Post seeks dig as RTÉ scandal will cost it €2m in unpaid TV licenses

The Minister of Media, Catalina Minister, must cover the losses of 500,000 euros in the collection process last year

He has written to the Media Minister, Catherine Martin, to say that he is now losing money by charging for the television license and could lose almost €2 million this year.

An Post’s appeal is a new headache for the Government as it considers future funding arrangements for public service broadcasting. He has already had to bail out RTÉ due to falling TV license sales, and now faces having to compensate An Post too.

In a letter to Mrs. Martin, sent on April 16, which has been seen by the Irish independentAn Post chief executive David McRedmond says he must pay the company “an appropriate sum” for the work it does in administering the collection, inspection and processing of television licences.

He said that, at a minimum, An Post’s direct costs should be reimbursed. But as license sales have plummeted since June 2023, those costs are no longer covered by the amount the minister pays, “and there is no foreseeable improvement,” McRedmond said.

The commission paid by An Post on the sale of television licenses last year was almost €8.4 million, or about €10 per license. Before the RTÉ pay scandal last summer, An Post had planned a contribution of €1 million by 2023 from the play. “However, this translated into a direct cost shortfall of €557,000 by 2023,” An Post’s CEO told the minister. “I would welcome a proposal from his department to ensure An Post’s costs are reimbursed.”

In a set of figures the company sent to Ms Martin, it says the total direct cost to An Post last year for collecting the license amounted to €8.9 million. This included almost €4 million in salaries, €1 million in postage costs and €2.3 million in shipping costs.

This year’s cost is expected to rise to almost €9.5 million, but after the government’s contribution, which is likely to be around €7.5 million, the company expects to lose more than €1.9 million. in the licensing process.

One Post’s forecast is that 746,000 licenses will be sold this year, compared to 824,278 last year. This had decreased from 947,924 the previous year. This would mean that the revenue raised from the television license would fall below €120 million, leaving the Government to make up for a considerable shortfall in funding RTÉ.

McRedmond also asked Martin to take An Post’s role into account when deciding future funding for the public service broadcaster. This would be “either in terms of furlough collection or in an alternative scenario if redundancies are likely to arise”.

He added: “The current uncertainty and recent controversies have affected An Post’s television furloughed employees and, as chief executive, I have a duty to ensure their wellbeing.”

He said a spokesperson for Ms Martin would respond to the letter and, in the meantime, officials from the department and An Post were addressing all issues relating to the television license collection system.

Earlier this month, Taoiseach Simon Harris said this would be the Government that would finally resolve the issue of sustainable funding for RTÉ and public service broadcasting. “Our intention is to make a decision on funding before the summer holidays,” he said. ​

The latest figures on TV licenses issued this year were provided by Martin last month, when he said that in the week ending April 21, 232,470 had been sold. The equivalent figure for the same period last year was 268,332, meaning there has been a drop of 13.4%.

A Post has been tasked with collecting TV license fees since the charge was first introduced in 1962. Last month it revealed the company had been forced to suspend inspections and offer “resilience” training to staff due to public anger over the RTÉ payments scandal.

A spokesman said the increase in hostility, especially verbal abuse, had prompted An Post to take action to protect its workers.

An Post has always said the TV license is an important part of its business and provides an essential revenue stream for its postmasters and post office network. It has more than 40 front-line inspectors who cover the country and carry out house-to-house visits.