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RTÉ scandal

Expanded probe into setting up of RTÉ's barter account requested by expert group

Media Minister Catherine Martin is to appear before an Oireachtas committee today.

AN EXPANSION OF the terms of reference of the work of the forensic accountants investigating matters in RTÉ has been requested by the Expert Advisory Committee on Governance and Culture, Media Minister Catherine Martin will confirm tomorrow. 

The minister will appear before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media today, where she will discuss the oversight of RTÉ and its long term funding plan. 

In her opening statement, the minister will outline that the additional terms will focus on:

  • Whether appropriate processes and procedures were followed in relation to the approval and operation of the barter account when it was established in 2012
  • The role of the Executive Board and Board of RTÉ as regards the governance of the barter account in the period 2017 to 2022
  • Whether, and if not why not, the internal audit function in RTÉ, the Audit and Risk Committee of the Board of RTÉ, and RTÉ’s external auditor examined or queried the barter account in the period 2017 to 2022

It is understood the establishment of the barter account in 2012 will be focused on, rather than its use over the subsequent years. A barter account was used to make payments to Ryan Tubridy as well as to pay for corporate hospitality.

These new terms of reference will inform the deliberations of the Expert Advisory Committee and will be published alongside their final report after it has been submitted to the minister. 

Two expert advisory committees are examining the inadequacy or failures of internal processes, procedures, controls and oversight.

The minister states in her remarks that their findings will help to understand the culture that has developed within the organisation and how that culture may have contributed to the control and governance failings.

RTÉ culture

“More importantly, their recommendations will underpin a new framework to ensure best practice in corporate governance control and oversight. They will also help in renewing RTÉ’s culture to ensure that it has service to the public at its core.

“The work of the forensic accountants, which I appointed in July, has already set out some detail about the operation of the barter account, and is continuing so that we can have full transparency about the use of the barter accounts to access goods and services by RTE,” she says in her opening statement. 

She says that while the examinations she has initiated, together with the reviews commissioned by the board itself and the work of Oireachtas Committees may be unprecedented, they are “vital”

She adds:

While public service broadcasting is and should always be independent, it must also be accountable, transparent and trustworthy. 


The public service broadcaster needs an “appropriate and sustainable funding model”, says Martin, who adds that she remains committed to the reform of the TV licence system.

The minister says she plans to bring forward the Technical Working Group report to Cabinet in due course, but first the focus must be on interim funding.

Interim funding

While the Future of Media Commission had set out a recommended public funding level for RTÉ, the broadcasters own assessment was submitted to the minister earlier this year, in which it sought a total of €34.5m in additional funding for next year.

“This was prior to the recent downturn in the number of licence fees issued,” she said.

An independent assessment report on what level of funding should be supplied by government has been received by the minister. She will tell the committee today that she cannot disclose the detail of that report in advance of discussions with Cabinet.

“However, what I will say is that even in the midst of this controversy, we do need to ensure that RTÉ can continue to meet its statutory obligations, and for this interim funding will be required.

“However, this will not simply be a question of increasing public funding for RTÉ. Already, the Director General has announced a number of measures aimed at reducing costs this year.

“This is to be welcomed, however, I expect that in developing their new strategic plan, a serious commitment to reducing costs and achieving value for money will need to be evident.

“This new strategy will also need to set out a vision for RTÉ’s future in light of all that has happened and in the context of the competitive and changed media landscape in which it operates. This vision needs to chart a positive way forward so that RTÉ can become the public service broadcaster which the Irish public expect and deserve,” Martin will tell the committee. 

The minister says it is important that the focus now is on solutions  and “on charting a way forward”.

“These solutions, the rebuilding process, will be informed and directed by independent interrogation, analysis and recommendations,” she adds.

Martin says the public have been “shocked and outraged” at what has transpired since the end of June, adding that “while we seek the full facts, so too must we look to the future. To look not only for the answers to our questions, but also to seek the solutions to the problem, to look for the ways in which we can all help shape a public service broadcaster of which we can be proud”.

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