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Dublin: 18°C Thursday 24 June 2021

There are serious plans to take TV licence inspections away from An Post

TV licence fee collectors have been criticised in the UK – but any new inspectors here will have to adhere to certain criteria.

Image: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

A PRIVATE COMPANY could soon be tasked with carrying out TV licence inspections.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten is bringing the Broadcasting Amendment Bill before Cabinet today. If enacted, the proposal would allow for a tender process to be rolled out for a new ‘TV licence agent’.

The change in legislation will move the responsibility for TV licence inspections away from An Post.

An Post currently carries out all TV licence sales and inspections. However, it is a loss-making service offered by the organisation.

It’s understood the service costs the company around €12 million per year, including the salaries of 46 inspectors.

A source said putting the contract out to tender is the first step in a bid to tackle payment evasion (which currently stands at 13.75%).

The new collectors will be tasked with collecting unpaid fees which amount to around €40 million every year.

While An Post can still apply for the tender (and can still sell TV licences), it’s expected that a private operating company will take over the task.

Ireland is following the lead of the UK, which has outsourced the majority of the administration of TV Licensing to a private company – Capita Business Services Ltd, also known as Capita.

Last week, the company’s operation came in for criticism from the UK’s Public Accounts Committee, which said the corporation must ‘rapidly’ change its approach to collection.

The firm, which is paid £59 million a year to collect fees for the BBC, was attacked for what was described as “poor” performances by TV licence collectors.

While the detail of the tender for Irish TV licence inspections has yet to be finalised, it’s understood that any operator looking to win the contract in Ireland would have to submit a detailed business plan as to how it plans to operate and decrease licence fee evasion rates.

It’s believed that any company that is awarded the tender to collect the TV licence fee would have to adhere to certain criteria.

An original proposal would have seen the €160 annual fee extended to cover electronic devices with screen sizes over 11 inches. However this idea has been scrapped due to the difficulties in enforcement.

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