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Pat Rabbitte may be on the way out of government but not before he catches licence fee evaders. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

UPDATE: UPC says it won't give out customer data for TV licence crackdown

Pat Rabbitte has got government approval for a new scheme aimed at tackling TV licence fee evasion.

UPDATE 4.20pm

UPC HAS SAID this afternoon that it will not give An Post access to customer information as part of a crackdown on TV licence evaders.

Responding to comments from Minister Pat Rabbitte earlier today, a spokesperson for the company said, “UPC is not in a position to give An Post access to our cable subscription data because this would contravene our obligations under data protection.”

Rabbitte had issued a statement, revealing that An Post was to be given access to cable and satellite subscription data in order to crack down on people who evade payment of the TV licence fee.

In what may be one of his last acts as Communications Minister, he got Cabinet approval this morning for the proposal that he said will tackle the “ongoing scourge” of TV licence evasion.

It’s estimated by the Department of Communications that over 15% of TV owners are not paying the €160-a-year fee with an estimated loss of revenue to the national broadcaster RTÉ of up to €30 million.

Under new legislation – approved by government today – An Post will be allowed access the subscription data held by the likes of UPC and Sky to cross-reference their subscriber databases with its own data on TV licence fee payers.

“As long ago as 2004 the Comptroller and Auditor General highlighted the fact there was no legal obligation on cable or satellite TV service suppliers to inform An Post of the names and addressed of persons availing of their services,” Rabbitte explained in a statement today.

“Given the ComReg estimate that over 73% of ‘TV households’ have such services, this measure should significantly reduce the level of evasion.”

The Labour TD insisted that An Post will have access to the information solely for its statutory functions as the body responsible for TV licence fee collection and said the confidentially of the information will be protected.

It is hoped that the bill can be passed and will come into the force by the end of the year.

Rabbitte said this proposal will bring the licence fee and inspection system into the 21st century and said his department will continue to work “on proposals to put the public service funding system on a permanently secure footing”.

First published 1.53pm

Read: ‘We don’t have cavemen here’: Property tax register may be used for broadcast charge

Read: The most common excuses Irish people give for not paying their tv licence

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