Radio sector wants TV licence replaced with broadcasting charge

Independent Broadcasters of Ireland urges Government to spread licence money

IBI chairman John Purcell: says it is vital to protect news and current affairs programming on independent radio and  allocate ‘the licence fee income to both RTÉ and independent broadcasters’. Photograph: Pat Moore

IBI chairman John Purcell: says it is vital to protect news and current affairs programming on independent radio and allocate ‘the licence fee income to both RTÉ and independent broadcasters’. Photograph: Pat Moore

 

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) group has urged the Government to replace the television licence fee with a broadcasting charge and crack down on evasion.

The group, which represents 34 commercial radio broadcasters, also repeated its call for a portion of the licence fee, or its replacement, to be allocated to its sector.

More money would be available for the funding of public service content if the Government tackled the evasion rate, estimated to be 15 per cent in 2014, and if a separate “appropriate” fee structure for business premises was introduced, the IBI said.

IBI chairman John Purcell said it was “vital” the diversity of news and current affairs programming on independent radio was protected.

“This can be achieved by proportionately allocating the licence fee income to both RTÉ and independent broadcasters,” he said.

The group commissioned a report from academic and former journalist Kevin Rafter in which he writes that radio schedules “clearly indicate that programmes classified as either public service, or non-public service, are not exclusive to any single broadcaster”.

Most radio stations in Ireland operate under a licence that obliges them to devote 20 per cent of their airtime to news and current affairs.

Media charge

“It is very difficult to sustain the argument that only State-owned stations produce and broadcast public service broadcasting,” Mr Rafter said, citing this requirement.

RTÉ has also called for reform of the licence fee mechanism in order to shore up its public funding and make it less exposed to future uncertainty in the commercial market.

The Government postponed a planned introduction of a household-based public service media charge last year.

The mooted licence fee replacement, which would not be tied to ownership of a television, was originally due to be introduced in January 2015.