Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Media Minister Catherine Martin yesterday vowed to make the TV license system ‘more sustainable’ but a decision on the future of the levy has now been kicked back to November. On Tuesday, former RTÉ Board member Larry Bass said this added to the ‘ongoing saga of the can being kicked so far down the road that it’s nearly in oblivion’. The national broadcaster has repeatedly said the current TV license model is ‘not fit for purpose’ and is subject to high levels of evasion.
Following requests for the TV licence collection scheme to be abandoned and replaced with direct exchequer funding, the government may now target users of computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices. On Tuesday, the government rejected just one of the 50 suggestions contained in the long-delayed Future of Media Commission report.
Current rules state that a person is only liable for the €160 fee if they own a TV. ‘It will be one of the issues that the technical group will have to look at is on the households that don’t have a TV,’ Minister Martin said. ‘I think that would be one of the issues. But there’s others. There’s the current legislative provisions changes that were required to underpin a robust collection method, how to enforce it, and the most appropriate collection methods through An Post.
People using laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices could be targeted under a reformed TV license collection model after Government rejected calls for it to be scrapped and replaced with direct exchequer funding. Pic: Getty. It recently claimed that it loses in the region of €65m a year due to people not paying the €160 fee. Media Minister Martin Catherine Martin has said a technical group will now examine alternatives to the Commission’s proposal, which will include whether those accessing content on laptops, smartphones and tablets will have to pay the licence fee.
The Commission recommended replacing the fee with a system based entirely on general Exchequer funds from 2024 onwards. ‘Following detailed scrutiny of RTÉ’s financial situation, the Commission recommends that, in advance of the introduction of a new public funding model in 2024, the Government should ensure RTÉ is funded, through a combination of TV Licence Fee revenues and Exchequer contributions, to the extent of €219 million in 2021, €213 million in 2022 and €214 million in 2023,’ the report said.
‘Obviously, you have to look at how media consumption has changed. I presume that will be examined by the technical group.’ The national broadcaster has repeatedly said the current TV license model is ‘not fit for purpose’ and is subject to high levels of evasion. After a nine-month delay, the Future of Media Commission report was published following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. It was presented to the Taoiseach and Minister Martin last October.
Speaking to Newstalk, Mr Bass criticised the decision to not accept the Commission’s report on the licence fee. This particular Government decided to put in a Commission at public expense to make a recommendation as to how it should be dealt with and they’re going to ignore the outcome of the commission,’ he said. ‘We as a country obviously don’t prioritise Irish content, I’ve said it consistently that if we don’t pay for it we won’t have it and [there’s] a reducing amount of money and the licence fee hasn’t been increased for I think over 15 years.’