'Regressive tax' of TV licence should be abolished - Barry

'I think not only should RTÉ be paid for public service broadcasting, but so should Newstalk and others'
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.52 4 Jul 2023

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'Regressive tax' of TV licence...

'Regressive tax' of TV licence should be abolished - Barry

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.52 4 Jul 2023

Share this article

The TV licence is a regressive tax that should be abolished.

That's according to People Before Profit TD Mick Barry, who was speaking amid debate around the future funding of RTÉ.

Cabinet has signed off on the terms of reference for a review into RTÉ on the back of secret payments to presenter Ryan Tubridy.


Deputy Barry told The Hard Shoulder the current licence fee penalises the poor.

"At the best of times, the television licence fee is a regressive tax - the poor man pays as much as the rich man," he said.

"There's no scope in it for inability to pay, I think it penalises the poor.

"I think the State has needed quite an apparatus of coercion in order to squeeze the money out of people.

"In any given year there can be more than 10,000 people [who] end up in court.

"I am a supporter, 100%, of public funding for public service broadcasting... but a regressive licence fee is not part of the solution".

'Broadcasting charge'

Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty believes a full cut won't work.

"I don't necessarily agree with Mick in the sense that I think it shouldn't be abolished, but it definitely should be amended," she said.

"I would have been very supportive of Richard Bruton's assessment in 2019 that we should scrap the licence fee but have a broadcasting charge.

"Effectively it's the same thing except it widens the net to allow for the public purse to be able to pay for public service broadcasting.

"To me, the independence of the editorial business of public service broadcasting has to be separate from the decision, wranglings and negotiations between any minister, any department and any public service broadcaster.

"I think not only should RTÉ be paid for public service broadcasting, but so should Newstalk [and] so should some of our other radio stations for that pure service.

"The likes of GAAGO shouldn't be allowed to be supported by a public service broadcaster to make commercial money off the people for programmes that should have been put on RTÉ in the first place".

An RTÉ logo at the station headquarters in Donnybrook, Dublin 4. An RTÉ logo at the station headquarters in Donnybrook, Dublin 4. Picture by: Leah Farrell/

Deputy Barry believes RTÉ's commercial income should be removed.

"The commercial income, knock that on the head, that it's 100% from public funding," she said.

"What we need to do is have a steeply progressive tax system - so the more you earn the more you pay.

"If you were to ringfence 0.01% of income tax... and 0.01% from corporation tax, that would give you €526 million - which is more per head of population than what you have in Germany.

"I also think you would need to look at the new media, the big tech companies and profits that they make.

"If you were to put a 10% levy on social media advertising, that would bring in €38 million... before you even look at the profits are being made by the Facebooks, the Googles and the Netflixs of this world".

'All public broadcasting'

Senator Doherty has said it is not the tax system that needs reform.

"We already have a progressive tax: it's called Pay As You Earn - the more you earn, the more you pay," she said.

"The social welfare system looks after the people who can't afford to pay for their licence.

"That element of acceptance that not everybody can afford to pay is already built into the system.

"To me the independence - the independence of decisions, the independence of delivery - that all has to be absolutely separate and secular from any government.

"I think the suggestion, and I know this has been denied, that was in the papers on Sunday is that we should absolutely split both - and let the commercial element of RTÉ wipe its own face.

"Let the public service element be fully supported by the State, through a broadcasting charge or an extended licence fee, that's shared amongst all of those people that do public broadcasting.

"Newstalk does fine public broadcasting," she added.

Listen back here:

Main image: A close-up of a TV/set top box remote control in May 2015. Picture by: EThamPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo

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Broadcasting Charge Coercion Commercial Income GAA GO Mick Barry Pay As You Earn Regina Doherty Richard Bruton Ryan Tubridy The Hard Shoulder Tv Licence

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