TV LICENCE fee evaders will be able to pay a €53 fine to avoid a criminal prosecution under changes announced by Communications Minister, Eamon Ryan, yesterday.
However, fines for anyone convicted of not having a TV licence in court will increase from €635 to €1,000 for first-time defaulters and from €1,270 to €2,000 for repeat offenders.
The owners of hotels and bars with multiple television sets will also face higher charges under legislation to be introduced shortly.
The minister said the option for TV licence evaders to pay a fixed fine and buy a licence within 21 days of their final warning was “a proportionate alternative to prosecution.
“It is designed to increase compliance, avoid unnecessary court appearances and reduce the workload of the courts, ” Mr Ryan said.
He rejected suggestions that the €53 fine would not be a sufficient deterrent for evaders. Mr Ryan pointed out that fines for not having a TV licence had not been updated since 1988.
Around 11%-12% of all domestic and business premises — around 180,000 units — do not have a valid TV licence according to An Post, which collects licence fees on behalf of RTÉ. This results in potential lost revenue of €28.8 million.
Around 15,000 people were prosecuted last year for not having a valid licence. Since 2003, 167 people have been jailed for non-payment of the licence fee.
Mr Ryan also launched a website yesterday — www.tvlicence.ie — which will allow businesses and householders to renew their licences online.
Meanwhile, Mr Ryan confirmed that a new “business licence” will be required for televisions on commercial premises, though details of a pricing system are yet finalised.
“Currently a 100-bed hotel with 100 television sets pays the same amount as a B&B with four television sets. A small pub pays the same licence fee as a large sports pub with multiple television sets,” he said.
Mr Ryan said a system of fees for commercial premises will be introduced.
He also confirmed that the bill will introduce a requirement for all devices capable of receiving a television signal to have a licence. This has raised fears that certain types of mobile phones and computers will require a TV licence.
However, Mr Ryan said that the legislation would allow him to exempt certain equipment and he had no plans at this stage to extend the fee beyond TV sets.
Last night, Fine Gael communications spokesperson, Simon Coveney, described the proposals as “ludicrous”, as the low fine would encourage evasion.
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