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Toy Show the Musical set for Oireachtas encore


It was the show that RTÉ hoped was set for stardom, but instead, Toy Show the Musical found itself remembered for all the wrong reasons.

The latest Grant Thornton report commissioned by RTÉ revealed overstated sponsorship of €75,000, poor oversight by the RTÉ Board and no evidence of that the board actually signed off on the musical.

Overall the production amassed losses of almost €2.3 million.

Unfortunately for RTÉ, it’s the latest controversy in a long-running saga that has yet to run its course.

Committee Hearings

The report by Grant Thornton this week prompted the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to seek another session with RTÉ representatives at the “earliest possible opportunity” according to committee chair Brian Stanley.

Mr Stanley also wants to use the hearing to discuss another RTÉ commissioned report into the station’s voluntary exit scheme.

This report is being conducted by the law firm McCann Fitzgerald and is due to be published within the next week or two.

PAC does not usually have powers to call RTÉ before it, as the national broadcaster is not under the remit of the Comptroller & Auditor General.

However, the committee has now sought the permission of the Dáil Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight to extend its remit, as happened last year. It’s expected to be granted.

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Separately, the Oireachtas Media Committee is also gearing up for another hearing with RTÉ.

The committee will meet next Wednesday to decide whether to formally issue invites.

A date of 14 February has been provisionally pencilled in for the hearing, should members decide to press ahead with it.

Committee Chair Niamh Smyth, like her counterpart Brian Stanley, would also like to discuss the findings of the report into RTÉ’s voluntary exit scheme during the committee session.

Chair of the RTÉ Board Siún Ní Raghallaigh has said that members are willing to appear before both committees.

Future of the board

Minister for Media Catherine Martin has expressed confidence in the RTÉ Board “for now”.

However, she called on board members to appear before the relevant political committees.

Ms Martin also wants to see the findings of two reports she commissioned last July, due to be published at the end of next month before she decides whether she can restate her confidence in the board.

“That time period affords the opportunity for the board members to appear before the Oireachtas committees and then I will make an informed decision when I have all the facts.

“Because they’re the only reports that are commissioned by the Government and they’re the only reports that will have recommendations”, she told reporters yesterday.

One report is looking into governance and culture in RTÉ.

The other is looking into contractor fees, human resources and other matters.

The RTÉ commissioned reports, such as the Grant Thornton review into Toy Show the Musical as well as the McCann Fitzgerald report into two voluntary exit schemes, will also be incorporated into the findings of the wider Government commissioned reports.

While the Minister for Media is not looking for board members to step down for now, the feeling among many politicians is that their positions may no longer be tenable.

“If this is the way that governance was within RTÉ and the board…they have to ask themselves the questions whether or not they’re the right people to be there”, vice chair of the Public Accounts Committee Catherine Murphy said this week.

All the while, the future funding model of RTÉ remains unresolved.

Future funding for RTÉ

Catherine Martin told reporters this week that she would like to see a decision for public service media funding made before the summer, with sufficient time to pass legislation before the end of this Government’s term.

However, the feeling amongst some in the Cabinet is that the more RTÉ finds itself in controversy, the more difficult it is for the Government to get a future funding model over the line and to sell it to the public.

Ms Martin has called for direct exchequer funding, with measures in place to prevent the Government interference in the future.

Others in the Cabinet however, such as Tánaiste Micheál Martin, have expressed a view that the Revenue should collect the new media charge.

Whatever decision is made, the timeline for making one is running out with a possible general election before the end of the year.

And with more reports and committee hearings looming, RTÉ is set to remain in the headlines for some time to come.

The curtains have yet to close on RTÉ’s woes.


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