Independent TD Mattie McGrath has criticised the Department of Communications’ public consultation process into the proposed new universal Public Service Broadcasting Charge (PSBC) that will replace the TV licence.
Deputy McGrath was speaking after Minister Pat Rabbitte confirmed that the new charge is expected to replace the current €160 annual TV licence fee beginning in January 2015.
“Minister Rabbitte would have us believe that the objective of this so called consultation process is one which will help inform him in terms of the proposals, including the statutory basis, which he will submit to Government. He would have us believe that nothing has been decided about the fairness or otherwise of asking people who do not even own a TV to start paying this new charge; the reality is however that the Minister has confirmed on several occasions that this is not about the fairness of asking people to pay for services which they do not avail of, but of maximising the amount of people he can take money from,” said Deputy McGrath.
According to him, the reality is that many people in this country have tuned out of the State’s broadcasting facilities because they have ‘lost faith that it can be relied on for accurate and objective information’, citing the Prime Time/Fr Reynolds case as an example.
Department of Communications research also concluded that an occupier-based household charge offered a reasonable basis to implement the charge in respect of the domestic or residential sector. It noted the proposition that public service broadcasting is available, and of benefit, to society at large.
“There are broader issues here than simply charging each household for a service they may or may not use. For instance because there is no opt out clause the Minister would be forcing people to subsidise a service they do not want to support. There is also the issue of effectively forcing people to pay twice for the same service; if you are someone who accesses your audio-visual content through your laptop or smart phone, then you already pay what are often quite high fees to your internet or mobile provider. If this new charge comes in you will be asked to pay for the exact same service again. I would like to know just how the Minister plans to reconcile this clearly unjust scenario with all his talk of making people pay a ‘fair’ contribution,” said Deputy McGrath.