Communications Minister Denis Naughten has said public service broadcasting is in “deep trouble” due to “unacceptable” levels of TV licence evasion.
Over 14% of people do not pay their TV licence, which Mr Naughten said must be addressed as it is “a situation that cannot continue”.
“The high level of evasion represents an annual loss of approximately €40m to public service broadcasting.
“So, effectively, everyone who pays their TV licence pays €39 to cover the cost of those who won’t pay,” Mr Naughten told the Dáil.
A report by the Oireachtas communications committee has made a number of recommendations on the future of public service broadcasting, including transferring the job of collecting the TV licence to Revenue.
Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless, vice-chairman of the committee, said: “If we handed it to the Revenue Commissioners we know they are very efficient; we know they could collect revenue very quickly, with a very high success rate, they have form in this area as it were.”
He said that this could “immediately” increase the numbers of people who are paying their TV licence.
Mr Lawless said the committee had produced a 300-page report after examining the issue over the course of 18 months. He said the bulk of funding for public service broadcasting still comes from the TV licence, “based upon a TV set sitting in the corner of a sitting room”.
“In the modern age, with consumption across many channels, across many types of devices, be it handsets, tablets, iPads, et cetera, that no longer really correlates,” he said.
“This is a public service, good public service broadcasting or public service content is a public good in the same way as schools or hospitals... People may never use them, they may never draw upon them, but it is important in a modern State to have quality content to have independent and objective current affairs and news coverage to have programmes of cultural significance of sporting and regional content.”
Mr Lawless said the 14.6% evasion rate compares to around 5% in the UK.
Mr Lawless suggested quality newspapers could also receive State funding as the “old lines between broadcast media and print media are becoming blurred and people are consuming online, newspapers have a web presence and video content”.