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How does RTÉ negotiate top earner contracts - and how did Tubridy's differ?

RTÉ has outlined how it typically negotiates contracts for its highest- paid presenters and what differed in the case of Ryan Tubridy.

HOW THE NEGOTIATION process for Ryan Tubridy’s contract with RTÉ differed from negotiations with other top earners is revealed in documents released by the broadcaster yesterday evening.

After the revelation that RTÉ failed to disclose €345,000 worth of payments to Tubridy since 2017, it released a 9-page statement yesterday in which it outlined its understanding of how Tubridy received the undisclosed payments following an external review by Grant Thornton. 

RTÉ’s statement details the broadcaster’s account of how it typically negotiates the contracts of its ten most highly paid presenters and what differed in Tubridy’s 2020-2025 contract negotiations. 

The full Grant Thornton review gives additional details about the process of negotiating Tubridy’s contract.

The Chief Financial Officer is ordinarily responsible for conducting the negotiations for the top 10 presenters with advice from RTÉ’s legal department, according to the RTÉ statement.

The relevant editorial lead, such as the Director of Content or the Director of News and Current Affairs and the Director of Audience Channels and Marketing, provide input on the services required, like programming and commitments to hours of broadcasting.

The Director General then gives the final approval on the fees to be paid to the presenters.

In the negotiations on Tubridy’s contract, the RTÉ statement asserts that then-Director General Dee Forbes was “directly involved in aspects of the negotiations”.

Subsequently, only Forbes and RTÉ’s commercial director knew of the two €75,000 invoices in 2022, the payment of those invoices through the barter account and the circumstances surrounding those invoices, the statement laid out.

However, the commercial director has said that “her knowledge of those matters was limited to the instructions received by her from the DG in connection with the payments in question”. 

The Grant Thornton review, citing the Director General, outlines: “In early 2020, RTÉ began discussions around the Talent’s contract renewal. All of these discussions involved RTÉ’s then CFO, a Solicitor from RTÉ’S legal team, and from time to time regarding programming details, the Director of Content and the Director General.”

There were effectively two contracts in the negotiations – a ‘five year contract’ between RTÉ and the presenter and a ‘tri-partite agreement’ that also involved Renault as a commercial sponsor but which was guaranteed and underwritten by RTÉ.

At the time, RTÉ had committed to reducing the earnings of its highest paid presenters by 10%. Tubridy’s contract had included an ‘end of contract’ payment clause that was due at the end of 2020, but it was agreed that this would not be paid and that RTÉ would instead guarantee the €75,000 payments from the commercial partnership.

“The terms of this potential agreement were set out by Talent’s Agent and these were discussed and considered by all parties, including RTÉ ‘s legal and finance departments,” the Grant Thornton review states.

“Over a long period of time an agreement was drawn up between the Talent, the Commercial Brand and RTÉ. The Director General was not involved in the drafting, signing or implementation of this [tri-partite] agreement.”

The full timeline of Tubridy’s contract negotiations is available here.

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