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From 2024, the government wants to include phones and laptops in your TV licence fee

The government said that the TV licence fee should be replaced by a new charging system.

Updated Aug 2nd 2019, 8:39 AM

IN FIVE YEARS’ time, you will need to pay a TV licence fee for a range of devices, the government has said. 

This confirms an idea long-held by the Fine Gael government to charge those using devices that can access the RTÉ Player or RTÉ radio.

The government confirmed that it will be looking for bidders to collect the TV licence fee later this year, as recommended by the Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting.

It’s at the end of this five-year contract for collection that the new funding model, which will include devices like laptops and tablets, will be introduced.

The TV licence currently costs €160 a year and is collected by An Post.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton said that the change recognises “that the landscape in which broadcasters operate is undergoing a transformation: audiences are transitioning away from traditional platforms and are increasingly accessing content online through digital mediums”. 

The government said that the licence fee should be replaced by “a device independent broadcasting charge”, as it’s estimated that 10% of homes access content on alternative devices that don’t need a television licence.

The measures are included in the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2019, which has been published today, which includes measures to reduce levies placed on independent broadcasters.

The minister added that a new funding scheme that would allow bursaries to be granted to journalists in local radio stations. 

Bruton said: “Public service broadcasting is more important now than ever. Independent, objective reporting of domestic and international affairs is crucial.”

It is also 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.

Free TV licences will still be given to those getting the Household Benefits Package under the new scheme. 

Evasion levels 

RTÉ has welcomed the development, but questioned why it will take five years to implement.

A spokesperson said the broadcaster “has been making the case for reform of the TV Licence system for many years, and it has been made in numerous independent reviews”.

“While this decision by government to tender for collection services is welcome, nonetheless the decision to defer implementation of a revised media charge system means that the crisis in the funding of public service media will continue.

Latest evasion levels are 13%, significantly higher than in the UK and other European countries. The fact is that the number of homes that do not have a traditional television set – but who are nonetheless consuming public service content – is increasing rapidly and the current television licence fee mechanism reflects less and less how people consume public-service content.

“When added to the evasion rate, currently close to 25% of homes are now not paying the TV Licence due to an outdated and inefficient system. This is resulting in tens of millions in lost funding for public media and the broader sector each year.”

The Communications Minister has also announced the review of the Broadcasting Act, to evaluate the proportion of the TV licence revenue which is allocated to the ‘Sound and Vision Scheme’ which supports the independent sector and native Irish content.

The review will also consider the minimum amount of funding that RTÉ is obliged to spend on commissioning external content – in 2018 this amounted to €39.7 million.

Updated by Órla Ryan

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