- 19 Aug 19
DJ and writer Alex Donald on why she values creativity and content, but is firmly against Richard Bruton’s proposed broadcasting charge.
When I moved into my house, there were a lot of things I had to buy. A television was last on the list. An unthinkable situation for most people in decades gone by, perhaps, but I was used to watching programmes and movies on my laptop and didn’t feel the need to shell out hundreds of euro, not only for a television but for the TV licence I’d need as well. Seven years later, nothing has changed for me, but the Government has other ideas.
On August 2, the Minister for Communications, Richard Bruton TD, announced plans to scrap the current TV licence and instead implement a broadcasting charge to cover laptops, tablets, smartphones and televisions, in a bid to ensnare the one in ten Irish households that currently legally avoid the TV licence.
Speaking of legally avoiding the TV licence, I got so frustrated with licence inspectors coming to my house to find my non-existent television set, that I rang An Post. I ended up having to sign a written declaration saying that I did not have a TV set. This formality was apparently a complete waste of both their time and mine, as I still get inspectors regularly calling to my house, convinced that I am lying. A portion of the license fee revenue is used to pay inspectors, so anyone who has paid their TV licence is partially funding this incompetence.
I am a DJ and come from a family of musicians, so I understand that creative people need to be paid for their work. I regularly buy music in addition to having a Spotify subscription. I buy so many books that the staff in Hodges Figgis know me by name. When I go to gigs – whether at festivals, clubs or venues – I happily buy tickets. I recognise the monetary value of entertainment and am prepared to pay for it.
But here’s the thing: I never watch RTÉ. I don’t watch it online or in other people’s houses. In fact, the main reason I don’t have a TV is that when I’m scanning through the stations in other people’s houses, I rarely find something I want to watch. Instead, I pay subscription fees for Netflix and Amazon Prime, and am a regular cinema-goer. And I know I’m not alone: many people now consume their entertainment via subscription services and rarely watch terrestrial television.
So I pay my subscriptions, I pay my WIFI and electricity bills, I have paid for my laptop, and I have paid VAT on all of these – and despite all of this, I am being asked to pony up money for a service I never use. I have no desire to contribute towards the exorbitant salary of stars like Ryan Tubridy – who I single out because he is paid more than the Taoiseach and the President of Ireland combined. Similarly, I feel personally offended at the idea that my money could be used to contribute towards the salary of Joe Duffy, whose show involves baiting and trolling in a tabloid talk style whilst he is paid close to €390,000.
There is an argument that RTÉ is the national broadcaster, and so the station’s news service is important as an impartial source of international news and current affairs. Fair enough if they didn’t take advertising, i.e. if they followed the same model as the BBC. But, in the new model outlined by Richard Bruton, it is proposed that they will take not only paid advertising and the majority of the licence fees, but a share of the revenue flowing from devices too. RTÉ want to have their cake and eat it, and get someone else to pay for it and do the washing-up.
What’s the solution? To me it seems obvious: RTÉ should switch to a pay-per-view model. If you want to watch their programming on your television or your laptop, you pay for it. And make the online RTÉ Player a paid subscription service, similar to Netflix. If we want to retain an objective national news service, then perhaps RTÉ can splinter off their current affairs and news programming into a separate channel, without advertising, and charge a small fee per household for this service.
But asking me and other cash-strapped citizens to pay for a service we don’t use is not the way to get re-elected, Mr. Bruton.