The Government has announced a series of reforms to the TV Licence system, including the tendering of collection services.
The Government has also confirmed the replacement of the traditional TV licence fee with a new “device independent broadcasting charge” after the new tendered contract expires in five years time.
RTÉ has responded to the announcement.
“RTÉ 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 When added to the evasion rate, currently close to 25% of homes are now not paying the TV Licence due to an outdated and inefficient system.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 BAI has recommended an immediate increase in funding of €30m to RTÉ so that we can maintain public services and continue to support the Irish audio visual sector. While the measures announced today may improve collection performance in the medium term they do not address this immediate structural funding challenge and in reality could make it more difficult.
TV Licence payers want RTÉ to do more, and they deserve more. With reform now pushed out further, RTÉ’s capacity to deliver against its existing remit is severely compromised.”
Listen to Director-General Dee Forbes on RTÉ Radio 1’s News at One. https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/radio1/21597843
Minister Bruton Publishes Broadcasting Bill
Local community radio and independent broadcasters supported
Changes to be made to the collection of the T.V. licence fee
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. today published the Broadcasting Bill which includes a number of measures to support local community radio, reducing the levies placed on independent broadcasters. The Minister today also announced changes to how the T.V. licence fee will be collected now and into the future and a review of the Broadcasting Act.
Minister Bruton said:
“Public service broadcasting is more important now than ever. Independent, objective reporting of domestic and international affairs is crucial.
However, we must recognise that the landscape in which broadcasters operate is undergoing a transformation and that this gives rise to new challenges. Audiences are transitioning away from traditional platforms and are increasingly accessing content online through digital mediums.
“Today, I am publishing the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2019. This Bill will enable the broadcasting levy to be reduced for all broadcasters and for some community broadcasters to be exempted entirely. It allows for the creation of a new funding scheme that would allow the granting of bursaries to journalists in local or community radio stations. We must support our local community radio stations and independent broadcasters.”
The Minister today also announced that the Government will accept the recommendations of the Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting and will be putting the collection of the T.V. licence fee out to public tender later this year. This will allow a 5 year contract for the service to be put in place, allowing the successful bidder the opportunity and the incentive to invest in the system of collection.
The Government has also agreed that at the end of the 5 year contract period, the licence fee should be replaced by a device independent broadcasting charge which takes account of technological change and will enable the sustainable funding of public service content in the longer term. It is estimated that 10% of homes access content on alternative devices which do not require a television licence.
Minister Bruton said,
“Most people pay their T.V. licence fee.
However, we still see approximately 12% evasion which we need to address. By tendering for a contract of 5 years, this will allow the awarded body the chance to invest in a robust collection service.
“It is also clear that due to the nature of technological change and the movement towards digital devices, the design of the T.V. 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.”
The current provision of free TV licences to those in receipt of the Household Benefits Package will continue. The option of purchasing TV licences at post offices will remain regardless of who the successful awardee of the contract is.
Finally, Minister Bruton is today also announcing a review of the Broadcasting Act, to evaluate the proportion of the T.V. 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 RTE is obliged to spend on commissioning external content. In 2018 this amounted to €39.7m. Increasing this amount would provide an important stimulus to the independent production sector.
Minister Bruton said,
“The objective of this review will be to see how we can best support original Irish content production.”