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New crackdown on TV licence fee evaders

Communications Minister gains government approval for new legislation

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has unveiled proposals that will allow An Post to see digital TV subscription data in a bid to cut down on TV licence fee evaders.

The minister received government approval for the plans to tackle what he deemed to be “an ongoing scourge”.

Mr Rabbitte believes evasion is running at over 15%; three times the rate in the UK, and means between €25m and €30m of potential revenue is being lost annually to RTE.

“The objective of our TV licence system is to fund public service broadcasting,” explained Mr Rabbitte.

“The revenue lost through fee evasion has an immediate impact on the quality of service that can be provided by the national broadcaster. It also creates an inequality between compliant licence holders and evaders.”

An Post to access data

Government approval for legislation will enable An Post to access subscription data that is held by digital TV providers, including both Sky and UPC.

This will enable An Post to check the records of those with a digital TV subscription against their database of TV licence fee payers.

He added that legislation is required to overcome data protection concerns as An Post is set to only have access to the information required to check licence fees.

Mr Rabbitte said he hopes to have the legislation in place by the end of the year and believes the move will “significantly reduce the level of evasion”.

UPC responded to the comments from the minister by issuing a statement where the firm gave an indication of its stance on the matter.

“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,” said a spokesperson for the digital TV provider.

ComReg estimates that 73% of TV households use digital TV services, but there is currently no legal obligation for cable and satellite TV companies to inform An Post of the details of people using those services.

Compare the latest digital TV deals on Switcher.ie.