A new levy on subscriber TV and streaming services could fund high-end Irish content at no cost to the taxpayer, the former Screen Ireland CEO has told Breakfast Business.
James Hickey told the show that Ireland is an outlier in Europe as one of the few countries that has yet to introduce a content levy on the likes of Sky TV and Netflix.
He said the levy would be paid by the services themselves at no cost to the taxpayer – who are already paying their annual Television Licence fee.
Mr Hickey said the levy would bring in at least €24m, which could be distributed among Irish producers to create high-end content to sell at home and abroad.
Asked why he believed the services would not simply pass the cost on to customers he said: “Because that didn’t happen in other countries that introduced levies.”
“These levies are in place across Europe and there are also investment obligations that exist across Europe,” he said.
“The levy in France is 5%, in Germany it is 2.5% and these were all introduced without being passed on to the consumer. In Ireland, the increases in cost of these services have already taken place, even without the prospect of a levy.
“From the point of view of consumers, this is an opportunity for them to see Irish creative stories told on screen. We would like to see more series like Normal People and Kin on our screens
“They are very strong Irish series and what would be great for Irish audiences would be if we had more of them. That is what we would like to support and see.”
Mr Hickey noted that Irish people already spend around €600m on paid TV and streaming – with prices already at the upper end of the scale internationally.
“From the point of view of those services who are all competing - and the good news is the competition is increasing - they want to continue to get Irish subscribers to pay them. So, as far as they’re concerned, Ireland continues to be a great market opportunity.
“This is just simply a proposal to ensure Irish audiences see their own stories on screen. That’s what we are trying to do.
“Currently these organisations don’t contribute significantly to Irish stories created by Irish writers, Irish directors or music by Irish composers.”
He said the funds raised through the levy would be administered by an independent State agency.
“The agency would then be able to fund Irish independent producers. That’s an important part of the proposal.
“Independent producers would be the companies that would be funded and these in turn would retain rights in the projects they are creating. The point then is you would have a growing strong intellectual property base for Irish talent in Ireland.”
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