Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Questions (543)

Brendan Smith


543. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 435 of 5 March 2019, if he has raised with the European Commission the need to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting and the need to establish a public service broadcast fund in the context of state aid rules and ensure that such rules would not inhibit such a development in view of the need to support the independent radio sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11982/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In light of the recommendations in the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment Report on Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting, the Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting was set up by Government decision in July 2018 to examine options for the reform of TV licence collection. The Group's work is ongoing and it is scheduled to report to me at the end of this month.

As I noted in the Dáil last week, EU state aid rules prohibit the setting up of the sort of fund envisaged by the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI). However, the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill includes proposed amendments to Sections 33 and 123 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to allow the Broadcasting Authority (BAI) to be allocated public funding from TV Licence fee receipts towards meeting its operating expenses. It is intended that the consequent reductions in levy contributions, up to a maximum of 50% would be applied 'across the board' so that all broadcasters would benefit in equal proportion from the measure. Drafting is at an advanced stage by Parliamentary Counsel and I intend to publish the Bill in quarter 2 this year.

The independent radio sector already benefits from the BAI Sound and Vision Scheme which is funded from 7% of the net TV Licence fee receipts. The Scheme provided over €494,000 towards 77 different radio projects for broadcast on independent commercial stations in 2018.