Opinion: RTE and the “Telly Tax”, writes Liam Foley – TheLiberal.ie – Our News, Your Views

Opinion: RTE and the “Telly Tax”, writes Liam Foley


In Ireland you need a license to own and operate certain items, a gun, a dog, in order to drive. A lifetime dog license costs €120, they’re not clear if that’s for my lifetime or my dog’s, a gun license costs €80, valid for three years. That’s fairly reasonable as each one of these can be a danger to people if they’re in the wrong hands. So why do we need a license to own a television? Is RTÉ really that dangerous? Why must we pay €160 a year to RTÉ even if we never watch its programs?

The Television license has been with us since Telefís Éireann was launched in 1962. Since then any attempt to abolish it or even share the money with other broadcasters has been opposed by RTÉ. The most recent attempt at reform was dismissed when Michael D. Higgins was Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht in the mid 1990s.

Television licenses are not unique to Ireland, residents of the UK pay £145.50 a year to the BBC. What’s unusual is, unlike the BBC, RTÉ accept advertising. Other countries have a similar model, for example Italy, but they charge a smaller fee. One consequence of RTÉ using advertising is the accusation by Newstalk of continually selling radio advertising below cost. At the same time RTÉ have refused to accept advertisements promoting Newstalk.

There are some needy people that can’t pay their license. The Department of Social Protection pays for those. So there is a transfer of almost 66 million Euro from the Social Protection budget to RTÉ every year. Put in context that would pay the starting salary for about 2,800 graduate nurses, 2,130 primary teachers or 2,560 Garda. There is something wrong when an entity like RTÉ gets such a massive transfer from the exchequer every year while our health and educational systems are bursting at the seams.

 The current system doesn’t work for RTÉ who claim there’s a high evasion rate. The proposed new charge will be applied to every household in the country. The broadcast charge will be tacked on to the other taxes imposed on people as part of the Household Charge. They want to ensure people don’t watch RTÉ on their computers, tablets or even their phones, even in the wilds of Connemara that are well known for their superfast broadband, without paying. When asked about the justice of this the ever charming (then Minister for Communications) Pat Rabbitte said “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country. I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television and don’t access content on their iPad or iPhone.”

 Does RTÉ really need to pay Ryan Tubridy €495,000 a year (21 nurses on their starting salary)? All the RTÉ “talent” are grossly overpaid, compare their salaries are to our nearest neighbor and take into account the size of the British market, how many people watch and listen to the BBC, there is no real comparison.

 RTÉ is a national broadcaster and as such is held to a different standard than other media outlets. The Irish Times has its biases but I can, and do, chose not to spend my money on it. I’ve no choice when it comes to RTÉ. If I refuse to pay the tax as it stands I can be hauled before an already overcrowded court system. When the new broadcasting charge comes in I won’t even be able to object or make my case before a judge, the fee will be tacked on to the household charge.

 There is clear and documented bias within RTÉ, just check out the website www.hearbothsides.ie. Their impartiality was called into question in the last presidential election when leading candidate Seán Gallagher was spectacularly shot down by a hoax Tweet that was read out. There was the Fr Kevin Reynolds case. Though they had only the flimsiest of cases they broadcasted dreadful allegations which after proven libelous they had to pay a record sum in damages. The subsequent BAI investigation was very critical of groupthink, anyone who watches RTÉ knows that not much has changed and the license fee facilitates this bias and groupthink of the cosseted Montrose clique.

Share this story with a friend

Share this story

Tell us what you think on our Facebook page