Licence fee proposals: Yes, a minister

Licence fee proposals: Yes, a minister

Like virtually any initiative coming from Government, last week’s announcement that the TV licence would be replaced by a new kind of fee was greeted with orchestrated bile and rejection on social media.

The old no-way-we-won’t-pay war cries from the water charges days were disinterred. Predictably, they sound no more rational today than they did then.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton’s intent is, through the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2019, to secure public service broadcasting — RTÉ — and the objective journalism that institution facilitates.

That is an admirable objective but there are many ways to realise it.

Reform of the libel laws, long-fingered in a way that encourages scepticism, is one. Establishing a system where RTÉ is not the sole beneficiary of the licence fee, in whatever guise it assumes, is another.

The legislation is another example of Government trying to keep pace with ever-changing technology which seems a strong argument for a ministry dedicated to media matters, an argument strengthened by social media’s growing influence in our democracy.

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