Two RTÉ staff members paid separately by commercial subsidiary for producing Toy Show the Musical

Jane Murphy and Katherine Drohan, who previously worked on Late Late Show, credited with creating ill-fated project

RTÉ has confirmed that two producers centrally involved in Toy Show the Musical were paid separately by the broadcaster’s commercial subsidiary for their involvement with the ill-fated project.

The payments received from the firm were in addition to their normal salaries with RTÉ itself and the two producers were granted artists’ tax exemptions on the earnings.

Jane Murphy and Katherine Drohan, who both previously worked on The Late Late Show, were credited as having created and produced the show which was a commercial failure that cost the broadcaster more than €2 million.

Separately, Revenue confirmed artists’ exemptions had been, as initially reported by Phoenix Magazine, granted in respect of their work on Toy Show the Musical. The scheme allows those behind artistic projects to earn up to €50,000 tax-free from that project in any given year.

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The issue of additional payments having been made to the two producers was raised by Senator Micheál Carrigy at last week’s meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media at which RTÉ's director general, Kevin Bakhurst, appeared.

Mr Bakhurst suggested the producers were unlikely to have been paid while working for a different part of RTÉ but that he would clarify the issue. Mr Carrigy said he had seen documentation that established they had been paid separately for the work over a three year period.

In a statement on Thursday, the broadcaster clarified that they had, in fact, been paid as the show’s writers by its commercial subsidiary.

“They received remuneration for that writing work which took place across 2020, 2021 and 2022,” it said. “The contracting party was RTÉCEDAC (RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Designated Activity Company) which is a wholly owned subsidiary of RTÉ and which funded the project.”

Mr Bakhurst, meanwhile, has confirmed that RTÉ has written to former senior management who left the broadcaster asking them to waive their right to confidentiality over the circumstances of their exit. He said it was too early to know if any of the former staff will agree to the request but “I don’t want expectations to get very high”.

The broadcaster on Thursday published legal advice in relation to the recent departures of executive-level senior management.

The move followed reports last weekend that Mr Coveney, the former director of strategy, received a package worth €200,000, though RTÉ has not confirmed any figure.

Asked on RTÉ Radio’s News at One on Thursday about his previous comments to the effect that Mr Coveney “didn’t get a payment going out the door, but he did get close to statutory level kind of payments,” when it now appeared he had received something approximating a full-year’s salary, Mr Bakhurst said: “I was answering a series of questions in a big press scrum on day one in the job”.

“I was trying to give an idea that he did get paid, but not an extortionate amount without giving the exact details. So I was trying to tread a careful line between being as open as I possibly could in the circumstances. But trying to respect what’s been laid out in legal advice.” He said he had been unclear at the time as to what Mr Coveney’s statutory entitlement would have been.

Asked if there was any prospect of RTÉ publishing details of the exit packages awarded to executives where such confidentiality clauses existed, Mr Bakhurst said “we are completely unable to”.

He said, however, that some detail of the figures involved would be provided in the broadcaster’s annual financial returns as this would not constitute a breach of the clauses involved.

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times