Government opt to retain TV licence fees despite report recommendation

The Future of Media Commission's report made 50 recommendations, 49 of which the Government has said it will adopt 'in principle'
Government opt to retain TV licence fees despite report recommendation

Muireann Duffy

The TV licence fee is here to stay, despite recommendations from the Future of Media Commission that the system should be phased out by 2024.

The commission's report, published on Tuesday morning, makes 50 recommendations, including that funding for Public Service Media (PSM) should shift from the current system of TV licence fees and Exchequer funds to one "based entirely on general Exchequer funds".

The Government has welcomed the report's publication, committing to adopt 49 of the recommendations "in principle", while proposing "an alternative approach to the commission’s recommendation on a new funding model".

A statement from the Government conceded the current PMS funding model must be "overhauled" as it is "out of step with changing trends in media consumption" and "does not realise the full funding needs of the sector".

However, it adds the TV licence will remain in order to "maintain a direct link between media and the public they serve, and to minimise the risk of actual or perceived political interference in media independence".

"The reform of the TV licence will aim to align with changing viewing habits, tackle evasion, streamline the collection and payment regime, and thereby provide a more sustainable level of funding for the sector."

'Clear way forward'

Following the publication of the report, the Government said Coimisiún na Meán (Media Commission) will be given statutory responsibility to support the provision of public service content.

A new Media Fund was also announced, supporting schemes for print, online and broadcast media at local, regional and national level.

On the back of recommendations from the commission, the Government has also pledged to "drive digital transformation" across the media sector, increase transparency and oversight of PSM, and increase diversity within and access to the industry.

Welcoming the report, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the commission "has established that high-quality, independent journalism and a pluralistic media is vital to a healthy democracy and social cohesion".

"The Government is determined to do everything we can to ensure that Ireland’s media continues to deliver high quality public service content at local, regional and national levels.

"The Future of Media Commission has charted a clear way forward, and the Government has now agreed in principle to adopt and implement the vast majority of the Commission’s recommendations," he added.

RTÉ also welcomed news that the TV licence system will be reformed, describing it as "critical to ensure the future sustainability of the system".

The broadcaster added that it will engage with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media regarding interim funding recommended for RTÉ in the report, and will also be giving "more substantial consideration" to the findings of the report over the coming days, liaising with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and relevant government departments.

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