RTÉ pay controversy: TV licence sales down by €2.2m in first three weeks of July

Revenue from TV licence sales has continued to decline in the wake of the payments controversy that has engulfed RTÉ.

New sales and renewals of the TV licence were down almost by €2.2 million, around one third, across the first three weeks of July when compared to the same period last year, according to the latest figures.

It continues a trend of falling sales which has been linked by some to the controversy over secret payments to former Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy and separate spending on corporate hospitality.

In response to a query from the Irish Times, the Department of Media said updated figures show total TV licence sales of 9,279 in the third week of July, down from 14,836 for the same week last year. That is a drop of 5,557 sales or more than 37 per cent.

Across the first three weeks of July, 13,807 fewer €160 TV licences were sold when compared to the same period last year, a drop of almost 32 per cent. Year on year licence sales receipts for the first three weeks of July are down €2,209,120.

Underclared payments

RTÉ has been engulfed in a major crisis since it disclosed that €345,000 in undeclared payments were made to Tubridy over several years, saying it discovered the discrepancy during a “routine audit” of its accounts.

The RTÉ board on Tuesday disputed suggestions in the media that a report into Tubridy’s pay for the years 2017 to 2019 period had been finished. It said the second phase of the report it commissioned into the matter from consultancy firm Grant Thornton has not been completed.

During Oireachtas committee hearings earlier this month, Tubridy said that he did not take a €120,000 bonus due to him, but that the figure was later deducted from his published earnings – from amounts that had already been paid to him.

The issue of the treatment of the 2017-2019 earnings is separate to the main controversy over his pay, which relates to three payments of €75,000 to Tubridy stemming from a deal between him, Renault and RTÉ.

Barter account

The payments were ultimately all funded by RTÉ, either by means of a credit note issued to Renault, which made the first €75,000 payment, or through its barter account, which made the other two €75,000 payments on the basis of invoices for “consultancy services”.

During an Oireachtas committee meeting over the controversy, Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon asked RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst if the company would look to recoup €150,000 paid to Tubridy for work related to the Renault deal which has not yet been done. Tubridy had previously told the committee he was willing to repay the sums if he did not fulfil the duties.

Mr Bakhurst said that on a legal basis, it might not be possible to claw the money back but he said that if Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly “decide to pay it back because it’s the right thing to do then we would welcome that”.

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