herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Now Pat Rabbitte is taxing my patience

the planned new household broadcasting charge IS just A tax on INTERNET use, says Pat stacey

My television licence renewal notification popped through the letterbox last week. Coincidentally, it arrived on the same day that RTE unveiled, or rather blew the dust off, its weakest spring schedule in years.

Put it this way, if the highlights of the season, as chosen by the over-excitable backroom munchkins paid to pump out press releases, include a documentary called Ireland Outside the Euro?, your pulse has a constitutional right not to race.

Coming mere weeks after an RTE1 New Year's Eve schedule so gratuitously dreary, conservative and old-fashioned it seemed aimed specifically at people who spent their formative years doing The Hucklebuck with Brendan Bowyer and The Royal Showband, the spring schedule prompts one to wonder, not for the first time, exactly what we're paying RTE €160 a year for, on top of its generous advertising revenue take.

Which brings us to Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, who was all over the airwaves this week talking about his proposed new "broadcasting charge", which would replace the TV licence and be levied on every household in the country, including those without a television set.

Minister Rabbitte, who has been behaving more like Minister Ferret lately, what with the way he and his Government buddies are running up the public's trouser legs and gnawing at their loose change, denied that this was the latest scam to lever another few quid out of the already hard-pressed citizenry.



evasion

The real purpose of the charge, he said, was to nail not just the 15pc of viewers who are evading paying for a licence and costing RTE €25m -- which would buy you 50 Marian Finucanes -- but also the "primarily young people" who don't own a TV but are still able to watch RTE's public service television for free on the internet.

It's this last point that's the most intriguing.

Politicians love to believe they have their fingers on the pulse of the nation.

But what, I wonder, does the Minister imagine these elusive, "primarily young people" do when they're on the internet?

Do they go on YouTube to watch talking cat videos? Do they log on to Facebook and talk to their friends? Do they go to BitTorrent websites where they can illegally download the latest American movies and TV programmes for free, or to legitimate sites such as Netflix, Blinkbox and iTunes, where they can do the same without breaking the law?



illicit

Do they set up proxy servers so they can "crack" the BBC iPlayer and watch programmes that aren't currently available, under British copyright law, to internet users in the Republic of Ireland? Or do they just watch hours and hours of porn?

I imagine plenty of them do one, or all, of the above -- and possibly several of them simultaneously. But I'd wager my wife, my children, my house, my car and my dog that none of these people, primarily young or otherwise, evade paying the licence fee simply for the illicit thrill of clicking on the RTE Player and watching the likes of Ear to the Ground, Sergeant Mattie, Eco-Eye, Roomers, The Social, About the House, The Daily Show, Four Live, Wagons' Den, Meet the Neighbours or The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne.

Why would they when there are so many more interesting, stimulating and entertaining things to be found on the internet? Such as talking cats.

The Minister has his finger on the pulse of the nation alright, but it's the nation as it was 40 years ago, when nobody had more than three channels, and the young buck Rabbitte had John Lennon sideburns to go along with his Vlad Lenin principles.

>shark attack So, our prediction that poor Georgia Salpa would be chewed up in the Celebrity Big Brother house by bigger, hungrier fame-sharks proved accurate.

At one point TOWIE toe-rag Kirk Norcross looked like he was trying to swallow her whole face.

Georgia said she's happy she was evicted, because some of the housemates were "loud" and "overwhelming". Do you think she quite got what CBB is about?

>sad sequel Movie versions of still-active TV series are usually a bad idea. For every Inbetweeners there's a Sex and the City -- or if we're really unlucky, a Sex and the City 2.

And who can forget the tepid Sweeney and The X-Files spin-offs (two apiece)? Plenty of people, actually. Yet the spin-offs just keep, well, spinning off. The 24 movie starts shooting soon.

To be faithful to the series' real-time essence, it will have to last a full day with toilet breaks for Jack Bauer between explosions.

But the dumbest idea yet has to be a mooted movie of Downton Abbey, flavour of the month in the US after its Golden Globes win. Unless it's Downton Abbey: Toffs v Aliens, count me out.

>marching orders Brian Kennedy's spat with showbiz hack Paul Martin on last weekend's Saturday Show was fun, although it will never make it into the annals of legendary chatshow hissy fits.

To see how it should be done, check out the Bee Gees storming off Clive Anderson's 1997 show on YouTube. Now THAT'S what I call a walkout!

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