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Whatever happened to that broadcasting charge we were supposed to pay this year?

It was supposed to replace the TV licence but it hasn’t happened. Will it ever?

WHEN IT TOOK office, the government committed to introducing a public service broadcasting charge to replace the TV licence fee, but with just weeks left in its term it’s now safe to say it isn’t going to happen.

This will come as a surprise to some who may have read headlines such as the one below back in July 2013 when then-communications minister Pat Rabbitte made a very clear commitment to introduce the broadcasting charge in 2015:

screenshot.1449851083.73150 Source: businessetc.thejournal.ie

The broadcasting charge was intended as a replacement for the current TV licence and would not exceed the current €160 most of us who own a television pay every year.

In other words, it would not amount to an extra charge on hard-pressed taxpayers.

But amid a feeling that the public had ‘charge’ fatigue, be it for property or water, the government quietly shelved the plans to introduce the measure last year.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie last week, Communications Minister Alex White was honest enough to admit that it was done for political reasons.

“I think that all of the controversy over other charges, like water charges for example, maybe property tax, put a lot of people off, including people in the political system,” he said.

Politics tends to reflect what’s happening in the broader society and I think that even though it isn’t a new charge – it’s a replacement of the licence fee – I think we need to prepare public opinion for it a lot better.

alex white

The replacement charge was aimed at accounting for the many different ways broadcast media is now consumed in Ireland. A person can watch and listen to the national broadcaster without the need for a television or a radio.

Perhaps because of this, around 20% of people liable for the TV licence don’t pay it, amounting to a loss of around €30 million.

Despite the replacement charge having been, as White says, “abandoned” by this government, the minister is hopeful that it will be introduced by the next administration.

He said: “There’s a very strong case for it. We nowadays consume broadcast media in lots and lots of different ways. We don’t just look at the TV set stuck in the corner of the front room.

People get to view TV and listen to radio and view interviews like this in lots of new ways on different platforms that we couldn’t have imagined even a short number of years ago.

“So I think there’s a case for having a fund that is there to support public service broadcasting, to ensure that we have public service broadcasting that’s robust, that’s independent, that can produce a range of programming for different tastes and demands.”

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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