Broadcast charge 'will not be brought in', says Minister

Broadcast charge 'will not be brought in', says Minister

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has confirmed that the proposed broadcasting charge will not be introduced, writes Daniel McConnell and Jack Power.

The previous Government had committed to replacing the TV licence with a new Household Broadcasting Charge but that will not happen.

Mr Naughten, speaking at the Oireachtas Communications Committee said evasion of the TV licence costs the taxpayer about €40m a year.

Speaking at the committee, the Roscommon-based Minister said the proposed broadcasting charge should not be shelved completely.

He said that tackling “large-scale” TV licence evasion is a short-term way of bringing more money into the broadcast sector.

He said he does not think there is anywhere else in Europe that has the levels of evasion we have here.

Broadcast charge 'will not be brought in', says Minister

“It is three-times higher than those experienced in the UK and in Germany. It is estimated that it could be anywhere up to €40m per annum,” he added.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley called into question the wisdom of abandoning the Broadcasting Charge.

At the committee, Mr Naughten said funding cuts to TG4 made things challenging and impacted TG4’s ability to deliver on its commitments for last year.

He said TG4 was unable to increase its hours of new, original Irish language content in 2015 as planned.

An additional €300,000 in the current funding has been provided in 2016 to assist TG4 in meeting its obligations and to allow it to compete by producing more home produced content to help distinguish itself from international channels.

Also at the committee, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan made a suggestion that RTÉ should move to Moore Street in Dublin city centre as an alternative to its current base in Donnybrook.

Mr Ryan asked: “Would the minister consider bringing his NewEra team to look at RTÉ’s options in terms of alternative sites [for the broadcaster]?

“Could we look at Moore Street for example, that big development area in the centre of town? Put RTÉ back to where it started, near to Henry Street, the centre of the foundation of the State.”

“And we could launch thousands of new eircode addresses for homes in the 35 acres in Donnybrook, half of which at the moment is rolling meadow or car park, which is a ridiculous use of space so close to the centre of town,” said Mr Ryan.

Mr Naughten replied: “In relation to RTÉ, maybe we could even bring it back to its home in Athlone where it was originally broadcast from. I would be quite positively disposed to that.”

“The old Marconi transmitter is still there in Athlone. We are hoping to make a museum and a visitor attraction out of it,” he added.

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