PRIVATISING the collection of TV licences will lead to more aggressive methods of pursuing people, Solidarity TD for Cork North Central Mick Barry has warned.
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was set to bring plans to Cabinet yesterday to amend legislation and allow a TV license agent to be appointed by way of public tender. The work is currently carried out by An Post.
Mr Barry said that this is a "double whammy" for the public as the government plans to privatise TV license fee collection and to up the ante on extending the TV license charge to owners of computers.
Minister Naughten is also asking an Oireachtas committee to examine proposals to extend the annual €160 TV license charge to include owners of mobile phones, laptops, computers and tablets.
Although the Minister has stated that households that currently own TVs will not have to pay extra, Mr Barry said that tens of thousands of new households will be brought into the net by the extension measure and predicted that the Minister would become known as the man who introduced a "mobile phone tax".
"I would presume that private operators who get their hands on the license collection job will make more profit the more money they chase down. Add a mobile phone tax into the equation and it's clear that the Government plan an aggressive campaign of cash collection aimed at a wider number of households than ever before," he said.
Ireland currently has just 40 inspectors who are charged with enforcing the license fee, and the Department of Communications claims that €40 million is being lost each year due to people evading the license.
The change comes at the same time that RTÉ is struggling with mounting debts.