RT issues almost 75,000 attractive self-employment results

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said RT had issued almost 75,000 appeals against the broadcaster over false self-employment cases.

In new documentation sent to the committee, RT revealed it had paid out 74,034 people, excluding VAT, referring to false self-employment findings by the Department of Social Protection. False self-employment occurs when a company classifies an employee as self-employed, even though he or she has the characteristics of an employee.

The Department’s Social Protection Unit investigates various employee matters and issues findings, some of which RT has appealed against.

The scoping section began investigating the matter in September 2020.

Originally intended to study the treatment of 340 people, this number has increased to 500. To date, approximately 144 studies have been completed. 118 decisions were issued, of which 32 appeals are pending.

RT chief executive Kevin Bakhurst has previously said appeals are considered on very narrow grounds. It is assumed that the findings will be accepted unless there is a question of law or fact.

On Friday, in separate correspondence to the committee, RT announced that it had hired a celebrity to host the Late Late Show for a short period.

Our aim is to expand the pool of guests throughout the season and provide viewers with the best possible experience, the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile, the Dils oversight committee is expected to decide as early as next week whether to give the PAC the power to compel RT to provide a key document relating to follow-up payments to Ryan Tubridy.

The Commission would like to see a note accompanying a Microsoft Teams meeting on 7 May 2020 between agent Noel Kelly, former RT CEO Dee Forbes and RT’s lawyer, in which a verbal guarantee was given that RT would sign a commercial agreement with Renault.

Under the deal, which was the subject of controversy over payments to Tubridy, Renault would pay the presenter 75,000 a year in exchange for three public appearances. The contract was signed by RT, as a result of which the broadcaster paid the presenter $150,000.

RT maintained that the memo attached to this decision-making meeting was privileged, and the PAC asked the Dils oversight committee to give it greater powers to force the station to publish it. The committee will meet next week. PAC chairman Brian Stanley said the document is crucial and at the heart of this controversy.

Earlier this week it emerged that RT had already spent almost $500,000 on a series of external reviews commissioned in the wake of the controversy over misrepresented payments to Mr Tubridy.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said controversy over RT’s finances made it difficult to replace the TV license fee with a home media fee. Speaking in Seoul at the end of a three-day trade mission to South Korea, Varadkar said the government had not yet made a decision on RT’s future funding model.

Varadkar suggested that any such media accusations could be met with resistance from the public.

Nobody likes introducing new taxes and new fees, and as someone who has been involved in several successful and unsuccessful ventures, I know how difficult it can be. I think the recent controversy has made this option, the home utility fee, more difficult because I think there will still be a lot of people who refuse and are reluctant to pay.

Varadkar said he did not want RT, which will publish a reform plan in the coming days, to be much smaller than it is now. However, he was skeptical about another alternative to the license fee, i.e. financing from the state budget as part of the separation of expenses for the public broadcaster in order to avoid political pressure on the broadcaster.

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