Sunday 28 December 2014

Every single home to be hit with new Broadcasting Charge

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

Published 17/07/2013 | 16:03

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte today gave a commitment the new charge will not exceed the current €160 a year licence fee

EVERY household in the country will be hit with a new Public Service Broadcasting Charge to replace the television licence fee next year.

Nobody will be able to refuse to pay the charge because it will apply regardless of whether you have a television, computer or any other device that can pick up public information.

The new universal charge will be collected in a way that tackles the current very high evasion rates of the TV licence fee - suggesting the payment mechanism could be modelled on the new property tax.

Currently nearly one in five households does not pay the TV licence fee and this is costing the government €30m a year in lost revenue.

Announcing major changes to the way public service broadcasting is funded Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte today gave a commitment the new charge will not exceed the current €160 a year licence fee.

A public consultation into how the charge will operate will be launched shortly and Mr Rabbitte said ideally he would like to see it introduced by late 2014.

There would be no excuse for not paying the charge, and the only exceptions would be for those currently exempt from the TV licence fee such as households in receipt of the household benefits package.

Mr Rabbitte said that he simply did not believe there were any households who could claim to have no access to public service broadcasting whether via television, radio or the RTE website on phones and computers.

“It’s not some of us should pay for, all of us should pay for it, we should not have freeloaders,” he said.

He also revealed that RTE will have to cut its advertising time if it wants to get any extra public funding in future.

Mr Rabbitte said he will introduce a new funding mechanism where both advertising revenue and public funding is considered in working out how much money RTE and TG4 should get.

Consultants will also be sent in to RTE to see if further cost efficiencies can be achieved prior to any increase in funding.

Mr Rabbitte said that could include presenters’ salaries as though the terms of reference of the review of costs had not yet been set, nothing was off the table.

However he acknowledged that RTE had already made substantial savings, having cut staff numbers by 500 in recent years and been one of the first public bodies to cut wages, achieving total savings of €104m since the recession hit.

The changes were approved by the Cabinet yesterday after it considered the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s five-year review of how public service broadcasting is funded.

The BAI said that RTE would need more money if it’s to deliver on its public service broadcasting remit.

RTE saw commercial income drop by €84m or 35pc between 2008 and 2012 which Mr Rabbitte said was a “mindboggling” fall.

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