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Minister Catherine Martin announces an independent root and branch examination of RTÉ

Following the agreement of her government colleagues this morning, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media, Catherine Martin, has announced that she will be commissioning an independent, root and branch examination of Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), composed of two separate and parallel reviews:

· a Review of Governance and Culture

· a Review of Contractor Fees, Human Resources (HR) and other matters

The Reviews will each be directed by two different three-person Expert Advisory Committees who will oversee the work of a professional services firm that will be appointed to work on the reviews. The Expert Advisory Committees will work in parallel and coordinate where applicable and will be supported by a team from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

The Minister has decided to commission the independent examination following the damaging disclosures of the last two weeks, which have revealed shocking governance failings within RTÉ. As a consequence of those failings, RTÉ has lost the trust of the people and of its own staff. Given the vital importance of public service broadcasting to our democracy, our culture and our society, it is essential that public trust and faith in RTÉ be restored.

Speaking today, Minister Martin said:

"Ever since the first broadcast of its predecessor Raidió Éireann, RTÉ has provided a public space for the people of Ireland to speak to and of one another. At its best, it has held up a mirror to Irish society, one that has demonstrated not only the best in our society but one that also revealed its injustices, both glaring and sometimes all too hidden. In doing so, RTÉ has been sustained not only by the tireless work of its staff over the years but also through the trust of the people.

"That trust has been shattered. The independent, root and branch examination of RTÉ I am announcing today is the beginning of our efforts to restore that trust."

The purpose of the examination is to help restore trust through a wide-ranging, and independent review into the root causes of the failings in RTÉ and the recommendation of measures to prevent their recurrence in the future.

To further underpin the work of the Committees, the Minister will invoke her powers under section 109(7)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to appoint a forensic accountant to examine the books or other records of account of RTÉ in respect of any financial year or other period. The forensic accountant will initially direct its focus on the barter account and any other off-balance sheet accounts.

As the examination progresses, the Minister may widen its scope to take account of any further findings, including those arising from the work of the work of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media and Grant Thornton reports.

It is expected that the examination will take six months from the commencement of work. The Minister will be furnished with interim reports on their progress. The completed examination will inform the development of an implementation plan which will address the recommendations proposed.

On Friday 7 July, the Minister will meet the incoming Director General of RTÉ, Kevin Bakhurst, and the Chair of the RTÉ Board, Siún Ní Raghallaigh, to discuss how RTÉ will co-operate and facilitate the completion of the examination and the immediate next steps they will be taking to contribute to the restoration of trust and confidence in RTÉ.

Review of Governance and Culture in RTÉ

The first strand of the examination will identify any failures or weaknesses in corporate governance or organisational culture that are likely to have contributed to the findings of the Grant Thornton reports commissioned by RTÉ in relation to certain payments and understatements of earnings in the 2017-2019 and 2021-2022 periods.

The terms of reference of this element are:

i) Conduct an examination of RTÉ’s corporate governance framework and advise the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media on whether the corporate governance framework:

(a) reflects best governance practice for Commercial State Bodies as set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies;

(b) complies with the relevant legislative provisions which apply to RTÉ; and

(c) includes a robust system of internal governance, including appropriate divisions of responsibilities, operational procedures, internal checks and balances relevant to the organisational context of RTÉ and direction and oversight by the Executive Board and the RTÉ Board. This will include an examination of the barter account and its governance.

ii) Where applicable, make recommendations to the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media on changes to RTÉ’s corporate governance framework to ensure robust public accountability.

iii) Provide an assessment of any organisational cultural characteristics and ways of conducting business within RTÉ, including staff morale and engagement, as well as the impact of RTÉ’s commercial income activities on its public service remit, identified from the corporate governance review or otherwise, that are likely to have contributed to the findings in the Grant Thornton reviews commissioned by RTÉ in relation to both the 2021-2022 overpayments and 2017-2019 period.

iv) Arising from this assessment, make recommendations to reform organisational culture, which supports staff engagement and a positive working environment, and to deliver a more open, transparent, and accountable organisation.

The members of the Expert Advisory Committee that will oversee this review are:

· Professor Niamh Brennan, Chair

· Dr. Margaret Cullen

· a third member to be appointed in the coming days

Review of Contractor Fees, Human Resources (HR) and other matters

In the context of concerns regarding the engagement of RTÉ contractors, including those on short-term employment contracts, and wider HR practices in RTÉ, the Minister has decided that the second strand of the examination will focus on these matters.

The terms of reference of this review are:

i) Examine the oversight and mechanisms by which RTÉ engages presenters and contractors, including fees, the use of agents, the impact on costs borne by RTÉ and the governance of same;

ii) Examine issues arising from the use of short term employment contracts at all levels;

iii) Examine employment terms and conditions with particular emphasis on gender equality, diversity and inclusion; and whether any of the existing recruitment and HR practices, in particular those outlined above, have an impact on equality and opportunity;

iv) Make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the above matters.

The members of the Expert Advisory Committee that will oversee this review are:

· Brendan McGinty, Chair

· Patricia King

· a third member to be appointed in the coming days

The comprehensive examination announced by the Minister today will scrutinise governance, culture, and practices in RTÉ in an unprecedented manner. These measures are necessary to ensure that public service broadcasting is open, transparent and accountable to the public.


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