Ireland’s Department of Communications is attempting to crack down on a significant percentage of unpaid TV licence fees by giving An Post access to cable and satellite TV subscription data.
By getting the go-ahead from Pat Rabbitte, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, An Post, which collects and enforces the licence, will be given access to monitor subscribers to UPC and Sky TV services, but who do not pay the annual €160 fee.
Prior to this decision, these suppliers were not legally enforced to reveal their subscription information, thereby making it difficult to track.
Rabbitte described those who evade the licence fee as part of an “ongoing scourge”.
According to the department’s estimates, non-TV licence payments account for 15pc of the number of TV viewers in Ireland, which equates financially to between €25m-€30m in lost revenue to the State broadcaster, RTÉ.
Before An Post can be given access to subscriber information, however, a piece of legislation will need to be passed for compliance with data-protection regulations.
“With this proposal, the licence fee inspection and collection system can enter the 21st century,” said Rabbitte.
“My department will continue its work on the broader legislative package required by the Government’s response in June last year to the BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) review of the adequacy of funding for public-sector broadcasting and on proposals to put the public-service funding system on a permanently secure footing.”
UPC has since released a statement: "UPC has noted the comments by Minister Rabbitte earlier today. UPC is not in a position to give An Post access to our cable subscription data because this would contravene our obligations under data protection."
Sky have also released a statement giving a slgihtly more cooperative viewpoint: "Sky notes the announcement by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on proposed legislation dealing with TV licence fee evasion. Sky takes its responsibilities to protect its customers’ data very seriously recognising the trust our customers place in us. Sky will continue to ensure that its customers data is safe in compliance with all legislative requirements applicable”.