THE public is facing a second “household charge” in the shape of a levy that will replace the television licence fee — and all households will have to pay, even if they do not have a television.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte yesterday signalled his intention to proceed with the “public broadcasting charge”, saying his department had established that it was a “viable proposition”.
He said the charge would not have a “negative impact” on those already paying the licence fee of €160 — suggesting the annual charge will not be higher than that.
The impact would be on households evading the licence fee, he said, as they would not escape the charge. It is believed at least €25 million a year more could be raised if households currently evading the licence fee were made to pay.
Mr Rabbitte said his officials had held preliminary discussions with the Department of the Environment on the development of a suitable database of eligible households.
However, he told the Irish Examiner last night that he was also working on the development of a national postcode system within his own department that could assist in the collection of the charge.
“I intend to bring it [the postcodes proposal] to Government before the summer,” he said.
“I’m examining whether that will make the implementation of the broadcasting charge more feasible.”
He declined to say when the charge might be introduced, stressing that work was still at a preliminary stage.
However, he rejected suggestions the charge would be seen as unfair on households which did not have a television.
“I think most people — whether they concede it or not — access public broadcasting,” he said.
It was Environment Minister Phil Hogan who introduced the first household charge — essentially a precursor to a property tax — of €100 on January 1.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Rabbitte said work was progressing on the second “household charge” — which will officially be known as a “public broadcasting charge”.
Its introduction will meet a Programme for Government commitment to “transform the TV licence into a household-based public broadcasting charge applied to all households and applicable businesses, regardless of the device they use to access content”.
Under the current system, a household has to pay the licence fee only if it has a television.
However, the new system would entail a universal household charge which would be used — just as the licence fee was — to fund public broadcasting, essentially RTÉ and TG4.
“[The] broadcasting charge is not an additional charge. Such a charge would replace a television charge,” said Mr Rabbitte.
“The replacement of the television licence fee by a household charge would not have any negative impact on those who comply with the legal requirements to have a licence and pay the fee.
“Since a key objective is to reduce evasion, it will, however, impact on those who evade payment.”
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