Coalition hopes €160 fee will stop TV licence 'freeloaders'
EVERY household in the country is to be hit with a new Public Service Broadcasting Charge to replace the television licence fee.
The Government has announced major changes to how television and radio services are funded and is to send in financial experts to RTE in a bid to cut costs at the state broadcaster.
Nobody will be able to refuse to pay the new broadcasting charge on the basis they don't have a TV as it will be legally binding on all homes regardless of what devices they own.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said yesterday that the new charge was designed to tackle very high evasion rates for the TV licence fee and to reflect the changing methods of accessing public content on iPads and mobile phones as well as television.
A public consultation into how the charge will operate will be launched shortly and the Government is hoping to have it in place by January 1, 2015.
Mr Rabbitte said there would have to be an efficient collection method for the new charge to reduce the current 18pc evasion rate for the TV licence fee, collected by An Post.
It is believed likely the payment mechanism will be modelled on the new property tax.
The high evasion rate is costing the Government €30m a year in lost revenue.
Mr Rabbitte gave a commitment that the new charge will not exceed the current €160-a-year licence fee, though he added it would be "foolish" to say how long that price cap would remain in place.
There would be "no excuses" 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, he said.
Mr Rabbitte said he simply did not believe there were any households who could claim to have no access to public service information.
"I don't believe that people live in huts and I don't believe people don't access public service broadcasting," he said.
"It's not some of us that should pay for it. All of us should pay for it. We should not have freeloaders."
The changes were approved by the Cabinet this week 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 "mind-boggling" fall.