RTÉ Director General calls for changes in TV licence fee as €60m uncollected annually

Dee Forbes
By Denise O’Donoghue

The Director General of RTÉ has told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications that up to €60m of TV licence fees goes uncollected each year.

Dee Forbes gave a statement to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee before a public meeting this afternoon.

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"It may appear to some that RTÉ has plenty of money. But given the scope and breadth of our statutory obligations, the range of services we must provide and the nature and scale of the competition we face, RTÉ now has inadequate resources," Ms Forbes said.

The cost of RTÉ's public service activities is substantially in excess of the amount of public funding it receives in the form of licence fee revenue.

Ms Forbes said the station's restricted funding means it is struggling to compete in the market.

"The biggest risk to public service broadcasting in Ireland today, and indeed many other countries, is restricted funding at time of unprecedented competitive threats and fast changing media consumption habits."

She added the company's obligations have risen in recent years with the emergence of digital and mobile services, but their funding has fallen by over €100m in a decade.

Since 2008 RTÉ’s overall annual funding has fallen by in excess of €100 million, some 23% - while in parallel our obligations – to develop online and mobile services, to fund and deliver digital television - have increased substantially.

She said RTÉ is "not now investing enough" in TV drama, children’s programming, arts and culture output, and Irish language TV programming.

Ms Forbes added RTÉ is struggling to sustain audience share and compete for commercial revenue, maintain enough international/foreign correspondents, maintain and grow investment in investigative reporting and programming.

She called on the government to modernise the TV licence fee structure, saying it is "fundamentally unfit for purpose and unreflective of how people consume and interact with public service media and content today".

She said the increase in the number of homes with no TV is due to outdated TV licence exemptions, and represent a loss of €24m annually.

In addition, TV licence evasion stands at 15% which results in a gross loss of €37m each year.

"Why is it acceptable that the TV licence fee collection system in this country is so inefficient that over €60m goes uncollected every year?" she asked.

Ms Forbes suggested the uncollected fees be sought rather than increasing the TV licence fee, which she says would be unfair to those who do already pay.

RTÉ 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 fee be collected.

"Aside from the lost revenue to a sector that badly needs increased investment; more than anything the current system is fundamentally unfair on those that do pay."

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