TV licence system unfit for purpose, Dee Forbes to tell committee

RTÉ has demanded that the Government and Revenue crack down on TV licence avoiders by imposing strict new measures to reform the “fundamentally unfit for purpose” system and ensure €60m a year in unpaid fees are received.

The station’s director general, Dee Forbes, will insist the situation is addressed during a meeting with TDs today, claiming the “inadequate resources” it is given are undermining its battle against rival stations and online firm Netflix.

In a statement to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee before a public meeting this afternoon, Ms Forbes will say while “it may appear to some RTÉ has plenty of money”, she believes the multimillion-euro taxpayer-funded station“has inadequate resources”.

Hitting out at the “threats” the broadcaster is facing from the likes of Virgin, Sky, BBC and Netflix, she will claim the “urgent and substantial financial challenges” which face RTÉ, which pays its highest-profile presenters six-figure salaries, mean the “unfit” existing TV licence system must be addressed.

“It would be remiss of me as director general, at a time of such turbulence in the media when so much of what we have relied upon for our news — not to impress on this committee the urgent and substantial financial challenges facing RTE. There is an obligation on policymakers and the Government to modernise the TV licence system which is fundamentally unfit for purpose and unreflective of how people consume and interact with public service media and content today,” she will say.

“Evasion levels in Ireland are over twice that in the UK and collection costs are more than double other European counterparts. That is not something RTE is responsible for, but it is something that has a massive bearing on our capacity.

“Why is it acceptable the TV licence system in this country is so inefficient that over €60m goes uncollected every year? RTE is not asking for additional money from households. We are simply asking that the money the State itself believes is appropriate as a TV licence should be collected.”

She will tell the PAC that as a direct result of what she claims are “inadequate” resources, the broadcaster is failing to invest properly in drama, children’s programme, arts, and the Irish language. She will also claim it is why funding for independent programming has been slashed in half over the past decade, why foreign correspondent positions have been scrapped, why investigative journalism budgets have dwindled, and why the RTÉ orchestra may need to be downgraded.

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