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Households to face new Public Service Broadcasting Charge

Every household in Ireland will be subject to a new universal Public Service Broadcasting Charge, to be introduced in 2015

The charge will replace the old television license fee, which the government estimates over 20% of homes had managed to avoid for years, depriving public broadcasting budgets of around €30 million annually.

Its expected that the new broadcasting fee will be collected in a similar fashion to the property tax, which makes evasion almost impossible. Only households currently exempt from the TV license fee, such as ones in receipt of the household benefits package, will be able to avoid the new charge legally.

Principles and promises

The new household charge will be designed to address the scale of evasion as well as respond to technological advance, where increasing numbers are accessing broadcast content online on popular devices such as laptops, iPads, computers and smartphones.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte delivered the news of the broadcasting charge during a briefing on Wednesday, 17 July.

He lamented the amount of “freeloading” under the old license fee, pointing out there is no believable way Irish citizens can claim not having access to public service broadcasting, whether it is radio, television, or online content.

Mr Rabbitte upheld the principle that everyone should pay their due and made a commitment that the new Public Service Broadcasting Charge would not exceed the old fee of €160.

The government’s decision for introducing the new broadcast charge, should see them make up an annual deficit of €30 million per year in lost revenue. Since the obligation to pay the charge will be the same for all households when the levy is introduced in 2015, this will help ensure that everyone pays their “fair share” into the public service broadcasters budget.

New charge, new rules

As the Public Service Broadcasting Charge will take hold, tentatively in late 2014, Irish public broadcasting will also have to adapt to some new principles and regulations. For one, RTE will have to cut back on its advertising time in order to receive more of the revenue the unavoidable charge will generate.

This is quite clear, since paying citizens would like to see their money put into producing more content and not listen to long commercial breaks. Mr Rabbitte also promised to send consultants into the RTE in order to gauge spending and identify cost-cutting avenues and measures before any further funding gets channelled there. A negative reaction to the new broadcast charge is expected, especially among households that have been exempt from paying a TV licence up to now.

Sinn Fein spokesman Michael Colreavey, put forward the argument that the new broadcasting charge would only be fair if every home in Ireland had access to a quality broadband service. “Ireland has the lowest level of high-speed broadband in the EU” he said. Minister Rabitte must address broadband speeds.”