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Paschal Donohoe says Government can reject Media Commission’s recommendations and casts doubt over TV licence fee changes


Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said any revenue that will be lost if the TV licence fee is scrapped would have to be regained through additional measures.

Mr Donohoe was speaking in response to the growing speculation that Government will reject a key recommendation of the Future of Media Commission which calls for the end of the licence fee.

The recommendation also suggests that RTÉ's subsequent missing revenue would come from the exchequer.

Mr Donohoe said Irish media outlets play an “exceptionally important part of our democracy and our society”.

“Alongside that, being in a position where we can indicate that we can abolish charges entirely and get rid of licence fees that do play an important role in the future of our media, I think it’s important to be open and honest about that as well,” he told RTÉ radio.

“The TV licence brings in about €200m per year.

"If we get rid of that, that’s €200m that we’ve lost. We have to find additional ways of getting that back and what I think the Government will be considering is, are there ways we can improve the collection of the licence fee, in which we can support it in the future and I’m sure the Government will be considering that and the report on the future of media commission very soon.”

The Future of Media Commission was established in 2019 and it is understood its long-awaited report could be published as early as next week.

Despite the years of research which have gone into preparing the report, Mr Donohoe said the Government must only act on its findings if they are in the best interests of the country.

He added: “Any Government has to preserve the right to make a decision about what it believes is appropriate.

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"Every commission will bring forward recommendations regarding what they believe is the appropriate thing for the subject that they are studying and this commission has played a very valuable role with that but it’s the duty and need of Government to see everything in the round.

“Money that is lost by, for example, getting rid of the television licence, that’s money then that I and the Government need to find.

"We will be receiving a report from the Commission on Taxation and Welfare later on in the year. They no doubt will be making the case for how we broaden the tax base. How we have adequate revenue in place to pay for the public services that we need and they will have to see recommendations regarding how we get rid of taxes and how we get rid of licence fees in that light.”

Meanwhile, Mr Donohoe said the Government is to consider whether to introduce legislation on mandatory face coverings later this year, but will focus on the vaccine booster campaign in the interim.

It emerged this week that laws allowing for the reintroduction of mandatory mask-wearing in designated settings are to be drafted as a precautionary measure.

The move, outlined at Cabinet on Tuesday, is understood to be a preparatory step in case such a public health measure is required in the event of the Covid-19 situation worsening this winter.

When asked about whether the mandatory wearing of face coverings would be brought in during the current Covid-19 wave, the minister said: “The Government will consider at what right point that legislation could be merited.

“We will look at whether that measure is needed later on in the year.”

He said that face masks have contributed to the national effort to contain Covid-19, but appealed to people to get a booster vaccine if they had not already.

“As we speak at the moment, I think 46pc of the population have now received a second booster, so that means there’s over half who still haven’t.

“So in particular, for those in their late 60s, for those who are immunocompromised, our message is please avail of the booster, because that is the greatest line of defence to the disease and getting very sick, impacting on your health and that of those who are near you.

“And that is where we will focus for the time ahead.”

The minister also reiterated the Government’s line that there will not be an emergency cost-of-living budget before October’s Budget 2023 is revealed.

“There will not be an emergency budget.

“We absolutely appreciate the huge challenge and the rising costs faced by so many and the Government has acted already throughout the year to help as many as we can with the rising cost of living, and when we get to do the budget later in the year, we will help again.

“We have, in addition to the Budget last year, we have put in place measures of an additional 1.4 billion euro.

“We’ve done our best to help. We will help again when we get to the Budget, but the issues that we have and the challenge that we have at the moment is not something we can respond to month by month, because these difficulties are not going to go away in a month.”

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