Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hello, TV Licence Inspector

This little item came through the postbox the other day. It's time to renew our TV Licence.

Every year in our humble abode we pay €160 to own a television. Why do we do this? If you listened to the adds on the radio or TV you'd swear the reason we pay the TV licence is because of the fear of the TV Licence inspector; the fear of fines. You could even go to court for non-payment of this. TV Licence inspectors visit 18,000 homes and premises each month. Be afraid.

"Don't answer doorbell, it could be the TV licence inspector" 
- an actual quote I've heard from friends of mine.

What is missing from this equation is the why. Why do we pay this? On the nice letter from our friends in TV Licence HQ, there is not a word about why we pay it. Not a word of thanks. No mention of the difference that our contribution has made to the development of public television in Ireland. No indication of what that money was spent on, what it achieved and how Ireland is a better place because of the fee. 

Personally I believe that a strong public service broadcaster is great public good. If we relied on something like TV3 to provide us with our broadcasting, it would be bad for society. Tallafornia. Lawless Ireland. Ireland’s Bogus Beggars. We need to be spared from that rubbish. 

So I pay my TV licence because I'm happy to make that contribution. 

But why don't they ever talk about the reason for our contribution? Why don't they run broadcasts which say: "Pay your TV licence, as this money allows us to run excellent television services that are free to all, and make Ireland a better place." 

Perhaps they fear that they wouldn't be able to stand over such claims? And if they can't then continuing to fear people into paying for something that they don't value is just pointless. 


Since the good folk at TV Licence HQ don't push any information about this out. After a little bit of snooping, here is some information that I have compiled that is interesting about the TV licence. 

What is public service broadcasting about?  
"Public service broadcasting in Ireland means comprehensive radio and television services that are free to transmit programmes that entertain, educate, inform and cater for all members of the community. These services must also provide news and current affairs programmes, including coverage of proceedings in the Houses of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) and the European Parliament."
Where does the  money go? 

84% of your €160 fee goes to RTE to run a range of programmes: RTE 1 and RTE 2, Radio 1, Radio na Gaeltachta, Lyric FM and also to 'Performing Groups'. This last one is interesting. Should money from the TV licence go to performing groups? It seems that is the likes of the National Symphony Orchestra and other groups. Is that really a group that needs a separate funding mechanism through the TV licence? Couldn't these be funded through central government just as well? 

5.85% of the fee goes to the admin of collecting the TV Licence (presuming this is the adds, the TV Licence inspectors who are hiding behind the bushes outside your house and the costs for An Post and online collection mechanisms). That's about €9 of your fee. 

About the same amount is provided to TG4 as a contribution to their activities. 

And roughly the same amount again is provided to the BCI Broadcasting Fund. Revenue from this fund can be applied for by independent producers / broadcasters for specific projects of a public service nature.

All very interesting, and mostly worthwhile and good for society. I just wish they would tell us. 

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