Saturday 1 October 2016

David McSavage convicted and fined over TV licence arrears

Tom Tuite

Published 16/06/2016 | 15:51

David McSavage
David McSavage

COMEDIAN David McSavage has been convicted and fined €125 for not paying TV licence arrears after he slammed RTE's programmes.

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The Savage Eye star was summonsed by An Post to court for not having a TV licence at his address at Kingsland Parade in Dublin 8 on May 7 last year.

His prosecution at Dublin District Court was finalised today but he did not show up for the proceedings.

At the previous hearing, on April 22, he had told Judge John O'Neill he had been against paying because of his grievance with the way RTE spend taxpayers' money.

However, it transpired that a licence in his name was purchased at the end of March and his case had been adjourned until today for €115 in arrears  to be cleared.

When the case resumed on Thursday he did not turn up. A TV licence inspector agreed with prosecuting counsel Rita Walsh that while a licence had been taken out on March 31 there was no record of the arrears being paid.

Judge O'Neill noted McSavage (50) was not present for the proceedings. “Very well, no appearance, convict and fine €125,” he ordered. He also ruled that the comedian would have to pay the fine within three months along with an additional €50 in legal costs.

In recent media interviews the comedy writer and performer had claimed he would not pay the €160 TV licence and was prepared to take a stance and go to jail in protest at the quality of programmes on the national broadcaster.

When the comedian appeared at Dublin District Court for his hearing on April 22, a TV licence inspector told Judge O'Neill he called to the entertainer's home on May 7 last year and McSavage was in possession of a television set but had no licence.

At that hearing, the court heard a licence was taken out on March 31 this year leaving arrears of €115. McSavage had then told the judge: “The reason I didn't pay it is I have genuine concerns as to the use RTE makes of taxpayers' money. I have expressed these concerns in other forums and I've been advised to pay the fine.”

Under the Broadcasting Act 2009, it is a prosecutable offence to be have an unlicensed television set. Fines can be up to €1,000 for a first offence and €2,000 for subsequent offences.

Judge O'Neill had told him his reason was not a justification to which McSavage had replied: “Yes”. The judge had adjourned the case until today and had told him that if the arrears were paid by then he would not have to attend the hearing and the case would be struck out.

However, he had also warned him that if they were not paid and he did not attend court to look for more time, “You run the risk of having a conviction recorded and a fine”.

In 2009, McSavage wrote and starred in the six-part TV series called The Savage Eye for RTE, which was nominated for an IFTA award for Best Entertainment Series and Best Director. There were four series filmed by RTE 2 until 2014. He also appeared in Calvary starring Brendan Gleeson as well as Robot Overlords and Channel 4 series Comedy Lab.

The 50-year-old is a son of an Irish politician, David Andrews, brother of former Fianna Fail politician Barry Andrews and first cousin of Irish television and radio presenter Ryan Tubridy, and also cousin of former Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews.

The TV licence, which partly funds RTE, can be bought a variety of ways such as paying online or through a LoCall number using a debit/credit card: cheque at any post office or one posted to the local TV Licence Records' Office; direct debit, TV licence stamps or by cash at selected Postpoint outlets.

In statement after the last hearing, on April 22, McSavage had said: “I have refused to pay the TV licence fee because of my genuine concerns regarding RTE's use of taxpayers' money. If a plumber provided as poor a service as RTE, they would go out of business, it makes no sense to pay people money who bad at their jobs , it does neither of you any good. RTE needs to stop embarrassing us with their awful output, it needs to reform, modernise and work hard before it can justify the high cost of the TV licence."

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