Time to watch out, cable and satellite tv subscribers: Pat Rabbitte is after you!

Communications Minister, Pat Rabbitte T.D., secured Government approval this morning for his proposal to give An Post access to cable and satellite TV subscription data. The information will be used by An Post to identify TV licence fee evaders. 

“Licence fee evasion is an ongoing scourge. While in the nature of things it is difficult to be exact, we estimate that it is running at over 15%, which is more than three times the rate in our nearest neighbour. This means that around €25 to €30 million of potential revenue is lost annually to RTÉ,” said Minister Rabbitte today.

Stating that the objective of the TV licence system is to fund public service broadcasting, the Minister said that the revenue lost through fee evasion has an immediate impact on the quality of service that can be provided by the national broadcaster, and it creates an inequality between compliant licence holders and evaders.

 “Today I secured Government approval for legislation to enable An Post to access the subscription data held by TV service providers, including Sky and UPC. This will allow An Post to cross-check all those households and businesses with cable or satellite TV services against their own database of licence fee payers.

 “As long ago as 2004 the Comptroller and Auditor General highlighted the fact there was no legal obligation on cable or satellite TV service suppliers to inform An Post of the names and addressed of persons availing of their services. Given the ComReg estimate that over 73% of ‘TV households’ have such services, this measure should significantly reduce the level of evasion.

 “A short piece of legislation is needed in order to implement this proposal, so as to ensure compliance with data protection concerns. An Post will have access to the information solely for its statutory functions in relation to licence fee collection and the commercial confidentially of the information will have to be safeguarded. I hope that the Bill can be passed and in force by the end of this year and that it will have an immediate impact on the revenues of our public service broadcaster.

  “With this proposal, the licence fee inspection and collection system can enter the 21st century. My Department will continue its work on the broader legislative package required by the Government’s response in June last year to the BAI review of the adequacy of funding for public sector broadcasting and on proposals to put the public service funding system on a permanently secure footing.”