The definition of a 'television set' is to be changed in law in order to allow the TV licence fee to be applied to computers, laptops and large tablets, the Irish Independent can reveal.
In a move that could generate an extra €5m a year for cash-strapped RTÉ, Communications Minister Denis Naughten is devising plans to broaden the reach of the licence fee.
Almost one in 10 households no longer has a traditional television set, but many are still accessing content over the internet.
Sources say proposals being finalised by officials would see the €160 annual charge applied to electronic devices with screen sizes above 11 inches.
This would ensure mobile phones and standard tablets are exempt but would see most desktop computers, laptops and large iPads targeted. Full details of the change have yet to be worked out, including how it would be enforced.
Last week, the Irish Independent revealed that Mr Naughten was considering outsourcing the collection of unpaid TV licence fees to a private company.
The Broadcasting Act 2009 currently gives a broad definition of a 'television set' as "any electronic apparatus capable of receiving and exhibiting television broadcasting services broadcast for general reception".
But the law states that "non-portable television sets capable of exhibiting television broadcasting services distributed by means of the publicly available internet" are exempt from paying the TV licence.
Mr Naughten aims to delete this exemption so that internet usage will be accounted for and a large number of devices brought into the TV licence net.
Sources said the idea was to take account of rapid recent technological changes.