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Government Announces TV Licence Reform
02 Aug 2019 : News Desk
Richard Bruton
The collection of the TV licence fee is to be replaced with a charge for all household devices.

Minister for Communications, Richard Bruton, has confirmed that the collection of the TV licence fee will be out to public tender later this year, with the successful bidder to be awarded a five-year contract for the service. Minister Bruton said that the option of purchasing TV licences at post offices will remain regardless of which organisation secures the contract. The provision of free TV licences to those in receipt of the household benefits package will continue.

Once this five-year period has elapsed, the licence fee will be replaced by a “device-independent broadcasting charge” designed to capture households consuming publicly-funded content on devices other than traditional television sets.

The new reforms are included in the Government’s new Broadcasting Bill, which also includes plans to crack down on the 12pc of householders who currently evade the €160 annual licence fee.

The Bill also proposes reforms to supports for independent broadcasters and local community radio and is set to be brought before the Dáil in the autumn. Also under review will be the amount set aside by RTÉ for the commissioning of external content. Currently, the national broadcaster makes about €40 million a year available. The review will be carried out between 2019 and 2021.

Speaking on the Bill, Minister Bruton said:

“It is clear that due to the nature of technological change and the movement towards digital devices, the design of the TV licence fee will have to change. This is a fundamental reform that will take time to develop, but it will future-proof the funding model, taking account of changes in technology and in how content is now consumed.”

Levies on independent broadcasters will be reduced, while the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) will be given greater flexibility in granting exemptions and deferrals from the broadcasting levy. The Bill will also allow for BAI expenses to be part-funded – up to 50 per cent – from licence fee receipts.

A review of the Broadcasting Act 2009 was also flagged, which will address the level of funding made available for the Sound & Vision scheme. The BAI administers this scheme with the aim of supporting TV and radio programmes on Irish culture, heritage and experience. Currently, it receives 7 per cent of net TV licence receipts, or about €14.5 million.

Minsiter Bruton said:

“Public service broadcasting is more important now than ever. Independent, objective reporting of domestic and international affairs is crucial. However, we must recognise that the landscape in which broadcasters operate is undergoing a transformation and that this gives rise to new challenges. Audiences are transitioning away from traditional platforms and are increasingly accessing content online through digital mediums.”

 

Screen Producers Ireland has long called for the introduction of a Household Broadcasting Charge, launching a campaign for TV licence reform in November. 

Speaking after the launch of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the announcement of a review of Broadcasting Act 2009, specifically related to the Irish Independent Production Sector, Screen Producers Ireland CEO, Elaine Geraghty said:

“Today’s announcement has the potential to solidify the future growth and sustainability of the Irish Independent Production Sector. However, these commitments need to be implemented as soon as possible so that the Independent Production Sector receives the stimulus that the Minister understand it needs.” 

"SPI supports the review of the Broadcasting Act 2009. We believe this review will find a compelling case to increase the statutory spend by RTÉ in the Irish Independent Production Sector and increase the total amount given to the BAI Sound and Vision Fund.”

“… delaying (the Household Broadcasting Charge)introduction beyond a tender process and then a 5-year contract is too long. This charge needs to be introduced as a matter of urgency and waiting up to 7 years, or beyond, will not create the conditions required for the sustainability of Public Service Media or the sustainability of the Irish Independent Production Sector.”




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