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RTÉ pay controversy: 40% of people say they will not pay licence fee in wake of disclosures

Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll finds only a third of respondents believes Ryan Tubridy should return to broadcaster, while large majority backs cost cutting

Kevin Bakhurst and Ryan Tubridy

The squeeze on RTÉ’s income looks set to continue, with 40 per cent of people saying that they will probably not pay, definitely not pay or never pay their television licence fee following the pay controversy at the public broadcaster.

The findings are part of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll and come as the Department of Arts and Media confirmed the continuing decline in RTÉ licence fee income, with receipts down over €10 million since the controversy over hidden payments and wider spending issues erupted over the summer.

Just over half of people (51 per cent) say they will definitely or probably pay the €160 annual licence fee when it becomes due, the poll finds. This is broken down as 27 per cent of people who will “definitely pay” the fee and 24 per cent who will “probably pay”.

Some 13 per cent said they will “probably not pay”; 16 per cent will “definitely not pay”; and 11 per cent of said they “never pay” the licence fee; while 9 per cent offered no opinion.


Voters were also asked about how the growing financial crisis at the national broadcaster should be resolved. When asked: “Do you think the Government should help fund RTÉ or do you think that RTÉ should cut its costs in line with its loss of revenue?” voters were overwhelmingly in favour of cutting costs at the station.

Almost four in five voters (78 per cent) favoured the option of cutting costs, while 15 per cent said the Government should help fund the station. Just 6 per cent offered no opinion.

Support for cutting costs is strong across all ages, regions and social classes. Only among Labour Party voters does the hard line on cost-cutting flag – just 51 per cent of its supporters favour cost-cutting.

The poll also shows that the public back the decision of RTÉ to part company with former Late Late Show presenter Ryan Tubridy, who was at the centre of the controversy about undisclosed payments. Tubridy denies participating in any clandestine payment arrangements, and is understood to be in legal dispute with RTÉ over his contract and the manner of his departure.

Asked if they would have liked to see him back on air, or is it better, in the light of recent controversies, that he did not return, just over a third (34 per cent) said they would like to see him back. But nearly half (49 per cent) said it is better that he did not return; while 17 per cent expressed no opinion.

The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies between September 24th and 26th. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times