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Order of Business

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Senator Rónán Mullen

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I thought the Senator might like my example. Congratulations, David. I thank the Senator for all of the good that he does and I hope he will continue his good work.
I do not know whether David would agree with me on the following. I know that he has been a critic of the abuses perpetrated by the media from time to time. I do not know what he thinks of the report produced by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the proposed broadcasting charge. I think it is a very serious development. We had a situation where the Minister, in a previous Government, thought about introducing a broadcasting charge but the idea appeared to wane. The report seems to put the idea very much back on the agenda.
The idea of expanding the term television set to include laptops, computers and, potentially, iPads would mean that even if a person does not consume televised content and instead opted for Netflix or got news by reading online newspapers, he or she would still be forced to pay an RTÉ tax even if he or she never used its services. Virtually every person in the country has a computer, a laptop or an iPad for work or day-to-day communications. If the licence fee is re-designed to apply to virtually every person in the country whether they watch television or not then we should be honest with the public. We should tell them that the Minister is introducing a new tax and not a fee for using a particular service. To confirm that suspicion the committee has recommended that the Revenue Commissioners should collect the new broadcast tax. Such an initiative would completely ignore how people consume entertainment and information. It is extraordinary to suggest that a person with no television who has a paid online subscription to an entertainment service like Netflix or an online subscription to The Irish Times, for example, would be forced to pay for services provided by RTÉ that the person might neither want nor use. The initiative will distort the media market in Ireland and create real difficulties for online content providers. It would also be deeply anti-competitive.
Is it fair to be obliged to pay for the television programme called "Fair City"? I have no problem will allocating money from the public purse for particular services that the likes of RTÉ could provide. One could put a value on RTÉ's news service, for example, the "Six One News", and allocate a certain amount of millions of euro. One could pay for "The Late Late Toy Show" if it is considered to have significant public merit. The idea that RTÉ would continue to enjoy the double advantage of both having State funding and being able to earn hundreds of millions in advertising revenue is still unfair. RTÉ has 2,000 staff who earn €53,000 per year on average. Frankly, RTÉ has a track record of bias on a range of issues that it has done little to address. It is not right to introduce a new means of taxation when RTÉ has been forced to admit that some of its presenters are paid between €400,000 and €500,000 per year. RTÉ has often been found out by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for its lack of fairness and impartiality. There has been no talk of reform. Instead, there has been talk about giving RTÉ a special new stealth tax. I do not think that the Irish public will stand for a new tax and I certainly do not think it is fair. I would be grateful if the Leader could arrange a debate on the topic