TV licence fee SCRAPPED and replaced with charge for almost every house (even WITHOUT TV)

The controversial rule change - happening at the same time as the attempts to limit the number of over-75s liable for - will apply to the estimated one in ten homes in which legally avoid having to pay the current licence as they do not have a television set. By contrast, the new charge - the cost of which has yet to be decided - will mean everybody who owns a laptop, a tablet or even a mobile phone will have to cough up.

’s Government has set out its plans in the new Broadcasting Bill, which is also aimed at ensnaring 12 percent of householders who dodge paying the licence fee, currently fixed at €160 a year.

Government is poised to issue a new tender for the collection of money owed by licence evaders.

At the expiration of the five-year contract, the Government will introduce the new system.

Ireland licences

Even homes without a television will be liable (Image: GETTY)

Leo Varadkar

The change is being introduced by the Government of Leo Varadkar (Image: GETTY)

This is a fundamental reform that will take time to develop, but it will future-proof the funding model

Richard Bruton

Speaking to Irish broadcaster , Communications Minister Richard Bruton said: “It is clear that due to the nature of technological change and the movement towards digital devices, the design of the TV licence fee will have to change.

“This is a fundamental reform that will take time to develop, but it will future-proof the funding model, taking account of changes in technology and in how content is now consumed.”

Mr Bruton said the rapidly changing nature of personal technology meant the Government had not yet decided precisely what devices the charge would apply to.

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar's measures are aimed at clawing back much-needed revenue (Image: GETTY)

He said: “While we know there are certain devices being used, we don’t know what devices will appear on the scene in the coming years and we want to make sure however we devise legislation that that base is secure and doesn’t become eroded.

“One of the problems we have at the present is a high level of and we want to set up a new system that is not subject to erosion in the same way.”

The decision may also reflect RTE’s financial worries, having made sizeable losses in recent years, including an estimated €20 million in 2016 - and the company’s cash flow situation was put to Mr Bruton during his interview.

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The current system only applies to homes with a traditional television (Image: GETTY)

Irish licences

The new system will cover tablets, laptops and mobile phones (Image: GETTY)

He said: “While I can understand RTE would like to see something come in very quickly, the advice to government is that we need time to get it right.

“Most people pay their fee. However, we still see approximately 12 percent evasion which we need to address. By tendering for a contract of five years, this will allow the awarded body the chance to invest in a robust collection service.”

A Government source told the Irish Independent there was some concern behind the scenes about the portrayal of the new system as a “household charge”, and stressed it was not officially being referred to thus.

The source added: “We are not necessarily talking about a new household charge.

Television licence

A graphic showing television licence fee statistics in the UK (Image: House of Commons)

“We need to make sure public broadcasting is funded in a fair and sustainable way.

“Otherwise public broadcasting is being sacrificed at the expense of the internet giants.”

Under current law, only homes with dedicated televisions must pay the annual €160 licence fee.

Currently exempted will not be liable for the new rule.

Richard Bruton

Richard Bruton also unveiled measures to catch television licence-evaders (Image: GETTY)

The Irish post office, An Post, has called for more clarity about the proposals.

A spokesman said: “The contract is an important part of An Post’s business strategically, a key facet of our public service role and an essential income stream for our Postmasters and the national Post Office network.

“An Post has long argued that the contract needs to be longer term than the current annual renewal to allow for investment into databases and IT to facilitate more efficient collection.

“An Post remains committed to delivering an effective and efficient TV Licencing system for Ireland and to providing great customer service throughout. We await the detail of the planned tender which is due later this year.”

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