Ryan Tubridy and RTE in ‘dispute’ over contract, director general says

Ryan Tubridy and RTE are in “dispute” over his contract at the broadcaster, the director general has said.

A parliamentary media committee in Dublin was told that legal correspondence had been exchanged between the two sides.

Director general Kevin Bakhurst said it was RTE’s position that it did not owe any money to its former top presenter.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s dispute over the contract,” he told the committee.

Tubridy stood down as Late Late Show host earlier this year but was continuing to present his weekday show on RTE Radio One when a furore over incorrectly disclosed payments RTE made to him erupted in the summer.

RTE pay revelations
RTE director general Kevin Bakhurst arrives at Leinster House in Dublin, to appear before the Oireachtas Media Committee (Brian Lawless/PA)

At that point negotiations over a new radio contract for Tubridy were halted and he was taken off air amid the crisis that engulfed the organisation.

Mr Bakhurst later re-entered negotiations with a view to securing Tubridy’s return to the airwaves on a new contract but those talks broke down in August after the director general claimed the presenter was not taking sufficient responsibility for his role in the payments controversy.

Appearing before the Oireachtas media committee on Wednesday, Mr Bakhurst also said there was no plan agreed for Tubridy to repay 150,000 euro he was paid in advance by RTE for future personal appearances with a commercial partner.

When Tubridy appeared before Oireachtas members earlier in the summer he indicated a willingness to pay the money back if the personal appearance events did not materialise.

Mr Bakhurst was asked whether a payment plan was in place for Tubridy to return the two 75,000 euro payments to RTE.

“The answer is no,” he replied.

“I asked him about that money. I said in the previous committee I appeared in that I thought (while) we don’t have a legal mechanism to get it back, because it was agreed by RTE, but I think there’s a moral case there.

“I asked him about it. It was in your documents (RTE documents sent to media committee members) that it was part of the proposed deal if he came back that he was agreeing, if he came back, to repay that money.”

He added: “We have no legal tools to pursue him. I’ve said what I have to say about it, which is I think it’s a moral case to pay it back, but I also understand that as a result of where negotiations went Ryan doesn’t have a source of income at the moment.”

Later in the hearing, Mr Bakhurst said: “The money has not been paid back. And I think it’s fair to say I’ve not had a further discussion with Ryan about it since the discussions ended with him over the contract.”

The director general outlined why he ended talks about a potential return to his radio show.

“I don’t want to be unfair on Ryan but there was an issue for me about accepting the facts as they were now outlined and whether the various payments of 75,000 had been part of his remuneration package,” he said.

“And that had been established that it was, and I felt to move on you had to accept the facts. And you had to also accept you had some role in it, although RTE was largely to blame.

“Now, in my view, I’m afraid that wasn’t forthcoming, so that was why we ended it.”

Mr Bakhurst rejected the suggestion that his decision to end the negotiations with Tubridy was disproportionate.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

“I invested a significant amount of time in trying to see if there was a fair solution which could bring Ryan back and, as you know, I had a lot on my plate, but I did have a number of meetings or discussions with Ryan.

“I did want to bring him back because I though it was the fair thing but in the end, you know, I’d reflected quite hard on it and I felt it was not the right thing for the organisation at the time.”

Mr Bakhurst denied he was pressurised internally not to allow Tubridy back on air.

“I was not under pressure,” he said.

“I asked for views internally and I asked for views from the board and I asked for views from Radio One and his colleagues on his programme team and others on the leadership team.

“So it was carefully considered and there was a proper and robust discussion about it within the organisation and, look, I explained to Ryan at the time there were divided views about it in every area and including the significant amount of correspondence I got directly from the audience.”