RTE last night insisted it did not pay convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum for an interview broadcast in a Sunday evening prime-time slot.
The Tyrone woman was interviewed by Trevor Birney from Northern Ireland-based Fine Point Films. RTE would not comment on any costs accrued by Mr Birney or Fine Point Films but insisted a fee to McCollum did not make up part of the payment. The spokesman also said the interview was produced by RTE's in-house Factual Team.
"It's an RTE production - the guy doing the interview, Trevor Birney is from Fine Point. He's working for us.
"Nobody paid for the interview. Categorically, nobody paid for the interview. Trevor Birney is just a producer/director from that part of the world and has done a lot of that kind of work," he added.
"It's an RTE production and Michaella McCollum was not paid."
The spokesman couldn't confirm whether the interviewer was working for RTE directly or through Fine Point. RTE also refused to divulge what other costs were accrued in interviewing the convicted drug smuggler. "Any other staffing/production costs would be commercially sensitive and not for disclosure," it added.
There was criticism from viewers of McCollum's dramatic new look with her bun-style black hair replaced by blonde locks. One said she looked like a "glamorous young blonde - every inch the 'model' prisoner out shopping". Meanwhile, there is speculation McCollum will make a fortune from her story from paid-for newspaper interviews and even a book and a film.
Book scout and managing director of Dublin's The Inkwell Group, Vanessa O'Loughlin, believes McCollum has an "incredible story". She added: "It could be of huge interest to the publishing industry. From press reports it certainly appears to have all the elements that will keep a reader hooked to the end of the book.
"With help from a good ghostwriter this could be an exciting prospect. If it sold well she could potentially sell the movie rights. It's impossible to say at this stage what that might mean in financial terms," she told the Sun on Sunday.
Michaella McCollum has had a makeover and it's certainly no accident. The newly-dyed blonde hair and the white jacket combined to convey an image of innocence and purity on our TV screens last night.