Revenue should collect TV licence fee, committee will advise

Proposals aimed at boosting long-term funding of public-service broadcasting

The Government will be advised to change legislation to force satellite television services such as Sky and Virgin to pay RTÉ and TV3 retransmission fees for broadcasting their programmes. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Government will be advised to change legislation to force satellite television services such as Sky and Virgin to pay RTÉ and TV3 retransmission fees for broadcasting their programmes. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

The collection of television licence fees by the Revenue Commissioners, transferring the service from An Post, is among the recommendations to be made by an Oireachtas committee on Tuesday.

The Government will also be advised to change legislation to force satellite television services such as Sky and Virgin to pay RTÉ and TV3 retransmission fees for broadcasting their programmes.

The proposals are contained in a draft report to be signed off by the Oireachtas communications committee. They are aimed at boosting long-term funding of public-service broadcasting and the independent sector as new-media giants Google and Facebook eat into traditional media revenues.

Transferring the collection of fees from An Post to the Revenue would, the committee believes, help reduce the estimated €40 million to €50 million lost from those who do not pay the fee every year. Evasion rates for television licence fees stand at almost 15 per cent.

In response to the increasing number of people who do not own a television but listen or watch public-service television or radio on an electronic device such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone, the committee is recommending a future broadcasting charge on every home rather than per device.

The committee will advise that people who sign an affidavit or make a return to the Revenue to say that they do not view or listen to public-service broadcasting can avail of exemptions to the fees. Old-age pensioners and social welfare recipients will continue to be exempted from paying the fee.

Independent productions

Additional fee income collected by the Revenue would be used to finance independent productions out of a new fund similar to that administered by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The retransmission fees from satellite platforms, it is estimated, could generate an additional €15 million to €20 million for broadcasters, though this proposal is likely to meet stiff resistance from Sky, which has threatened to stop transmitting RTÉ programmes if the fees are introduced.

“People are getting current-affairs news from digital platforms for which they don’t have to pay and that is hitting the traditional media sector,” said committee member Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on communications.

“The real threat is to properly sourced, properly verified media and you only have to look at what happened with Brexit and Trump and the advent of fake news to see the impact on democracy.”

Fellow committee member, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, said the recommendations were designed to protect content creators.

“Irish media are in a real crisis,” he said. “Journalism as a career is difficult because all media outlets, broadcasting and print, have been hit by advertising migrating to the likes of Facebook and Google. Local indigenous media are up against multinational media who take a huge stream of income out of the country.”