Reprieve for radio stations as watchdog suspends levy payment
IRELAND's radio stations are claiming a partial victory in the battle against the controversial broadcasting levy after the sector's watchdog agreed to suspend collection of the first tranche of the payment.
Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) chairman Bob Collins also said the final levy for 2010 will be below the €7.6m figure mooted before Christmas, which had implied a 27pc rise in the watchdog's budget.
"We're glad there seems to have been an outbreak of common sense," said Today FM boss Willie O'Reilly, who heads up industry group the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland.
"We've been lobbying really hard on this issue all over the country and this goes to show that lobbying works."
The broadcasting levy came into force on October 1 and the BAI was expected to collect the first quarterly tranche of the money over the coming weeks.
The watchdog has recently confirmed to stations that retrospective charges for the final three months of the year of 2009 had been "suspended", pending talks with the Department of Communications.
Despite offering some reprieves, Mr Collins stressed that the legislation left no room for an "inability to pay" exemption, even if stations would have to lay off staff.
Acknowledging now was the "worst possible time" to introduce the levy, Mr Collins said the BAI had been left with no other funding beyond the levy and stood little chance of securing fresh cash from the Department of Communications.