RTÉ can’t be forced to reveal top salaries

RTÉ's director general Dee Forbes

Government will be powerless to force RTÉ to publish the salary details of any presenter earning more than €100,000 if the publicly-funded State broadcaster refuses to do so.

The Irish Examiner understands that despite Communications Minister Denis Naughten seeking the move in response to the multi-million euro BBC salary controversy, he cannot make RTÉ accept the demand.

Over the weekend, Mr Naughten said he wants RTÉ to reveal the salaries of any presenter on €100,000-plus every year. Mr Naughten wants this system to replace RTÉ’s voluntary publishing of its top 10 salaries every two years.

The stance is believed to be due to the fact RTÉ needs to show more transparency if it is claiming to need more public money input, and frustration from Government over the fact the broadcaster’s last top 10 salary list is from three years ago.

A spokesperson for Mr Naughten said: “The minister would be in favour of RTÉ publishing the salaries of its top presenters who earn more than €100,000 annually on their website, he’s not going to deviate.”

However, while the demand has been backed by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, and Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath, Government cannot force RTÉ to act.

This is because while the taxpayer funds RTÉ, Government does not dictate presenter salary rates, meaning there are potential contractual and data protection issues with forcing the release of the individual, personalised salaries.

As such, while Mr Naughten is likely to raise the matter with RTÉ’s director general Dee Forbes at their next scheduled meeting in September, unless the broadcaster complies with the demand or there is a law change — which would need the backing of Fianna Fáil to pass through the Dáil — the full breakdown of six-figure presenter salaries will remain secret.

In a statement last night, an RTÉ spokesman gave no indication the broadcaster plans to provide further transparency on the issue by saying certain figures are already published.

“In line with our public commitment, RTÉ has been publishing details of its top 10 highest earners for a number of years and has to date published figures for 2008-2014,” said the spokesman.

“RTÉ has reduced the fees paid to top talent by 40% since 2008. The total top 10 presenter earnings for 2014 represents less than 1% of RTÉ’s total operating costs in 2014 and less than 2% of total personnel-related operating costs.

“Salaries and earnings at RTÉ are not based on gender.

“As required by the FOI Act, RTÉ already provides an overview of the salaries paid to RTÉ staff, broken into salary bands.”

The spokesman added that RTÉ’s 2015 top 10 highest earners will be published “later this year”.

RTE’s top 10 earners list from 2014 shows that, that year, Ryan Tubridy earned €495,000, Joe Duffy €416,893, Marian Finucane €295,000, Sean O’Rourke €290,096, Miriam O’Callaghan €280,445, Bryan Dobson €195,816, George Lee €179,031, Richard Crowley €174,120, Colm Hayes €169,992, and Derek Mooney €168,871.

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