RTÉ will ask for a TV license fee increase this week – days after the UK government announced a two-year freeze ahead of the possible license fee scrapping there.
The Irish television license fee is €160 and was last increased in 2008. The UK license fee is £159 per year, or around €190.
RTÉ wants an additional €30 million per year and is moving towards setting up a domestic audiovisual license fee.
In a submission to be heard by the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow, RTÉ Chief Executive Dee Forbes will argue: “If there is no action, RTÉ will not be able to return to a stable financial position, will not be able to not reinvent themselves for future generations.”
The station – hit by a drop in advertising related to the pandemic – “will not be able to fulfill our mission or sustain much of what we do today”.
Although RTÉ posted a surplus of 7 million euros for its last financial year (2020), revenues “were significantly below expectations”.
Additional public funding of €9 million was announced by the government in December 2019, but was “fully absorbed” by falling license fee sales.
“Commercial receipts fell sharply at the start of the pandemic and, although there was some recovery towards the end of the year, they were still €11 million lower than in 2019,” says RTÉ. , which also points out that 15% of households no longer have a television but still have no legal obligation to pay for the RTÉ content they broadcast on their devices.
Even where this obligation exists, 13% of people are avoiding paying their license fees – almost twice the UK avoidance rate of 7% – while the pandemic has eroded the ability of television inspectors to do their job .
RTÉ says it is holding its end of the bargain and remains “resolute” in its desire to remove 60 million euros from its operating cost base by 2023.
Financial information shows that 223.6 million euros in license fees were collected in 2020, of which almost 90% for RTÉ (196.6 million euros – 88pc).
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