As the Deputy will be aware, I obtained Government approval last year to draft a number of legislative amendments to the Broadcasting Act 2009, including amendments for the tendering of television licence fee collection. The proposed amendments were considered under pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment and I received the committee's report on 8 March. The Bill is currently being drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel and is included as a priority on the Government's draft legislative programme.
As the Deputy is also aware, I requested the committee to examine the longer-term issue of the future funding of public service media and the committee published its report at the end of November 2017. Following consideration of the recommendations made in that report, Government approval was received in July 2018 to establish a working group on the future funding of public service broadcasting. The group is chaired by an assistant secretary from my Department and comprises senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The report of the joint committee on the future funding of public service broadcasting will form an important input into the work of the group. The working group will examine options for the future funding of public service broadcasting and collection of the television licence fee that include collection by the Revenue Commissioners, tendering for licence fee collection, the replacement of the fee with a broadcasting charge or a variation. The group will also examine related issues such as more equitable contribution from the business sector through the introduction of different rates or categories, for example, for bookies or the Dáil itself. The impact of the new arrangements on the current licence fee collection mechanism also will be examined, as will any legislative, administrative or resource changes required to implement recommendations. The group will also look at the likely timeline for transition to any new arrangement and a communications strategy to inform stakeholders of planned changes.
The working group held its first meeting on 20 September and has agreed a programme of work to progress consideration of all of the issues set out above. It is intended that the group will report back to me in the first quarter of 2019 and I will revert to Government at that stage.
In the meantime, there will be no change to the existing television licence fee arrangements and An Post continues to work as the issuing agent for television licences in accordance with section 145 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.