Sam Knows
May 11, 2009

Ireland’s draft Broadcasting Bill includes provision to extend TV licence fee payments to cover Internet access - and it’s soon set to become law. Even devices capable of picking up YouTube appear to be included in the Broadcasting Act 2009’s definition of “television:”

“any electronic apparatus capable of receiving and exhibiting television broadcasting services broadcast for general reception (whether or not its use for that purpose is dependent on the use of anything else in conjunction with it) and any software or assembly comprising such apparatus and other apparatus.”

The move will mean more cash in the coffers of Irish state broadcaster RTE, which is about to publish its annual accounts. It’s expected there’ll be little change from its most recent financial update last October, where the broadcaster forecast its advertising revenue would fall €25m short of budget for the year. However, following a cost-cutting drive it’s believed the station might break even.

At the moment you don’t need a television licence to watch online video content in the UK (except when a programme is being simulcast on both TV and the web) - but that could change. Last month the BBC Internet Blog said that if, in the future, “some people stopped receiving live broadcasts at all, stopped paying their licence fee, but continued to consume television programmes, solely on-demand” then they would consider having the Government extend its TV licence fee to cover Internet access too.

RTE’s not the only media company hoping to cash in by monetising web content currently available for free: News Corporation’s could be about to charge us to access its newspaper websites. Its owner Rupert Murdoch says “the current days of the Internet will soon be over;” if he has his way, the online manifestations of The Times and The Sun could go subscription-only within the twelve months. He’s encouraged by News Corp’s success in doing the same with The Wall Street Journal. Like RTE, News Corporation’s newspaper division barely broke even last year.