Monday 22 July 2019

Communications Minister Alex White proposes to tackle TV licence evasion by allowing An Post to access Sky and UPC customer data

Minister Alex White
Minister Alex White Newsdesk Newsdesk

Minister for Communications Alex White TD has proposed to tackle TV licence evasion by allowing An Post to access Sky and UPC customer data.

Making the proposals before Cabinet today, Mr White said licence fee evasion is currently estimated to exceed 15pc and amounts to a loss of over €25m to broadcasters each year.

The minister is publishing the results of an RTÉ efficiency review - conducted by NewERA - and a broadcasting advertising market review, carried out by Indecon.

Today, the Cabinet noted Mr White’s proposal to continue to engage with RTÉ’s board and management in a review of its assets including the Montrose site.

Mr White also told the Government that the introduction of the proposed public service broadcasting charge would not be possible within the lifetime of this Government.

“Declining advertising revenue – which is now shared between a growing number of broadcasters including many from overseas – has challenged all broadcasters including RTE, which depends on advertising for almost half its income.

Minister White said the NewERA report “demonstrates that RTÉ has adjusted to this environment by reducing its operating costs and improving its efficiency to the point where its costs are now in the middle range of comparable European public service broadcasters”.

“I will be engaging with RTÉ to ensure that these efforts are progressed and that the broadcaster continues with the review of its assets, including the Montrose site.”

He said: “We cannot replace the TV licence fee with a public service broadcasting charge until we have built public understanding and support for such a move.”

The Minister said 7pc of annual TV licence receipts are allocated to the Broadcasting Fund, which ensured that €14.2m was available to support the production and transmission of high quality Irish culture and heritage programming in 2014.

“Media plurality is essential to the health of our democracy and Government policy is to sustain a diverse Irish broadcasting sector, including a strong public service broadcaster capable of delivering services that serve all our citizens' diverse needs and tastes.

Minister White said: “Indecon’s analysis indicates that any changes to the advertising minutage of domestic public service broadcasters would likely see further leakage of advertising spend to broadcasters outside of Ireland as much as to domestic commercial broadcasters.”

He also signalled his intention to amend the legislation to give additional responsibilities to the BAI to ensure that its reviews of public service broadcasting funding will always take account of the impact of any recommendations on the advertising market.

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