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RTÉ told it has no legal power to publish outside earnings of TV and radio presenters

Proposal to release ‘details of approved activities’ central to transparency drive after storm of controversy concerning lax governance

RTÉ has been preparing for months to start publishing a quarterly list of presenters’ approved work outside the station. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

RTÉ's plan to disclose the outside earnings of TV and radio presenters has hit a wall after station chiefs were told they had no legal power to publish the information.

The proposal to release “summary details of approved activities” is central to a transparency drive in RTÉ after a storm of controversy over lax governance and disclosures about Ryan Tubridy’s money.

RTÉ has been preparing for months to start publishing a quarterly list of presenters’ approved work outside the station this summer, with an initial July release to cover the first six months of 2024.

Now data regulators have warned RTÉ it has no basis in law to release such earnings, with legal change necessary to clear the way for publication.


The warning was issued by the Data Protection Commission (DPC), the public body responsible for enforcing the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR). The GDPR governs how business and other organisations manage the personal data of workers, customers, website users and organisation members.

The national broadcaster and the DPC have been discussing the matter since December, RTÉ said in response to questions.

The planned register is supposed to set out any external pay in bands up to €1,000, or €1,001-€5,000, €5,001-€10,000 or greater than €10,0000.

RTÉ has previously dismissed claims that star presenters Jennifer Zamparelli, the 2 Johnnies and Doireann Garrihy left 2FM because of the new rules on outside earnings.

Una Mullally: Jennifer Zamparelli would have been worth fighting for. But if The 2 Johnnies ‘were never ours’, why hire them?Opens in new window ]

The rules cover ad hoc work such as “speaking engagements, chairing meetings, joining a panel/discussion group, promoting commercial ventures including draws, raffles, prizes [and] some brand ambassador arrangements”.

They also cover “participation in charitable events/launches/promotions, opening or launching a facility, being a member of a judging panel, book launches [and] requests to write newspaper column”.

The DPC is said to have advised RTÉ that the legal change can be made by way of a statutory instrument which is a form of secondary legislation that can be introduced by ministerial direction without the need to pass a Bill through the Dáil and Seanad.

Still, a spokesman for the Department of Media said RTÉ has not approached it with any request to the Minister, Catherine Martin, to consider a statutory instrument.

“The department understands that RTÉ are continuing to engage with the DPC on the proposed register of external activities, and addressing any issues that arise,” the spokesman said.

“RTÉ have advised the department of progress in this regard including the legal basis on which it is being compiled and published. Ultimately compilation and publication of the register is a matter for RTÉ.”

The DPC declined to discuss the substance of the talks. “We continue to engage with RTÉ on the matter,” a DPC spokesman said, referring to the question of publishing the register.

Although RTÉ said it “continues to liaise” with the DPC, it too declined to disclose the details.

Asked whether the broadcaster plans to ask the department to change the law, the station cited “extensive engagement with the DPC and the department over the past six months” on the matter.

“Following our most recent meeting with the DPC in the last few days, we are considering the best way to proceed.”

To tighten governance, RTÉ introduced a separate register of interests of staff to capture interests separate from the external activities register.

However, the broadcaster will not be publishing the register of interests as no public body does so. RTÉ previously said would be illegal to publish such information under the Ethics in Public Office Act and the GDPR.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times