Levy ‘at worst possible time’ for broadcasters

A LEVY to fund the new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is being imposed on all broadcasters licensed in the state at the worst possible time, the head of the new independent regulator admitted yesterday.

BAI chairman Bob Collins said the authority was being funded by the levy, rather than being funded by the Government through the Department of Communications.

The BAI has taken over the functions of the previous Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

Mr Collins, a former director of RTÉ, said the levy would be based on a broadcaster’s size and on the demand it placed on the new regulatory body.

“The levy was not the choice of the BAI; it was not the desire of the BCI. It is the worst possible time to introduce a levy but the levy is a fact,” said Mr Collins in his first address as BAI chief to the broadcasting industry in Dublin yesterday.

“We have taken account of the mechanisms that are in use in Ireland and in other countries and our own budgets will be as low as we can possibly make them because the only purpose of the levy is to fund us, not to make money,” he said.

Mr Collins, a former board member of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, said the new regulatory authority, in existence since October, was currently relying on borrowings until the levy was introduced.

A revised budget would be considered by the BAI at the end of the month. If accepted, collection of the levy would start in April or May.

Mr Collins was speaking at the annual general meeting of Learning Waves, which was established in 2004 to provide training for those working in the independent commercial radio sector in Ireland and is an industry-led initiative.

Mr Collins said the authority had deferred demanding the levy for the last quarter of 2009 because Communications Minister Eamon Ryan indicated he wanted to look at ways of dealing with the amount involved over that period.

Mr Collins said there was no reason for people to be concerned about his background in public service broadcasting.

“I think there is absolutely no reason why anybody should have any apprehension. It is over six years since I was in RTÉ,” he said.

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