THE Government is looking to Germany to examine how best to roll out a new broadcast fee that will hit every household regardless of whether they own a television.
Germany is one of four European countries being looked at as it seeks to change from traditional TV licences.
A broadcasting charge will be brought in for the Germans from 2013, where a flat fee of around €216 per year will be imposed on households regardless of how people access public-service content.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte is planning to introduce a similar flat fee here, because of a growing realisation that many are now accessing radio and television using their computers or smartphones.
His officials have also been studying Switzerland, Finland and Iceland, where efforts are also under way to introduce a new licensing system, although no dates have yet been set for their roll-out.
Mr Rabbitte suggested his officials were using the experience of the four countries as a model. "We won't have to reinvent the wheel I hope," he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources said "particular focus" was given to these four countries as they are all in the active process of developing a new charging system.
Mr Rabbitte stressed the proposed charge was not a new form of taxation, and said the method of collection still had to be worked out.
"This is not an additional charge. This is not a new tax. This is not a new levy. This is a replacement for the existing TV licence," he told RTE.
"So anybody who's complying with the law and paying their existing TV licence, they need have nothing to fear from this."
Mr Rabbitte said the charge could be less than the current fee of €160 for every household that owns a TV. He said it would not be in place for next year.
The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland welcomed the proposed fee, but urged the minister to also conduct a review on how the revenue will be used from the charge.
"In various media interviews Minister Rabbitte has referred to RTE as the State's 'public service' broadcaster," the group said in a statement.
"We would like to remind Minister Rabbitte that with over 2.4m listeners each weekday, all independent radio stations provide a high level of public service and that this is a condition of their licence."