Should you pay your TV Licence?

Is our licence fee funding the production of quality Irish television and radio, or does it pay its top “talents” ridiculous fees to keep them happy in the opulent RTÉ Headquarters on Stillorgan Road, one of the country's wealthiest suburbs?

The recent RTÉ scandal revealed that Ryan Tubridy, previous host of The Late Late Show, had been paid €345,000 in undisclosed payments since 2017. The leading Irish television and radio broadcaster is notoriously funded by adverts and the TV Licence fee, which comes directly from the pockets of Irish citizens who own a television. 

Since its introduction in 1972 it has risen from £4 (around €60 nowadays) to a whopping €160 per year and 80% of each citizen's payment goes directly into RTÉ’s accounts. The investigation of the allocation of RTÉ’s funding by taxpayers during the second half of 2023, has revealed that the broadcaster is dealing with a black hole of €100 million overdue payments.

This begs the question, where do our precious €160 go every month, and what do we get in return? Is our licence fee funding the production of quality Irish television and radio, or does it pay its top “talents” ridiculous fees to keep them happy in the opulent RTÉ Headquarters on Stillorgan Road, one of the country's wealthiest suburbs. 

~ Should you Pay your Licence Fee ~

By Katie Larkin


No : Funding new Irish Television Talent… Oh Wait 

It appears that RTÉ does show a lot of what Ireland has to offer, with programmes like Nationwide showing features, events and much more from around the country, or Reeling in the Years showing Ireland’s rich cultural and political histories. However, Ireland is arguably famous for our cultural talents; notably our writers, playwrights, actors, musicians and directors who enjoy worldwide notoriety. In recent years, Irish television and film have soared. But what is such a shame, is that often these amazing productions lack the funding from their own country, and our own television provider. Derry Girls, set in Ireland, written by Derry native Lisa McGee with a mostly Irish cast and crew, was funded by and is owned by Channel 4, a British television network. They also own Aisling Bea’s This Way Up, a very Irish dark comedy starring Aisling herself and Sharon Horgan, both Irish actresses. Perhaps the biggest shock is that Sally Rooney’s adapted novel to screen Normal People, directed by Irish Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie MacDonald, filmed, written and set in Ireland was funded by the BBC. It is unfortunate that the misallocation of funding is put into the top earners pockets and not back into our own growing television and film industry. 

No : Who else will pay the €5 million allocated for wages? 

While of course, the hardworking staff at RTE deserve their fair wage, the amount of money allocated to the network's top talent is absurd. This is especially true in the face of declarations made in June that revealed the extent of hidden payments. RTÉ claims that the recurring wage increases to assist staff in the cost of living crisis comes from external funding and not the licence fee. However, the latest revelations call into question to what extent such claims are believable. 


Yes : Avoiding Prosecution 

Yes, the rumours are true. You can be hit with fines of up to €2,000 for not paying your licence fee, and even risk going to court or being imprisoned for failure to pay said fee. It is clear that this is a regressive tax that mostly impacts households with the lowest income. While tax rates remain high for the lowest of earners, adding additional fees to watch television after a day's work feels like adding insult to injury for the standard tax payer. According to The Irish Examiner’s report of the weeks following the scandal, 3,600 people had been taken to court for failure to pay their licence fee in due time. 


Yes : The people of Ireland deserve quality television and music 

Jokes aside, the licence fee does hold some importance. It does fund productions such as TG4, the country's main Irish language channel, which is so important for maintaining the Irish Language intact, in circulation and accessible throughout the country.

It also funds the production of important and quality documentaries highlighting prevalent sports figures, relevant history, art, life abroad and so much more. It offers quality family entertainment that helps bring people together at home during the week. 

In many ways it also assures that the elderly are not isolated or relegated to the outskirts of society as they are exempt from paying the tax once they reach the age of seventy.It funds the orchestra, radio shows and the list goes on...

Bottom line: the licence fee keeps us entertained in any domain we find interest in. 


To sum up, the licence fee could do with reform as the amount of funding allocated to the upkeep of a national broadcast service needs to be under stronger surveillance. Despite this, 

We are fortunate to live in a country with so much wonderful culture and talent, and if there is a way to keep such talent funded, then perhaps the television licence fee will see it’s worth reinstated over time.