This is how many people An Post took to court for not paying their TV licence last year

By Gordon Deegan

An Post last year took court proceedings against 11,693 people for not paying their television licence.

New figures provided by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, show that over the past five years, An Post has taken 64,272 to court over non-payment of the €160 TV licence.

Numbers brought to court by An Post for the non-payment of a TV licence reached a recent peak in 2013 when 14,307 were brought to court.

The numbers taken to court last year was a slight drop on the 11,994 brought to court in 2016.

In his written Dáil reply to Maurice Quinlivan TD (SF), Minister Naughten stated: “Bringing people to court is a last resort and only carried out where all other means have failed.”

An Post is charged with the issuing of TV licences and also with the enforcement of the current licence fee regime.

Minister Naughten stated: “An Post makes every effort to bring evaders into the licensed pool and a considerable amount of time and resources are spent in dealing specifically with this issue. An Post concentrates its initial efforts on getting people to buy the licence when due and by following up with a series of reminder notices and inspector visits.”

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) confirmed that the number of those jailed for non-payment of fines in connection with the licence are not yet available for 2017 - the annual number is usually only a tiny fraction of the numbers of cases taken.

Also, it is expected that the numbers jailed for non-payment of fines connected to the TV will have dropped sharply in 2017 due to new legislation introduced aimed at reducing the numbers of those jailed for non-payment of fines.

The vast majority of those jailed in recent years spend only a few hours in prison.

Last week in its new 2018 - 2022 strategy document, RTE stated that “the inefficient licence fee system should be reformed” and allow for an increase in public funding levels for the benefit of the entire Irish media sector.

The document stated that the current levels of evasion of 15% and the high cost of collection -5.5% - "provide significant scope for reform without any increase in the licence fee".

The document stated: “More than €40m in additional public funding would become available if the system were modernised.”

In a recent Dail response on the issue, Minister Naughten said that total TV licence fee receipts to November 30 was €198m.

Minister Naugthen said: “I am very much aware of the challenges that face the existing TV licence system including the current level of evasion, which is estimated to be 14.6%.

He said that his department has been working with An Post and RTÉ to ensure the TV licence collection system is working as effectively as possible. He said: "Measures such as marketing campaigns, more evening and weekend inspection and appointment of additional temporary inspectors are just some of the initiatives that have been utilised to enhance sales and improve compliance rates.”

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