Greens call for abolition of TV licence regime

15 Feb 2011

Former communications minister Eamon Ryan TD has called for an end to the current TV licence fee system. He said the TV licence model will be out of date in the next five years in a world where people will watch TV on devices like the iPad.

In an interview with, Ryan said that for traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcasters, to continue with their function of providing citizens with news and public service broadcasting, a new structure will be required.

The clash of cultures between the traditional media and burgeoning online media can be seen through the ongoing battle between State broadcaster RTE and traditional newspaper groups, who believe the broadcaster has an unfair advantage because it is funded by TV licences.

“We need to ask ourselves how we will actually fund broadcasting and indeed fund newsrooms in general because it is a real issue in the present climate. Newspapers, for example, are coming under pressure and are starting to close.

“We need to ask ourselves what’s the model that will fund the editing of news so that people have confidence in it and that it has credibility. I think in that regard what we are going to have to do in the term of the next government is to put an end to the current licence fee system that requires paying €160 for a licence.”

TV licence system will be out of date in five years

Ryan continued: “In five years’ time that model will be out of date. The inexorable move towards online content, towards online distribution of newspapers and so on means that the idea of someone calling to your door asking if you have a TV licence will become outdated. How can the inspector tell if you are already getting your TV through an iPad or whatever device will come in the next five years?”

Ryan said he believes there is a need for a switch away from the licence fee system towards an alternative system based on content consumption aimed at funding growth in newsrooms in a variety of traditional media.

“The reason I think this is important is because it is going to be very difficult for those media to make a business case to survive, providing their current functions where the old commercial model is dying,” Ryan said.

“I think the model that will work has yet to be decided,” Ryan said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years