Mr Bakhurst, the newly appointed Director-General of RTE, declined to comment on the contents of the Mazars report into the operation of the controversial barter account within the organization. After an 80-minute meeting with Media Minister Catherine Martin and RTE chair Siún Ní Raghallagh, Mr Bakhurst described the discussion as very positive, wide-ranging, and useful. However, he did mention that RTÉ radio would be responsible for appointing Ryan Tubridy’s successor and expressed his reluctance to discuss Ryan any further, stating that it would not be fair to him.
Regarding the salary of Tubridy’s successor, Mr Bakhurst indicated that it would be commensurate with the appointee’s qualifications. He praised the interim hosts Oliver Callan and Brendan Courtney, stating that they were doing a great job. He mentioned that the situation would be evaluated as time goes on.
When asked about his recent communication with Ryan Tubridy and Dee Forbes, Mr Bakhurst revealed that he had not spoken to them recently. In response to government demands for a reform plan, he stated that he had already implemented a series of reforms and the next step would be the establishment of a register of interests for staff. He mentioned ongoing discussions with unions and the staff association and expressed his intention to publish the register in a relatively short period of time.
The issue of presenter Laura Fox’s promotion of a ‘butt-lift’ through injections and RTE stars engaging in product placement by wearing suits on screen was also raised. Mr Bakhurst acknowledged the need to address these issues and stated that they would be included in the framework of the register of interests. He emphasized the importance of establishing clear guidelines for what staff members are allowed to do and not allowed to do.
Regarding Martin Morrissey and the free car issue, Mr Bakhurst mentioned that a report was being progressed by Adrian Lynch, the executive who had previously appeared before Oireachtas committees as interim DG.
Mr Bakhurst announced that the RTE board would issue a statement after Minister Catherine Martin’s address later in the day. He stated that RTE would address questions about the Mazars report at a later time.
When discussing RTE’s future funding, Mr Bakhurst mentioned an interesting discussion he had with one of the Nordic director generals, where funding comes directly from the government without relying on commercial sales or revenues. He highlighted Sweden as an example where this model is working well. He acknowledged the urgency of addressing the funding issue but emphasized the need to make organizational changes before pursuing any new funding models.
In conclusion, Mr Bakhurst expressed his determination to implement the reforms that have been suggested and those that the government is interested in. He emphasized the importance of making these changes as rapidly as possible and ensuring good governance within the organization.