Broadcasting charge to replace TV licence


MINISTER FOR Communications Pat Rabbitte said he hoped to have a sense of the timeframe and scale of implementation in a few weeks on replacing the television licence fee with a household broadcasting charge. “Enabling legislation would be required for this measure,’’ he added.

Mr Rabbitte said his officials had held preliminary discussions with the Department of the Environment on the development of a suitable database of eligible households. A working group in his department had concluded that a charge was “a viable model’’.

Technological change meant fewer people were watching on traditional television sets, with young people using other devices to access broadcasting. “The current funding model is not sustainable in the long run,’’ said Mr Rabbitte.

He said the charge would not affect anybody currently paying the licence fee. About 15 per cent of consumers were not paying the fee, resulting in a €25 million loss in revenue for RTÉ.

The programme for government, said the Minister, had committed to examining the role and collection of the licence fee in the light of existing and projected convergence of technologies and to transforming it into a household-based charge.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on communications Éamon Ó Cuív said income would increase if a broadcasting charge was introduced for every household and applicable business. “Other platforms for watching television, such as the iPhone or whatever other way, are still a bit far-fetched for 99.9 per cent of people. However, they are growing in popularity.’’

Mr Ó Cuív asked if it was possible for the department to provide a preliminary paper on the issue. “It would allow us to come back with our thoughts on the matter to be added into the mix and fed into the process.’’

Mr Rabbitte said that was possible.