herald

Thursday 26 April 2018

RTE bosses ordered to explain how top-earning stars are paid

Ryan Tubridy was the highest paid presenter in 2015. Photo: Colin Keegan
Ryan Tubridy was the highest paid presenter in 2015. Photo: Colin Keegan

The salaries of RTE's top earners are to be scrutinised by the Government's Public Accounts Committee.

The move comes after concerns were raised about RTE's self-employment contracts and the terms under which its high earners are paid.

Committee members have asked for the national broadcaster to explain how salaries are paid to its biggest stars.

Seven of the top 10 earners use companies to contract their services to the national broadcaster.

These include Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy, Ray D'Arcy, Joe Duffy, Miriam O'Callaghan, Marian Finucane and Claire Byrne.

Former Westlife singer Nicky Byrne's services are also retained through a company.

The practice brings a number of potential benefits to the stars, including greater control of tax and pension arrangements. Committee members yesterday said they were afraid the benefits were coming at a cost to the Exchequer.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said it was useful for the committee to understand what is going on with the self-employment contracts.

"It is not illegal, but it might come at a cost to the public," she said.

Tubridy was RTE's highest paid presenter in 2015, earning €495,000. Ray D'Arcy was the second highest paid, earning €400,000.

Interfering

The committee agreed to write to RTE in the coming days, inviting it to explain how the self-employment pay arrangements work.

"We won't be interfering with their editorial independence or anything like that," committee chair Sean Fleming told the Herald.

"It is the financial aspects of the organisation that are of concern to us in view of the fact the majority of their funding comes from the public purse.

"That is why they should be answerable to the Public Accounts Committee.

"More than 50pc of their revenue comes from the licence fee, which is public money from the department. Because this funding comes from the department, it is under our remit."

RTE said it contracts service providers in an appropriate manner and will answer the committee's questions.

The broadcaster is currently conducting a review of how it engages with contractors.

A spokesman said: "RTE's workforce is made up primarily of staff who are engaged through employment contracts.

"RTE enters into a variety of arrangements for the provision of goods and services with a broad range of service providers, including sole traders, independent contractors, actors, contributors and musicians with whom RTE contracts in the appropriate manner."

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