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Rabbitte rules out raising TV licence fee

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 Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte

Gareth Chaney

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte has firmly ruled out any increase in the €160-a-year television licence fee for cash-strapped RTE.

Mr Rabbitte said he made it "very plain" to RTE bosses on a number of occasions that they must break even by year end.

"I don't have any intention of raising the TV licence at this stage," said Mr Rabbitte, adding RTE could not expect a rise in the slice of monies they receive from the licence fee.

Yet RTE director general Noel Curran, whose organisation is facing a €60m deficit for 2012, has already said he would like to see the state broadcaster collect a greater proportion of its funding from public sources.

A new 'broadcasting charge' is expected to replace the licence fee to apply to householders even if they do not own a television. This is intended to take account of the shift in the number of people now watching RTE and TG4 on laptops and smartphones.

RTE has estimated that as many as 15pc of households do not pay for a TV licence – even with 99pc of households possessing a TV. Mr Rabbitte estimated licence fee evasion totalled around €30m a year.

"If you had a new charge and if the efficacy of collection was more effective, then you could expect there would be more revenue," Mr Rabbitte told Newstalk's 'Sunday Show'.

He said the independent media sector had been arguing for funding from the licence fee to account for its public interest content.

RTE gets the largest chunk of the licence fee at around €180m a year. TG4 also gets funding and 7pc of the licence fee goes towards independent broadcast productions.

Irish Independent