New charges on the cards for broadcasters

29 Nov 2002

The Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation (ODTR) has published proposals that may, for the first time ever, see broadcasters having to pay spectrum fees and an administration levy.

The ODTR, which published the proposals yesterday, says that a new EU directive, due to come into force in 2003, requires a review of the way that the National Regulatory Authority in each Member State is funded.

At the moment, only cable and telecommunications companies pay levies to the ODTR, these ranging from between 2.pc to 3.5pc of turnover.

RTE, TV3 and Sky, who currently pay a flat rate every year, but do not pay levy or spectrum fees, may be subject to the charges.

ODTR regulator, Etain Doyle, said that although the Irish fee structure is generally in line with the new EU requirements in light of the need for a technologically neutral approach, her office is opening up for consideration whether fees should be imposed for the broadcasting.

In a statement it said one of the key changes the new EU regulatory framework introduces is to extend the scope of coverage beyond telecommunications networks and services to include all electronic communication networks and services as one.

The organisation believes that a levy of .2pc of turnover would represent a “fair apportionment” to cover the cost of regulating the broadcast, cable and telecoms industries.

A spokesman for RTE told “A period of consultation has been put in place to allow broadcasters torespond to the proposals.”

He added: “RTE welcomes this consultation process and will be participating in it. We intend to submit a document outlining our position. We would point out that we have not been levied to date and that, indeed, it is unusual throughout Europe to find public service broadcasting organisations with universal coverage obligations being subject to spectrum fees.”

Sky has already said it believes it should not be regulated in the Republic because it is based in Britain.

By Suzanne Byrne