RTÉ spent more than €110,000 on its Late Late Show London special which was roundly criticised by ticket holders as a “complete shambles” and a “missed opportunity”
Ireland’s public broadcaster received 95 complaints about the show’s special edition, which turned controversial as several hundred ticket holders were turned away, many of whom contacted the Irish World in frustration, both directly and via social media channels.
The special show, aimed at celebrating Ireland’s relationship with the UK as well as the achievements of Irish citizens living there, saw hundreds of hopeful attendees were turned away on the night due to an oversubscription.
Images of ticket-holders left stranded and queuing for hours were also circulated on social media.
The national broadcaster said 49 people travelled to London for the show but stated that some members paid for their own flights or accommodation.
The costs covered by the state company included a combined travel expense of €10,429, with €7,044 being spent on flights. The combined fee paid for accommodation was €15,803, a Freedom of Information request seen by the Times indicated.
“Most staff stayed in the Hub by Premier Inn. Others stayed in The Kensington and The Doubletree,” according to RTE.
Over €4,000 worth was spent on alcohol in a food and beverage bill that totalled €12,684.
An internal review was launched shortly after the show’s airing. Ticketing issues, the queueing system, a lack of communication, the oversubscription of tickets and the organisation of the event were called into question by attendees.
Although no formal complaint was sent to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, RTÉ received scores of dissatisfied emails from those who felt aggrieved by the show.
Ireland’s flagship talk show was broadcast live from the Methodist Central Hall in central London last month after the state broadcaster invited members of the Irish community here to apply for tickets on its website.
Tickets were then allocated by lottery, with a reported 15,000 people signalling their interest by applying online.
The show, presented by Ryan Tubridy, was deliberately ‘oversubscribed’, said RTÉ, which, it added, is ‘standard’ with events organised by their third-party company.
RTÉ had hired UK company Applause Store to manage the crowds and issue tickets, and it stipulated on its terms that tickets alone did not guarantee entry.
It said at the time that because of the high number of ‘no-shows’ for free TV programmes, regular ticket-holders were advised to arrive early to improve their chances of entry.
Brian O’Connell, who ran RTÉ’s London office for 20 years and attended the event as an invited guest but left with his wife before the show started, told the Irish World his decision to leave arose because it was all too “chaotic”.
Mr O’Connell, whose office for many years was around the corner from Friday night’s events, said: “I worked in Westminster for over two decades, and I was surprised that the police didn’t turn up after half an hour…people were all over the road.”
“I saw a number of older people who were also turned away that had travelled some distance. The collective disappointment was widely felt,” one person wrote in a complaint revealed to the Times.
Criticism was also levelled at staff from Applause Store. Staff, according to the complaints, were described as “rude” and “unhelpful”.
RTÉ said that it had responded to each email and had offered those who complained tickets to the Late Late Show in Dublin before the end of the season in May “as a gesture of goodwill”.
“Applause Store have told us that for some shows in the UK, as few as 20 per cent of allocated ticket holders turn up on the night,” RTÉ said in a statement.
However, more than 80 per cent of ticket allocations turned up, which, Applause Store told the Irish World, was “unprecedented” in their years of work.