The TV Licence - What's it Worth to You?

07/04/2017

With recent debate surrounding the level currently paid for households TV licences, Aisling Foster examines its suitability for the modern Irish household.

TV Licence
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A recent statement by Dee Forbes, RTÉs Director-General, said it would be entirely justified to increase the TV Licence fee from €160 per year to €320. However, with more and more content consumption on iPads, laptops and smartphones than ever before, it may be time for an overhaul of the current system. While Ms Forbes’ has since reneged, it brings to light the question: What purpose does a TV licence have?

The TV Licence has been in operation since 1962, where it cost £4IRL (approximately €97 in today’s money). It was established to allow Telifís Éireann to develop into a national state broadcaster providing quality broadcasts on current affairs, Irish culture, heritage and programmes to improve adult literacy.

In 2017 though, what does this mean to us, the public consumer? What are we getting for our money?

RTÉ has brought us many a good show, “The Sunday Game”, “Love¦Hate”, “Striking Out”, “Dancing with The Stars”, and who could forget “Glenroe” back in the 90’s? TV gold! But don’t forget about "The Grand Tour", "House of Cards" & "Orange Is the New Black" which is only available on Amazon and Netflix respectively. There is also “Sherlock” on BBC, and “Big Little Lies” on Sky Atlantic. And you’re favourite rugby team are only showing on BT Sports this weekend.

So now to enjoy your cup of tea and chocolate hobnobs, you’re paying out €135 per month for a TV Licence fee, your SKY package with sports channels and your Netflix subscription. That’s €1,620 per year for those of you who were wondering.

Grand, that’s it I’m not paying for a TV Licence – sure I never even watch The Late Show!

But, what if we are looking at this the wrong way? The TV Licence works out at €13.33 per month when you pay by direct debit. That’s only a fraction of everything else that you are paying. Communications Minister Denis Naughton confirms that over €40million is lost each year with evasion of the tax which is around 250,000 households.

People don’t want to pay as they feel like there is no benefit to it: “I don’t watch RTÉ; I never visit the website; what is RTÉ player?” There is a sense of entitlement around it and threats from RTÉ about job cuts. People forget that the TV licence covers 2FM, Radio 1 (the most listened to station in the country) and the Concert Orchestra. But how can you get people to pay yet maintain a high-quality output? And why should they pay?

Maybe the Department of Communications could charge a fee shared equally between RTÉ, TV3 and TG4 with each station having an obligation to provide programming on current affairs, home-grown programmes, sport and heritage? A levy paid per household, not per device, which had to be paid through your content provider, be it SKY or Virgin Media? For the consumer what if we reduced the number of commercial minutes per hour? Would it help if we savaged the salaries of key presenters?

If there was no TV licence, we might never have gotten to know Gay Byrne, or Ryle Nugent or even Marianne Finucane. Maybe Boyzone would never have gotten their big break.

I’ll leave you with this: Think about the quantity and length of commercial breaks in the USA…..they don’t have a licence fee…..is this what we want?

TV Licence
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