Fine Gael propose ‘content tax’ to replace tv licence

Fine Gael plans to abolish the television licence, replacing it with a public broadcasting charge ‘to apply to all households and applicable businesses, regardless of the device they use to access content’.

The party’s manifesto gives no details of what ‘devices’ it has in mind, instead detailing ways in which the tax would be collected — through utility bills, local authorities, the Revenue commissioners and An Post.

Yesterday the Greens proposed a tax on internet use, based on the amount of data downloaded.

Will RTÉ have to share the spoils? Image © Faduda

It seems that Fine Gael plan a flat tax on any device which can access ‘content’ — but the reference to ‘content’ suggests the tax would be aimed at computers as well as television sets.

Depending on how enabling legislation is designed, the tax could also apply to smartphones, e-readers such as the Kindle, and to iPad and other tablet devices. Whether radios are covered is anyone’s guess. (Here at NewsWhip, we were joking that even spectacles and light can be used to access content.)

While the Greens suggested using the funds raised by an internet tax to subsidise news, Fine Gael says only that some of the monies raised will be used to fund TG4. The party will also increase funding to independent production companies and broadcasters, currently seven percent of licence fee revenue, will increase to 15 percent of revenues from the new content tax.

The manifesto does not say if the proposal is revenue neutral, although fine Gael expects to raise an additional €20 million by cutting collection costs and reducing evasion.