State funding RTÉ would be ‘rewarding disaster’ – Ivan Yates

The broadcaster and former Minister said RTÉ needs a fundamental financial shakeup.
James Wilson
James Wilson

12.05 27 Feb 2024

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State funding RTÉ would be ‘re...

State funding RTÉ would be ‘rewarding disaster’ – Ivan Yates

James Wilson
James Wilson

12.05 27 Feb 2024

Share this article

Replacing RTÉ’s licence fee with taxpayer funding would be “rewarding disaster”, Ivan Yates has said. 

Media Minister Catherine Martin will this evening appear before the Oireachtas Media Committee to answer questions relating to the resignation of the RTÉ Board Chair last week.

Súin Ní Raghallaigh resigned because she said it was “abundantly clear” Media Minister Catherine Martin no longer had any confidence in her. 


Since Ms Ní Raghallaigh became Chair in late 2022, the State broadcaster has been engulfed in controversy regarding its hidden payments to Ryan Tubridy. 

After a steep decline in people paying their licence fee, the Government agreed to a €56 million bailout of the organisation. 

Since then, Minister Martin has said she is giving “serious consideration” to replacing the licence fee with direct funding from the State

On Newstalk Breakfast, broadcaster and former Minister Ivan Yates said such a decision would be “rewarding disaster”.


“I think the worst decision would be for the Exchequer to take it over,” he said.  

“There was a time when the licence fee paid for everything in RTÉ. 

“We now pay separately €54 million for [TG4 and] we pay separately €12 million for the orchestra. 

“So, the level of public subsidy for this has been actually exponential and my question is, when is any politician going to have the backbone to say, ‘Stop?’”

RTÉ staff protest Members of the NUJ union protesting at RTÉ television studios. Photo: Leah Farrell/

Mr Yates said politicians should be looking for wide ranging reform instead of “sticking plasters solutions” to the problems at RTÉ.

“RTÉ’s financial crisis is much greater than all of the other crises put together,” he said. 

“The fact of the matter is the Government needs to address that.

“RTÉ cannot reform itself, the Department [of Media] is incapable of fixing this and the leadership of the Government needs to appoint a new Chairperson… who has experience in dealing with the financial crisis and cost cutting.

“Anything else is simply a deferral to the next Government.” 

The RTÉ Montrose campus in Donnybrook, Dublin, 24-08-2009. Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews

Mr Yates also said he had little confidence in Minister Martin - altogether he predicted she would stay in her position until at least the General Election. 

“I’ve been very critical of her [and] her handling of this matter,” he said. 

"Her tenure in office entirely depends on the three party leaders. 

“I think they’ve taken the view that we’re too close to an election to cause wider instability in the Government and, therefore, the old principle [applies of], ‘We’ll all hang together, rather than separately.’

“I think she’ll survive no matter what answer she gives.” 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Minister Martin is doing “extremely well” in a “difficult job”.

You can listen back here:

Main image: Ivan Yates. 

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