The TV licence is a shambles, but it’s still fair to pay for a media service

The TV licence is a shambles, but it’s still fair to pay for a media service Journalist Fintan O'Toole

RTÉ claims it needs it to find a new way to fund broadcasting, because it seems that increasing numbers of people are dodging the licence fee. Thus their plan to incorporate the levy into utility taxation.

The present system for collection the licence fee is not efficacious: my own impression is that it is a shambles. Here’s my case.

I do not possess a television in my Dublin abode – my bedsit is too small and I don’t get time to watch TV in Ireland.

RTÉ does need to charge for its services…perhaps subscription is a possibility?”

I wrote several letters to the TV licensing authority explaining that I didn’t have a TV, and therefore was not a customer of their services. I invited them to send inspectors to verify this, at any time. Eventually they accepted that I was telling the truth, and wrote to say they would despatch no more demands for payment.

Yet I am still bombarded with letters reminding me to pay a TV licence, with the usual accompanying threats of fines, penalties and even a prison sentence should I desist. I have given up responding any further.

But it’s irritating to be accused of defaulting on a payment, even if it’s only a computer saying it. It’s a waste of resources and a sign of inefficiency. No ordinary business would continue to invoice a customer for remittances once the client had explained they didn’t use said services.

Yet there are other, perhaps deeper, questions pertaining to this matter. Why are more viewers dodging the licence fee? Were they not taught that it is only fair to pay your fair dues?

Or is licence-dodging increasing because of the increasing belief that all information and much screen entertainment should be free?

It’s irritating to be accused of defaulting on a payment, even if it’s only a computer saying it”

The giants of the internet – Google, Facebook and Co. – have pioneered ‘free’ on-line services, which aren’t really free at all, since they are using the information they gather for commercial purposes.

Those of us in the media industry certainly have a vested interest in affirming that reportage and information should be paid for. That’s how journalists earn their living.

Thus, I perfectly understand that RTÉ does need to charge for its services. But it has to find a smarter way of doing so than a general, compulsory tax. Perhaps subscription is a possibility – with special waivers for those declared exempt.

Actually, I listen to RTÉ radio a lot, and find it informative and useful. I’d be willing to pay an annual subscription – say €50 – for its services. ‘A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’ is a Christian principle, and, similarly, so is a fair payment for a service appreciated.


Nice(iffutile)try, Fintan

The commentator Fintan O’Toole is suggesting that Sinn Féin could ‘lend’ their seven Westminster seats to anti-Brexit colleagues in other Northern Ireland parties, or to Independents. These ‘borrowed’ seats could then bring down Boris Johnson’s government.

This reminds me of a Penal Times family agreement, when land-holding Catholics ‘lent’ their lands to Protestant cousins, on the understanding that when the law changed, these lands would be returned to their rightful owners.

You’d need a lot of trust, even in a family connection, to participate in such a plan. Clearly Sinn Féin entertains no such trust, since they shot down Fintan’s idea immediately as “mind-bogglingly ridiculous”.