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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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Public tell TDs 'enough is enough' as they say they won't renew TV licences amid RTÉ controversy

Media Minister Catherine Martin has been contacted almost 100 times about TV licence since scandal broke in June.

CALLS FOR REFORM, accusations of “toxicity” and questions around value for money were among the reasons given by members of the public who told TDs that they would no longer pay their TV licence in the wake of the RTÉ payments scandal.

One person called on Communications Minister Eamon Ryan to refund anyone who paid their TV licence in 2023 as a “small apology to the public” for RTÉ’s abuse of trust over “secret payments to some high-level presenters”.

Another individual claimed that they wouldn’t pay their licence fee “ever again” unless they saw a “complete overhaul of governance” and the removal of unspecified presenters.

A selection of correspondence from the public about the TV licence, sent to the office of Media Minister Catherine Martin after news of the RTÉ payments scandal broke at the end of June, was released to The Journal under the Freedom of Information Act.

The broadcaster has been mired in controversy over the summer after it emerged that it under-declared presenter Ryan Tubridy’s income by €120,000 from 2017 to 2019 and also failed to disclose extra payments to him worth €225,000 between 2020 and 2022.

A report published by auditors Grant Thornton yesterday confirmed that the presenter’s salary was under-reported between 2017 and 2019 and found that it is “very plausible” this was done to allow his payment to be stated as being below €500,000 in each year.

Some of the emails sent to Martin’s office were initially sent to other TDs before being sent to the minister, who has responsibility for RTÉ.

A spokesperson for the Department of Media confirmed that the minister’s office received almost 100 emails from the public about the TV licence since the story about Tubridy broke on 22 June and this week.

Although not all emails were specifically about the payments controversy, the vast majority of emails seen by The Journal referenced the scandal and were from people saying they would no longer pay their licence.  

One person who wrote to Martin said that while they would still like to pay for RTÉ News, they would not renew their TV licence until the system was reformed.

“The current breach of trust from RTÉ and downright misrepresentation of payments made to so called ‘stars’ should force a reform of the TV licence fee,” they said.

“If the government wants to fund an organisation looking to find ways around directed parameters of pay, let the Exchequer pay. There’s accountability in Government. I will not be purchasing another TV licence.”

Others who said they would no longer pay the licence fee described the broadcaster as a “disgrace”, “shocking” and “unbelievable”, with one claiming it was “unfair” that RTÉ had used the fee in such a way.

Another individual, who described themselves as a “disgusted Irish taxpayer”, said that they would stop paying their licence fee after 34 years of doing so, describing the payments scandal as “the straw that has broken the camel’s back”.

One person suggested that the controversy showed that RTÉ did not demonstrate value for money and said the issue needed “to be addressed as a priority” before they considered renewing their TV licence.

“If that cannot take place and RTÉ cannot survive so be it,” the person wrote.

“It will be a dark day nationally if they refuse to clean up their act and act responsibly and fail to navigate through this unmitigated mess.” 

Another person said that they would not “be made a fool of” by RTÉ executives and presenters.

“I wish to advise that I will not be paying the TV licence this year. Enough is enough. Fool me once, shame on thee; fool me twice, shame on me,” they said.

And person describing themselves as a nurse said that they had renewed their licence fee despite the scandal, but that it had “sickened [them] to the core” to do so given the controversy.

“I have no choice but to pay the TV licence fee. If I had a choice I would not pay it,” they wrote.

“However, if I didn’t pay it, I would have TV licence inspectors knocking on my door and imposing hefty fines on me.

“In the meantime, the organisation that you give my TV licence fee to is running amok with my hard-earned money; they are lining the pockets of already overpaid people and giving freebies to their cronies.”

Latest figures show that since news of the payments controversy emerged, TV licence renewals have fallen by one-third compared to the same period last year.

A total of 56,630 people renewed their licences between the first week of July and the second week of August,  a drop in revenue worth around €4.5 million to RTÉ.

More than half of RTÉ’s funding comes from the TV licence, and the broadcaster has repeatedly lobbied the Government for additional funding and to reform the licence system in recent years.