Plans for Revenue to collect RTÉ licence fee shelved

Government rejects proposal to fund RTÉ directly with subvention

Collection of the TV licence is unlikely to be transferred to the Revenue Commissioners but is expected to remain with An Post, under plans to be announced by the Government shortly.

It is expected the Cabinet will approve publication of the long-awaited report from the Future of Media Commission, perhaps as early as next week, but will reject one of its key recommendations – that the licence fee be abolished and replaced with a direct subvention to RTÉ from the exchequer.

The report was sent to the Government last year and has been the subject of much internal wrangling since then. Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin argued strongly for direct State funding for RTÉ, but this was resisted by senior Ministers including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath.

Last week, commission chairman Prof Brian MacCraith called for the report to the published.


There have been lengthy discussions within Government since last autumn about transferring the responsibility for collection of the licence fee to Revenue, but the proposal was strongly resisted by both Revenue and the Department of Finance.

Collection efficiency

It is now expected that responsibility for collecting the fee will remain with An Post, though proposals are expected to improve the efficiency of the process.

RTÉ gets some €200 million a year in licence fee income, though the station has long complained that the rate of licence-fee evasion and avoidance costs it in excess of €65 million a year. An additional €140 million of its €340 million annual budget comes from commercial activities, principally advertising.

The station has complained it is underfunded for several years and has lobbied successive governments for additional cash. Earlier this year, RTÉ director general Dee Forbes told an Oireachtas committee the licence fee system was “utterly broken” while the station has said it cannot continue to fulfil its remit without extra funding.

There had been widespread speculation that a previous proposal for a “broadcasting levy” applied to every household – rather than only those with a television – would be resurrected. However, there were fears in Government this would arouse significant public opposition akin to the water charges experience.

Other proposals to help struggling local media outlets and abolish Vat on newspapers are likely to be accepted in principle by the Government, though they will not be addressed until the budget, according to people familiar with discussions on the issues within Government.

The news comes as RTÉ prepares to publish its latest annual report, which is expected to show the difficult financial situation faced by the broadcaster.

RTÉ also faces a loss of senior staff over the coming months. Head of news Jon Williams announced his departure last week, and he is expected to leave the station this summer. Ms Forbes’s contract expires next year, while the chair of the RTÉ board, Moya Doherty, is expected to leave in October at the conclusion of her term.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times