Tuesday 19 September 2017

Minister in support of adding TV licence to utility bills

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys has backed the idea of allowing the television licence fee be attached to other utility bills. Stock Image
Arts Minister Heather Humphreys has backed the idea of allowing the television licence fee be attached to other utility bills. Stock Image
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys has backed the idea of allowing the television licence fee be attached to other utility bills "if it makes it easier for people to pay".

But the minister said there should be no increase to the current charge of €160 because of the high rate of non-payment.

Ms Humphreys said she supports initiatives aimed at increasing the collection rate, as this would "certainly make a considerable difference" to RTÉ's ability to provide public service broadcasting.

She said she was unaware of plans by Communications Minister Denis Naughten to outsource door-to-door inspections to a private company.

The Irish Independent revealed yesterday Mr Naughten is drawing up legislation to allow TV licence 'enforcers' be recruited in a bid to recoup the €40m in unpaid fees every year.

Read more: Revealed: TV licence fee 'enforcers' to collect unpaid €40m for RTÉ

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes cited the need to increase collection of the licence fee and cited the example of Italy where it has been attached to electricity bills.

Ms Forbes was speaking earlier this week as she outlined plans for a major restructuring which puts more than 200 jobs at the broadcaster in danger.

Last night, Ms Humphreys said: "There are ways of collecting money. There could be an attachment in some way if it makes it easier for people to pay on a weekly basis.

"Something like a television licence on a weekly basis is a very small sum of money."

Speaking at the launch of Cruinniú na Cásca, a large-scale free public festival involving RTÉ and Creative Ireland on Easter Monday, the minister said she was satisfied that the broadcaster was "very committed" to coverage of the arts.

Ms Forbes cited RTÉ's coverage of the 1916 Centenary as one of the reasons for recording a heavy financial deficit last year.

But Ms Humphreys said her department has "a great working relationship" with RTÉ.

Labour senator Kevin Humphreys, who is based in the Dublin Bay South constituency where RTÉ is located, said the idea of raising the TV licence fee should come after an examination of salary levels.

"Approximately €2.6m is being spent on the top 10 earners and we must ask if that money could be better spent," he said.

Mr Humphreys also said locals are concerned about plans to sell off lands in Montrose.

"There is talk of building 500 housing units on the 8.5 acres that RTÉ is proposing to sell, but only 10pc would be social housing units.

"The State broadcaster certainly needs further investment but the city also needs housing units," he said.

"We need social and affordable housing units."

Local Green Party TD Eamon Ryan said the current TV licensing system "needs to change".

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News