By Tiernan Cannon
The television licence fee has been in the news quite a bit recently, with outrage in certain quarters following the revelation that RTÉ Director-General Dee Forbes believes that the licence fee would be good value for money if it were doubled.
Following the recent news that Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment plans to broaden the legal definition of a ‘television set’ to include laptops, large tablets and computers for the purposes of extending the reach of the TV licence, we examine the current TV licence arrangements, and what the proposed changes would mean.
As it stands
The TV licence fee is collected by An Post, with funding distributed by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The fee currently stands at €160 and must be paid by any household or business in possession of a television set, though Ireland has one of the highest rates of fee evasion in Europe, amounting to around €40m each year.
That fee goes to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, which then distributes the vast bulk of it to RTÉ so that the broadcaster can carry out its public service media commitments. Other recipients include TG4 (around €9.2m per annum) and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) which supports specific public service projects that support Irish culture, heritage and adult literacy.
If a household or business is found to own a television set but doesn’t have a TV licence, they can be fined up to €1,000 for the first offence, and €2,000 for any subsequent offence.
With a broad market of devices such as tablets and laptops, you might consider it worth your while to get rid of your television set in order to avoid the licence fee. You’d still have access to services like Netflix, YouTube, RTÉ Player and news sites, so you probably wouldn’t even miss your television.
However, the proposed changes would mean that anyone with a computer screen over 11 inches in size would have to pay the full TV licence fee, so getting rid of your TV set wouldn’t make you immune to the fees. It’s hoped that these changes would bring in an additional €5 million per year. For now, devices under 11 inches would be exempt from the proposed changes, meaning that those who view content on smartphones and some tablets would avoid the licence fee for now.