Local stations warn TDs of job cuts if broadcasting levy passed
THE row over the fledgling broadcasting levy has turned political, with local radio stations warning their public representatives of impending job losses if the levy is allowed through the Dail in its current form.
Leading the charge is Tipp FM, which has dispatched a strongly worded letter to its local representatives opposing both the "massive" increase in the annual levy and the way the levy is to be spread between smaller and larger players.
A letter sent from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to stations on February 2 shows the regulator wants to raise enough from the levy to fund an operating budget of €7.6m in 2010. That €7.6m compares with the BAI's €1.5m budget for the last quarter of 2009, implying an annual rise of more than 25pc.
The BAI's letter also describes the "regressive sliding scale" the regulator will use to collect the levy, where the percentage of a station's income that must be paid "decreases for higher income levels".
The independents believe the scheme unfairly benefits larger entities, particularly national broadcaster RTE.
Tipp FM boss Ethel Walsh says independent TD and one-time Communications Minister Michael Lowry has committed to raising the levy issue with sitting Communications Minister Eamon Ryan "as a matter of urgency".
"Tipp FM is the only one I know of that has sent letters, but a lot of local stations are raising the matter with their TDs informally," says a spokeswoman for the independents' industry group the IBI. "If the levy goes ahead as it is, some of them could have to cut staff. There's huge frustration out there."
A spokesman for RTE declined to comment on whether the national broadcaster shared the commercials' concerns about the BAI's rising budget, adding that RTE would "comply with the regulations and processes as laid down".