RTÉ spends nearly €75,000 appealing findings against broadcaster in bogus self-employment cases

Decision expected from Dáil committee on whether RTÉ should be compelled to supply key document in Tubridy pay saga

RTÉ has spent nearly €75,000 appealing findings against the broadcaster around bogus self-employment cases, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been told.

In fresh documentation sent to the committee, RTÉ revealed it has spent €74,034, exclusive of VAT, appealing bogus self-employment findings made by the Department of Social Protection. Bogus self-employment is where a company classifies a worker as self-employed although they have the characteristics of an employee.

The Department of Social Protection’s Scope unit has been investigating different employee cases and issuing findings, some of which RTÉ has appealed.

The scope section began its investigations into the matter in September 2020.


The original intention was to examine the treatment of 340 individuals, but that number increased to 500. To date, about 144 investigations have been completed. There have been 118 decisions and arising from this 32 appeals are active.

RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst previously said appeals are taken on “very narrow grounds. The presumption is to accept the findings unless there is a point of law or a point of fact.”

In separate correspondence to the committee on Friday, RTÉ said it had hired a celebrity booker for the Late Late Show for a short period.

“Our aim is to widen our pool of guests over the season and deliver the best possible experience to the audience,” the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile, a decision is now expected as soon as next week from the Dáil’s oversight committee around whether to give the PAC powers to compel RTÉ to supply a key document about top-up payments given to Ryan Tubridy.

The committee wants to see the note that accompanied a Microsoft Teams meeting on May 7th, 2020, between agent Noel Kelly, former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes and an RTÉ solicitor in which a verbal guarantee was given that RTÉ would underwrite a commercial contract with Renault.

Under the deal, which was at the centre of the controversy over payments to Tubridy, Renault was to pay the presenter €75,000 a year in exchange for three public appearances. The agreement was underwritten by RTÉ which left the broadcaster paying the presenter €150,000.

RTÉ has maintained that the note accompanying that decision meeting is privileged, and the PAC has asked the Dáil’s oversight committee to give it more powers to compel the station to release it. The committee will hold a meeting next week. Chair of the PAC Brian Stanley said the document is “crucial” and is “at the very heart of this controversy.”

It emerged earlier this week that RTÉ has already spent nearly €500,000 on a series of external reviews commissioned in the aftermath of the controversy around misstated payments to Mr Tubridy.

Elsewhere, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the controversy surrounding RTÉ's finances has made replacing the TV licence fee with a household media charge more difficult. Speaking in Seoul at the end of a three-day trade mission to South Korea, Mr Varadkar said the Government had not yet decided on a model for funding RTÉ in the future.

Mr Varadkar suggested any such media charge could meet public resistance.

“Nobody likes to bring in new taxes and new charges and as somebody who has been involved in doing a few, successful and unsuccessful, I know how difficult it can be. I think the recent controversy has made that option harder, of a household media charge because I think there will still be a lot of people who would refuse to pay and resent paying it.”

Mr Varadkar said he did not wish to see RTÉ, which will publish a reform plan in the coming days, being much smaller than it is now. But he was sceptical about another alternative to the licence fee, exchequer funding with spending for public service broadcasting ring-fenced to avoid the appearance of political pressure on the broadcaster.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times