A debate on the future of the TV licence system is needed to ensure that a viable public service media is provided, says Communications Minister Denis Naughten.
He was speaking at a forum on the Future of Public Service Broadcasting in Dublin Castle.
He said the current system will not be sufficient to ensure viable public service broadcasting and that a discussion is needed about how these services are to be funded.
“I have proposed amending the existing TV licence system to maximise the revenue available from the current system,” said Mr Naughten. “Longer term, the current system will not be able to provide adequate funding to sustain viable public service media.
“Therefore, through my engagement with the committee, I hope to broaden the discussion about where we want our public service media to be in five — 10 years, and how it will be funded. Irish audiences need to be at the heart of our thinking.”
Mr Naughten said a “tipping point” had been reached as traditional media organisations struggle to keep up with a rapidly changing market and, as a result, are facing significant commercial pressures.
“We need to consider very carefully what we want our future media environment to look like and how it is to be funded,” he said. “We need to commit to supporting certain services if they are to survive. As an integral part of this, we need to consider what public broadcasting means to Irish people.
“What services should our broadcasters be delivering five or 10 years from now? How are these services to be funded? What do we expect in return? If we can start to build a consensus on some of these points, we can consider what steps must be taken to achieve the results we want.”
The communications minister said that, given the urgent pressures faced by public service broadcasters, his priority has been to bring forward amendments to the existing TV licence regime.
“I want to be realistic and believe that amendments to the existing TV licence regime provide the best chance of stabilising funding in the short term,” said Mr Naughten. “I believe the licence fee remains the most appropriate way of funding these services for now at least. Obviously, there are issues. Evasion is high and the existing licence doesn’t take account of the new ways audiences are choosing to access public service media.”
Mr Naughten also acknowledged that commercial and community broadcasters are facing many of these challenges.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved