Switching off: 17pc of under-30s have stopped buying TV licences

27 Jul 2017

Image: Angelo Cordeschi/Shutterstock

TV licence fee is a turn-off for a generation weaned on internet streaming.

More than half of under-30s in Ireland surveyed plan to ditch their TV licences and 17pc of them have already done so.

The survey found that one in 10 Irish adults have already stopped paying the TV licence. Across all ages, 43pc are considering ditching their TV licences, a situation that should concern the Government and bosses at state broadcaster RTÉ. This is up from 36pc last year.

Future Human

Failure to pay the annual €160 TV licence fee comes with stiff penalties, including jail sentences.

The research was carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Pure Telecom and surveyed 1,001 online adults across Ireland in July 2017. It found that 55pc of under-30s are planning to cease payment of their TV licence due to increasing consumption of online content and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

No doubt their decisions are also being influenced by outrage over exorbitant pay levels for top RTÉ staff, allegations about secret bonuses for management and the row that has erupted over gender pay gaps at the national broadcaster.

For its part, RTÉ has refuted claims that secret bonuses were paid.

A reduction in revenue from TV licence fees could have a damaging effect on investment in local programming and production of content within Ireland. RTÉ said that millions of euros are already being lost through evasion.

“RTÉ has highlighted publicly on many occasions the significant impact of €40m being lost each year to public service broadcasting and programming, in both RTÉ and the independent production sector, through evasion; and a further €20m, which is being lost each year through outdated TV licence exemptions, which, as the report suggests, are no longer reflective of how people are consuming TV channels and programming,” a spokesperson for the broadcaster told Siliconrepublic.com.

RTÉ said that TV licence fee collection and evasion are matters for both the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, and the Government.

Paul Connell, CEO of Pure Telecom, said: “The quality of content produced for online platforms has been steadily rising to the point where it is now at least on par with – and, in many cases, it outshines – what is offered on traditional television channels.

“People also now take for granted the convenience of on-demand viewing and the ability to watch content on the go. Coupled with very high-quality content now available online, it is natural that consumers are questioning the need to continue to pay for a TV licence.”

RTÉ responded by saying it has kept up with digital trends and is the biggest producer of content across TV, radio, online and mobile.

“As we recently highlighted in our 2016 annual report, RTÉ Player delivered a record 4.2m streams per month last year and more than 50m overall, up 10m on 2015, while RTÉ.ie had an average of 54m page views each month in 2016. Mobile traffic also rose from 49pc in 2015, to 54pc in 2016, as RTÉ News Now also maintained its position as the number one Irish news app in 2016, offering on-the-go access to the latest news, sport and entertainment headlines.

“Total app downloads reached 1.63m, with 165,400 new users in 2016. So, our programming is being regularly consumed by Irish audiences, including under-30s,” an RTÉ spokesperson said.

Tuning out

Currently, any household with a TV set is required to pay the €160 licence fee; however, the charge does not apply to those who view all their video content via laptops, tablets or smartphones.

The research found that the average consumer spends six hours and 36 minutes watching streamed or online content each week. This trend is even more pronounced with younger audiences, with those aged 30 and under consuming eight hours and 47 minutes of online video per week.

People living in Donegal are the heaviest consumers of streamed and online content, watching 10 hours and 18 minutes each week. They are followed by those living in Meath (nine hours and 13 minutes) and Galway (seven hours and 53 minutes).

Those living in Cavan spend the least time on streaming sites, watching only three hours and 12 minutes per week.

Updated, 1.26pm, 27 July 2017: This article was updated to include additional comments from RTÉ in regard to TV licence fees as well as figures from its annual report.

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