THE number of people jailed last year for the non-payment of TV licence fines jumped by almost 50pc.
According to figures provided by the Irish Prison Service, the numbers of people jailed for non-payment of licence fines last year increased from 183 to 272 – a jump of 89 or 48.6pc. In the past five years, since the recession took hold, the number jailed for this offence has increased more than five-fold.
Figures for 2008 show that 49 people were jailed, rising to 75 in 2009, 152 in 2010 and 183 in 2011.
Figures released earlier this year show that 83 staff members at RTE earn more than €100,000, with the average salary at the station of €60,000 – almost twice the national average.
Those who don't pay the TV licence can face fines of up to €1,000.
Fianna Fail justice spokesman, Niall Collins said yesterday: "It is incredible the amount of people being sent to jail for non-payment of a TV licence fine, while at the same time you have very serious criminals availing of the revolving doors at our prisons."
An Post has responsibility for collection of the TV licence. Last year, the semi-state initiated 11,500 prosecutions in the courts against those who failed to pay their TV licence on time – an increase of 10pc on the previous year.
A spokesman for An Post said: "Prosecution is not the aim, it is a last resort, at which time responsibility moves from An Post to the Courts Service.
"By law, if you have a TV, you must have a licence. It's as simple as that. An Post works to ensure that people are aware of their legal obligation, and to make it as easy as possible for all customers to buy or renew a licence.
"In any case, everyone is given the opportunity to purchase or renew a licence following a face-to-face visit by an inspector or receipt of a reminder card. Everyone has time to buy a licence before the prosecution process kicks in."
Last year, one million TV licences were sold; a further 408,000 households receive a free TV licence.
The rate of non-compliance is currently running at 15pc. The average annual cost of a prison space in 2012 was €65,404.