herald

Monday 24 July 2017

RTE's €322k spend on staff sent to Rio Olympics was 'excellent value'

Sports Minister Shane Ross
Sports Minister Shane Ross

RTE spent €10,000 on transport, flights and accommodation for each of the 33 staff it sent to the Olympic Games, new figures reveal.

In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the State broadcaster confirmed that key expenses for sports, news, and online staff working in Rio de Janeiro totalled €322,304.

It spent €221,760 on accommodation, €75,074 on air travel and €25,470 on local transport between July 26 and August 22. On top of that, RTE staff in Rio received a daily allowance of €110.

The broadcaster paid an average €2,422 for return flights from Dublin to Rio.

RTE sent TV, radio and digital media staff to Rio to report the Games and the ticket sales controversy surrounding the former president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) Pat Hickey.

An RTE spokesman said: "The level of output and service provided by everyone on the team working 14/16 hour days was excellent value for the licence fee payer."

He said its 33 staff played a key role in delivering "over 280 hours of Rio coverage to Irish audiences". By contrast the BBC had sent a team of more than 450 to Brazil.

"When travelling on business, staff are required to seek accommodation as near as possible to their work and at the best rates," said the spokesman.

Boxing

Separately, RTE has declined to disclose how much it paid its most frequently used TV boxing panelists for studio coverage of boxing fights at the Rio Olympics.

The panellists were Bernard Dunne, Eric Donovan, Kellie Harrington, Michael Carruth and Mick Dowling

In its FOI response, RTE said payments to expert contributors were confidential, and explained such data would give its competitors "an unfair commercial advantage" in any "negotiations in respect of similar services".

Similarly, RTE would not publish the 2016 fees given to analysts on its rugby, soccer and GAA punditry teams during the Six Nations, Euro 2016 competition and on The Sunday Game.

Meanwhile, an FOI request to view the expenses of Sports Minister Shane Ross during his visit to Rio in August has been declined by his department because such records had not been yet been created, it said.

Additionally, a request for a copy of Mr Ross' itinerary for his visit to Rio was refused because "its release could potentially be prejudicial to the findings of the Moran Inquiry" into OCI ticket distribution and sales.

Mr Ross' officials said that "information relating to travel expenses of the Minister is regularly posted on the department website when these become available".

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