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RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes resigns over payments

Former RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes attends an event in 2015. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Former RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes attends an event in 2015. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The director general of Irish public broadcaster RTÉ has resigned after it was revealed she directed hundreds of thousands of euros in payments to a television show host without the proper public disclosure.

The resignation of Dee Forbes comes nearly a week after the board of directors at RTÉ suspended her after it was revealed broadcaster Ryan Tubridy was paid €345,000 (about $376,200) more than what the network initially revealed.

For years, lawmakers and public interest groups have scrutinized what RTÉ pays to its television presenters. Like other European public broadcasters, RTÉ is funded through a tax levied on households that watch live television, called a “television license,” though some of its programming is also funded through commercial advertisements.

In an effort to be more transparent, RTÉ under Forbes began publishing the salaries of its highest-paid presenters, offering the public a glimpse into what precisely it was paying for. Tubridy consistently made the top of the list, with the host initially reported to have earned between €440,000 and €446,250 (between $480,000 and $486,600) in 2020 and 2021.

In reality, RTÉ paid Tubridy far more, and an internal audit ultimately revealed the network had underreported the host’s income dating back to 2017. Some of the income that wasn’t reported came from an endorsement deal with one of RTÉ advertising partners, the auditors learned. When the advertiser opted not to renew Tubridy’s agreement, the broadcaster covered the loss with a direct payment to him.

The issue resulted in Forbes leaving earlier than scheduled — she had been set to depart RTÉ in July — and provoked an apology for Tubridy, who admitted he should have flagged the erroneous reports when he learned of them.

“I didn’t, and I bear responsibility for my failure to do so,” he said. “For this, I apologize unreservedly.”

Tubridy was the host of “The Late Late Show,” the world’s second-longest running late night talk show, until last month. He also hosts a program on RTÉ Radio 1, which is set to continue despite the scandal.

RTÉ has declined to comment further on the matter.

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Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).