Wednesday 21 August 2019

Calls for new TV licence charge to be paid monthly

Fianna Fail wants 'public service' protection

Timmy Dooley. Picture: Collins
Timmy Dooley. Picture: Collins
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

TV licence reforms must give households the option to pay the charge in instalments, to help families cope with the cost of sending children to school or cope with other bills, Fianna Fail has said.

The party's communications spokesman Timmy Dooley yesterday criticised Government proposals to reform the broadcasting charge, saying they do not go far enough to help public service broadcasting and support important journalism.

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He also feels greater consideration should have been given to people who struggle to pay their TV licence.

Dooley said he would like to see people offered an opportunity to pay the annual charge in instalments at post offices. He said An Post has shown it has the capabilities to manage payments and could work in conjunction with Revenue to clamp down on people who do not pay the fee.

"The ability to pay in instalments would help I think, because while €160 is not an issue for some people, it can be problematic for people on a tight budget," Dooley said.

"At this time of year, with children going back to school, or other times of year depending on when the licence fee falls due, putting that €160 together on a tight income or social welfare is considerable.

"I think instalments could be paid at post offices.

"Revenue should have a role in conjunction with An Post and put together an effective model to clamp down on non-compliance. Hopefully it would also make people more conscious, more aware and encourage them to become more compliant.

"An Post has the experience to date on issuing the licences but consideration should be given to having An Post and Revenue to get more people compliant."

It comes after RTE director- general Dee Forbes called for a system linking the collection of "a household media charge" to household utility bills.

However there are concerns over how such a system could be implemented because of households using various energy and communications providers and paying bills at different rates.

Last week Communications Minister Richard Bruton announced the Government is to scrap the current licence fee and replace it with a new charge that will mean anyone who uses a laptop, tablet or smartphone will be liable to pay.

A fee for the charge has not yet been set.

The proposals aim to catch people who are not currently paying the TV licence charge and it is expected the move will catch many student households and young couples for the first time because they watch online services instead of traditional TVs.

However Dooley said he is confident Revenue and An Post could crack down on those evading the charge. He said the Government proposals should also go further to protect public service broadcasting and journalism.

"If we as a country are serious about protecting informed decision-making and political discussion, we will need to invest in protecting public service journalism," he said.

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