Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte appeared on Tonight with Vincent Browne, presented by Sam Smyth to discuss the implementation of the Broadcasting Charge.
Sam Smyth: “Minister, you’re calling it, a ‘Broadcasting charge’, a lot of people are calling it, ‘The New RTE Tax’. Tell me, there is a perception that this broadcasting charge is a big gift to RTÉ, because, whether you like it or not, they did deliver the Presidency, didn’t they? They changed the outcome of the Presidency, and a Labour Party person won it.”
Pat Rabbitte: [laughs] “I read that Sam, when you wrote it the first time, and I think it’s important that I have a good sense of humour, otherwise I’d be down to see some of your friends in the Four Courts. The proposition that you set out was that I’m delivering this charge to RTÉ, because they delivered the Presidency to President Higgins.”
Smyth: “They (RTÉ), said they did, now, they said they did change the outcome of the election.”
Rabbitte: “I’m afraid Sam, we had committed, as the chronological record shows, to introducing a public service broacasting charge long before there was even any candidate in the field for Presidency. And that’s a matter for chronological reecord. And I think The President would be very upset to hear that charge, not to mention the inference that can be drawn, which is that it’s a corrupt transaction.
Smyth: “(I’m) not saying it’s all to do with The President, I got to say, he was an innocent person in this. But it was RTE who did say that they did change the outcome of the presidential election.”
Rabbitte: “Well, I didn’t hear them say that..”
Smyth:“It was the (RTÉ) Head of Current Affairs!”
Rabbitte: “Yeah, fine, fine. But, what’s that got to do with my decision to introduce a house-hold based public service broadcasting charge?
Smyth: “Well, I think there would be those who would say that, and there’s a few of them around the table, (in the studio) who thinks that it is the biggest gift, probably in the history of RTÉ, and perhaps, an opportunity misssed to make it more equitable to other broadcasters.”
Rabbitte: “Well, I mean, let’s hear who’s around the table, other than yourself, who believes that. Because, the fact of the matter is that, it is the progress that has been made in technology, convergence of technologies and scale of evasion that are the two principal reasons for prompting us to keeping up with the rest of the countries in the OECD, that have had to do the same thing. I mean the fact of the matter is as you know, more and more people are accessing public service content on platforms, other than the traditional TV…”
Smyth: “Actually, was there not a poll today that said that that was a load of nonsense? And that, you know, 12-17 year olds, 85% of them watch TV on the TV at home.”
Rabbitte: “I mean sure, if you just look at my own work-place, if a question comes up, for example and we’re in discussion about something, somebody will key it into their Ipad and have the information within a few minutes. In terms of…, if I want to know what’s happening in the newsroom, I plug into RTE News Now.”
Smyth: “I’ve got the figures here, I mean, 85% of 12-17 year olds, 95% of over 55s, 90% of most people, watch TV in their own house on the television set.”
Rabbitte: “But Sam, I’m not saying that the televison is going out of existence, you know certainly the whole development of what is called Connected TV is going to accelerate, and accelerate in the years ahead. But, I’m not saying that the TV is immediately going to go out of existence, that’s not going to happen…”
Smyth: “But, it hasn’t moved on, hardly, when everybody says that it has…”
Rabbitte: “Oh, but it has moved, I mean, 85% is not 100%, and that’s the way it’s going. You know, we can put our finger in the dyke, like the little Dutch boy and pretend that technology is not advancing. Technology is advancing. Secondly, why do you think that countries across Europe are doing the same thing, if the phenomenon is not there? Do you think they’re doing it just for the fun of it? Secondly…”
Smyth:” Maybe like yourself, they thought it was going to happen, and it didn’t arrive?”
Rabbitte: “Maybe they were running Michael D. Higgins for the Presidency as well?”
Smyth: “I don’t know about that now, but, now that you say it, maybe we could look at that, as well!”
Previously: The Remote Controller