Details announced for reduced levy fee for independent radio stations

The move is seen as a major breakthrough in reform

Details announced for reduced levy fee for independent radio stations

Communications Minister Denis Naughton | Image via @RadioDaysIrl on Twitter

Updated: 21.05

The Communications Minister Denis Naughten has confirmed he will be signing off on legislation to reduce a levy fee by 50% for independent radio stations next week.

The move is seen in the industry as a major breakthrough in reforming Irish broadcasting.

The savings will allow stations to invest in more resources and training to evolve their on-air and digital offering.

He is also set to relax advertising caps for independent radio stations.

Spin South West Station Manager Nessa McGann said the reduction is really important in order to free up capital to invest in talent and technology:

"We pay a broadcasting levy - and at the moment it is quite hefty," she said.

"For local stations that are small businesses run by local people in all the towns in Ireland.

"Any reduction in that levy means more capacity to employ people, to strengthen radio and to provide a platform for local stations to discuss important topics to people in Limerick in Kerry, in Donegal and in Dundalk."

Minister Naughten is the first minister to push through such legislation for the independent sector.

John Purcell chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland said he hopes relaxing advertising caps on radio will improve the overall listening experience.

He said the move is very significant for broadcasters to continue generating content for over 3 million listeners a day:

"At the moment there is a 10-minute cap on advertising every hour," he said.

"It is quite a technical amendment but it is a meaningful amendment for the people who run radio stations.

“It gives us greater flexibility in planning for large events such as matches. Coverage of events where it is not that easy or appropriate to take advertising.

 “It smoothes out the average over a number of hours.

“It is not something that members of the public need concern themselves too much but it should help us improve the listening experience.

He said with four out of five people listening to radio everyday, it is important to support the people behind the scenes to make it happen.

Opening the two-day conference in Dublin, Minister Naughten said: "I believe some of the restrictions faced by commercial radio stations are outdated and in need of reform.

"As a result, I am today announcing my intention to seek Cabinet approval to amend section 41(2) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to remove the hourly limit on advertising for commercial radio stations which would give commercial stations greater flexibility".

He told the conference that he has "been assured the pre-legislative scrutiny stage will be finalised next week which means he can start detailed drafting immediately to ensure passage through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible."

The minister said he will be pushing through the bill for a reduced levy fee by the summer.

"I hope that it'll be signed off and pre-legislative scrutiny by the joint Oireachtas Committee next week.

"Then I actually have to go and actually draft the legislation itself - we have the parliamentary draftsmen ready to proceed with that.

"My intension would be to try and have this enacted before the summer recess.

"It was my intention originally to have it enacted before Christmas, as you know there has been a hold-up with the joint Oireachtas Committee, but now that it has hopefully come through that process next week it's full steam ahead".