TV licence fee won't apply to PCs, laptops and tablets

Television licence fees will not be applied to laptops or similar devices after a decision by Communications Minister Denis Naughten to reject department advice on the proposed charge, writes Juno McEnroe.

The long-awaited broadcasting bill will go before Cabinet next week and includes notice of the collection of the licence fee being advertised due to low payment rate being paid by the public.

Government sources confirmed the bill, pending Cabinet approval, will scrap or reduce a levy for local radio stations, a move broadcasters have demanded for years.

Department of Communications recommendations that the licence fee be extended to include computers, laptops, and large tablets, will not go ahead.

TV licence fee won't apply to PCs, laptops and tablets

It had been mooted that the definition of what constitutes a television set would be changed, an option that would potentially have raised an extra €5m for RTÉ from over 300,000 households with no television.

However, sources confirmed the memo to Cabinet, which updates the Broadcasting Act 2009, would not include an extension of the charge for devices with 12in screens or bigger sizes.

“He has taken it out completely,” said a well- informed source.

Mr Naughten believes charging people with laptops or tablets could be fraught with legal difficulties and such a process may be difficult to police.

Mr Naughten has already ruled out the imposition of a so-called general broadcasting charge, which would have applied to all homes regardless of whether they had a TV or device.

The bill will allow for the Government to tender out the collection of the licence fee.

An Post controls the collection at the moment, at a cost of €12.5m with a team of 40 inspectors.

However, there is a 13.75% evasion rate among households, resulting in losses of €40m, say department sources.

The tendering option will also allow An Post to apply for the collection.

The use of private collection services in Britain, though for similar services, has resulted in a 50% drop in evasion rates.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.


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