Fianna Fáil signals lower broadcasting charge

FG’s potential coalition partner calls for licence fee replacement, but at a lower rate

Lucinda Creighton: her Renua party has said it will ring-fence just €54 million for the broadcasting sector in annual direct funding. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Lucinda Creighton: her Renua party has said it will ring-fence just €54 million for the broadcasting sector in annual direct funding. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fine Gael’s general election manifesto may purposefully make no mention of the oft-floated household broadcasting charge – a replacement for the television licence fee that is bound to generate negative sentiment among the electorate – but Fianna Fáil has obviously been persuaded of its merits.

“With recent technological advances the way in which we access broadcasting content has changed dramatically and a charge based on ownership of a television set is now outdated,” the Fianna Fáil manifesto reads.

Redress

It also promises to give some of the funds from a redefined charge to the local and independent radio sector, which will at least be music to the ears of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland, as will Fine Gael’s clear pledge to scrap the broadcasting levy that some (but not all) broadcasters pay to fund the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Labour also mentions abolition of the levy. It sticks with its long-held, but far from actualised desire to replace the television licence with a public-service broadcasting charge (presumably still at the same rate) and talks about intensifying “efforts to combat evasion so that everyone pays a fair and affordable share”.

Fine Gael says only that it will “improve the TV licence fee compliance rate”, which is estimated to cost about €30 million in lost revenue to the broadcasting sector (mainly RTÉ) each year.

Full abolition

Given this is only about a quarter of what is currently raised from the licence fee (RTÉ got €179 million of the €214 million collected in 2014), the proposal would effectively gut public-service media – and all the quality, breadth and inclusiveness that entails – in Ireland. Happy days for foreign-owned media corporations.