You may have to buy a licence for your laptop – Irish Times

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten is to ask an Oireachtas committee to examine if householders should pay a television licence for other devices used in a home.

His is assessing whether the €160 annual charge should be extended to owners of laptops, computers and tablets and will ask the committee to examine if devices above 12 inches should be subject of the licence fee.

The Minister will inform Cabinet on Tuesday that it is his belief that an expansion of the charge is necessary to avoid evasion but will stress only one licence will be required per household.

Mr Naughten will not be seeking a final decision but will ask his colleagues to note his proposal to ask the relevant Oireachtas committee to consider the best way forward.

The Minister is also expected to seek approval to appoint a television licence agent by way of public tender. Currently this work is carried out by An Post but legislation is to be amended to allow for a public process to be carried out.

The Department of Communications has estimated that €40 million per year is lost to public service broadcasting by people refusing to pay their television licence.

Evasion

The level of evasion in Ireland is estimated at over 13.75 per cent, in comparison to 7 per cent in the United Kingdom.

Fianna Fáil is also moving forward with its own proposals to allow for any increased revenue in this area to be distributed to independent broadcasters.

The party’s spokesman for communications Timmy Dooley said that 30 per cent of monies collected through a clampdown on evasion should be distributed to local media.

Meanwhile, Mr Naughten will also reduce the sums paid by the broadcasting industry for the operation of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

The Broadcasting Act 2009 will be amended to allow for the BAI to be allocated public funding from the television licence fee.

This is an attempt to reduce the burden on broadcasters, who are experiencing financial pressures as a result of lower advertising revenues.

Levy

The Minister will also ask the Cabinet to exempt community broadcasters from paying a levy, in a move that is worth about €750 a year to each broadcaster.

Mr Naughten told The Irish Times: “I want to provide more flexibility for the authority in how it applies the levy to particular classes of broadcasters including community and hospital radio stations.

“All community radio stations will be exempt altogether from paying the levy. The purpose of these proposed changes is to allow the BAI to ensure that each service it regulates can make a fair and proportionate contribution to the levy and to ensure the levy is not imposing an undue burden on the sector,” he said.

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