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Irish broadcaster RTE’s new Director General stands down

Kevin Bakhurst took charge as the new director general of Ireland’s national broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE) on Monday and his first act was to stand down the executive board and replace it with a temporary interim leadership team.

RTE has been rocked with scandal in recent weeks for overpaying presenter Ryan Tubridy. The matter led to the suspension and subsequent resignation of RTE director general Dee Forbes, a former high-level Discovery executive and the Irish government ordering two separate reviews into the scandal.

In an email to staff on Monday morning, Bakhurst, who had a previous stint as managing director of news and current affairs and deputy director general at RTE from 2012-2016 and was with U.K. media regulator Ofcom and the BBC earlier, laid out a no-nonsense approach.

“Like you, I have been appalled by recent events and the impact it has had on the public perception of RTE, the impact on the trust the public places in us, and the impact it has had on you all. I look forward to working with Siún Ní Raghallaigh and the RTE board as we collectively set out to rebuild trust in RTE, inside and outside, starting from today,” Bakhurst wrote.

“I know that all of you are deeply upset and angry. RTE is full of talented and hardworking people who remain committed to delivering a vital public service to our audiences, and you have been let down by RTE management. I have heard many of your concerns already and I will continue to listen to what you have to say,” Bakhurst added.

The executive also committed to “being open and transparent, to strictly adhering to revised and rigorous governance processes and procedures, to being accountable and to delivering a public service to be proud of.”

The interim leadership team will be eventually replaced with a permanent one. Meanwhile, Bakhurst said that salaries of the RTE’s executive and interim leadership team would be published alongside the earnings of the 10 highest paid presenters, and a register of interests will also be created for staff and contractors. In addition, all significant financial decisions will be agreed by the whole of the interim leadership team and a record of discussions leading to these decisions will be compiled.

“There can be no repeat of the siloed and at times secretive decision-making that have been at the root of the shameful events of the past weeks,” Bakhurst said.

“The culture in RTE needs change, from top to bottom. RTE needs to quickly and meaningfully evolve into an organization that is focused on its people and the public we serve,” Bakhurst added.

Irish deputy prime minister Micheál Martin welcomed the moves, saying: “It is right that his first action this morning was to advise staff of his plans. I note in particular his proposals for a staff consultation group and employee survey and that he is planning a review of roles and grades, pay, and gender equality. As the national broadcaster, which rightly challenges other institutions, RTE must be leading out in terms of equality and inclusion.” Variety

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