉ funding expected within a week, says Catherine Martin

Minister for Media hopes broadcaster’s former director general Dee Forbes will answer questions when recovered from illness

Minister for Media Catherine Martin has said she expects to receive the report from the State’s financial advisory body, NewEra, into RTÉ's latest funding requirements within a week.

She said she would then speak to Minister for Finance Michael McGrath about the matter and this would have a large bearing on their decision-making regarding the broadcaster in next month’s budget.

Speaking at a launch of Culture Night in Dublin on Wednesday, Ms Martin said she hoped former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes would address Oireachtas committees regarding the financial controversies at the company when she is no longer ill.

Ms Forbes cited ill health when turning down invitations to speak to the committees on media and public accounts at the height of the crisis over payments to Ryan Tubridy.


“Dee Forbes is unwell, and I think we have to respect that if there’s a genuine illness there, but when she is feeling better I think we really need to hear [from her] because the more people that can shed the light on this issue is better for helping the rebuilding of trust [in RTÉ],” Ms Martin told reporters.

Asked if she was concerned about a possible public backlash if the State gives RTÉ a bailout, Ms Martin noted the Future of Media Commission’s report and “recommendations that were approved by Government last year”.

“That included interim funding, so that was part of last year’s budget and was due to be part of this year’s budget,” she said.

The Green Party politician said there was a greater need for interim funding at present with TV licence payments having fallen following the RTÉ controversies. She said the Government would be seeking “real reform and cost cutting measures that we expect from any other public body” in exchange for support.

The Coalition previously agreed to assess the licence fee system after rejecting a recommendation last year by the commission to replace it with central exchequer funding. From 2010 to 2019, RTÉ derived 54 per cent of its funds from public money and 46 per cent from commercial sources.

The Minister said officials were looking at a future model for the TV licence, but appealed to people to pay theirs in the interim.

She said “everyone was looking with curiosity” at The Late Late Show last week as new presenter Patrick Kielty made his debut and recorded strong viewership figures.

“Patrick Kielty did a fantastic job on Friday and it is a positive in a few months of controversy to see the high viewership return to the Late Late,” Ms Martin said.

Ms Martin said it was unfortunate timing to have the three Coalition party leaders in New York for the United Nations General Assembly as the Dáil resumed after the summer recess.

“I think it shows the respect for the United Nations and what is happening over there ... but there’s important work being done over in New York and the three party leaders are representing the country,” she said.

Asked about President Michael D Higgins saying that the UN had lost credibility by failing to halt wars and famines and manage migration, Ms Martin said he is “absolutely entitled to his own opinion”.

“But there is an obvious need there I think for reform of the UN Security Council, but we should never undermine the great work that’s being done both in terms of security and the work that’s done with refugees,” she said.

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist