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Wednesday 26 July 2017

'No chance' of major hike in TV licence fee, vows Naughten

TD Denis Naughten
TD Denis Naughten

A major hike to the television licence fee has been ruled out by Communications Minister Denis Naughten.

He wants more focus to be put on collecting the €40m in unpaid bills every year rather than increasing the charge for householders who do pay.

A spokesperson said there is "no chance" that the €160 fee would be doubled, as suggested by RTE director general Dee Forbes.

Ms Forbes later backtracked on the idea, saying such a rise is "not practical".

It is understood the Department of Communications favours a large-scale clampdown on evasion rather than any price increase.

Almost 14pc of households do not pay their licence, but there are currently only 46 inspectors for the country.

Sources said the evasion rate is "very high" by European standards and costs around €40m a year to public service broadcasting.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Ms Forbes proposed an Italian model whereby licence fees were added to electricity bills.

However, this proposal is not being considered.

She also described the current fee as "incredible value for money".

"Quite honestly, I think it should be double that," she said.

However, she is unlikely to get any political support.

Fianna Fail is already working on a proposal that would see any potential increases going to local media rather than the national broadcaster.

The party's communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley said Fianna Fail would require "a lot more detail from RTE executives to justify a price rise".

"On the face of it, it seems excessive," he said.

Labour senator Kevin Humphreys, from the same constituency as RTE, said he is "very concerned about the track record of Dee Forbes" since she took over as DG last year.

Output

He said she seemed "out of touch" and should focus more on the highly-paid presenters and management output.

He called for any land deal done by RTE with a developer to stipulate a "good social mixture and acknowledge the need for affordable rental accommodation".

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