Mixed signals on TV licences for phones and PCs

1 May 2008

It is still unclear whether owners of computers and mobile phones with TV functionality could soon be required to own a TV licence under a new TV licence regime outlined today by the Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan TD.

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources said today that a TV licence will be required for all devices capable of receiving a television signal.

However, the minister will have the power to exempt certain devices. “It is not envisaged that devices other than a television will require a TV licence at this stage.”

Fines for TV licences that were set in 1988 have not been updated since then and under the new rules a first offence fine will increase from €635 to €1,000, while a second offender will see their fine increase from €1,279 to €2,000.

Introducing changes to the Broadcasting Bill that will revamp the current regime, Ryan said that in order to avoid costly court proceedings, collection agents can give an offender the option of paying a €53 fine within 21 days, along with proof of purchase of a TV licence.

“This measure will provide a proportionate alternative to prosecution. It is designed to increase compliance, avoid unnecessary court appearances and reduce the workload of the courts. In this way, the vast majority of people who pay their television licence will not have the burden of paying for others,” Minister Ryan said.

The Minister has also proposed a separate regime for televisions that are held at commercial premises. At present, a 100-bed hotel with 100 TV sets pays the same amount as a B&B with four TV sets. A small pub pays the same licence fee as a large sports pub with multiple TV sets. The bill proposes that a separate regime for such business activities be set, in line with other European countries.

“Television licensing is necessary for the maintenance and development of quality public service broadcasting.

“These changes make it easier for the individual to buy a licence, allow people to avoid the courts, while ensuring significant fines for persistent evasion. I am confident this is the right approach that will ensure greater compliance at less cost to the State,” Minister Ryan concluded.

By John Kennedy