RTÉ board members discussed concerns around potential of ‘reckless trading’ at broadcaster

Then-chair of RTÉ board Siún Ní Raghallaigh confirmed that she had placed the issue ‘on record’ with the department

RTÉ board members discussed concerns around the potential of “reckless trading” at the broadcaster in a meeting last November, according to newly released records.

At the November 30th meeting, then-chair of the RTÉ board Siún Ní Raghallaigh confirmed that she had placed the issue of potential reckless trading “on record” with the Department of Media, according to minutes of the meeting.

Following a presentation on cash flow at the broadcaster by RTÉ's financial controller Mike Fives, Anne O’Leary of the board’s audit and risk committee noted that “it is important to keep a consideration of reckless trading under discussion through the year”.

Ms O’Leary also noted that, “in the context of a consideration of reckless trading there is no way out without future funding for RTÉ”.

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Board members underlined the important of changing the broadcaster’s funding model at the meeting.

RTÉ faces considerable cash flow challenges. Last October, director general Kevin Bakhurst told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee that the broadcaster required a bailout of tens of millions of euro, or face insolvency by the springtime.

Last year’s payments scandal, which erupted after the emergence of undisclosed payments made to former presenter Ryan Tubridy, prompted a sharp decrease in licence fee income at the broadcaster.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed in November that the Government would provide €56 million in interim funding for RTÉ, subject to conditions. The announcement followed the publication of a new strategic vision for RTÉ, unveiled by Mr Bakhurst.

The new strategy outlined plans to cut up to 400 jobs at RTÉ, among other cost-saving measures.

A spokesman for RTÉ said on Friday evening that the director general, along with the broadcaster’s interim leadership team, “carefully and consistently monitor the organisation’s cash flow, licence fee income and commercial performance, while at the same time controlling costs tightly”.

“They report to the board of RTÉ regularly on these matters and the board needs to be satisfied – and is currently – that RTÉ has sufficient funds to run the organisation legally and properly.”

According to the meeting minutes, Mike Fives, financial controller at RTÉ, noted that any redundancy programme in 2024 would be funded by cash from the sale of land at RTÉ.

Daire Hickey, a member of the board, raised a “lack of scenario planning” if the planned Government funding to the broadcaster is “less than expected”.

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