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The alarming admission in the Dáil last week by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte that the television licence evasion rate has reached 16% is a symptom of catastrophic systemic failure.
A decade ago, the Public Accounts Committee was informed that the evasion rate was less than 12%.
The evasion rate in the UK is 5.2%. Is it time to end the monopoly that the postal service has had on the collection of television licence revenue for over 50 years?
The consequences of pervasive television licence evasion means that the one million viewers who buy a television licence are subsidising those who do not, to the tune of €44m per annum. Furthermore, there is also a hidden subsidy of €8m per annum arising from the fact that the State only pays the equivalent of €140 for each of the 408,000 ‘free’ television licences its prints.
An Post charges a commission of 7.5% on each television licence sale. The BBC commission for television licence sales is 3.4%. If the British standards of compliance and cost collection were to apply in Ireland, the cost of a television licence could be reduced from €160 to €140 to achieve the same yield and the current cost of collecting this revenue would be reduced by several million euro.
Mr Rabbitte, therefore, needs to abandon any notion he might have of increasing the television licence fee. Instead, he needs to consider a reduction and appoint a new revenue collector whose standards of competency, efficiency and transparency are appropriate to the task in hand.
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