Radio and TV licence fees to be scrapped

Published 19 February 2011
The Business Times
By Winston Chai

Fees losing relevance as TV ownership, viewing no longer linked to higher incomes

THE government will abolish its near five-decade old policy of collecting radio and television (RTV) licence fees with immediate effect as they are ‘losing their relevance,’ according to Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Radio and TV licence fees to be scrappedIn his budget speech on Friday, Mr Tharman said a key reason for abolishing the scheme is that television ownership is no longer confined to the middle and higher income groups.

In fact, 99 per cent of lower-income households now own TV sets, he explained.

In addition, the growing convergence of online and traditional broadcast mediums means that Singaporeans can now receive television programmes over the Internet and on their mobile devices.

The Web-based consumption of broadcast content does not ‘attract a licence fee’, Mr Tharman said.

‘I will thus do away with the $110 annual licence fee for televisions, with effect from January 2011. The $27 annual fee for vehicle radios will also be removed,’ he announced.

RTV fees were first introduced in 1963 and the amount collected is used to help fund so-called public service broadcast content.

This covers a wide gamut of programming including locally-produced drama such as Fighting Spiders, children’s programmes, as well as those tailored for minority communities.

In 2011, the Media Development Authority (MDA) collected $132.5 million in such fees, which are levied on households as well as non-residential premises such as hotels and coffee shops with TVs and radio sets. Car owners and businesses that import or sell broadcast equipment are also subject to RTV licensing.

In a statement, the MDA said all RTV licence fees that have been collected for 2011 will be refunded by April this year.

Cheques will be mailed out to households and other licensees in the coming months.

However, the media regulator will continue to recover outstanding RTV fees for the year 2010 or earlier, it said.

The public can check their RTV licence account status via MDA’s website or e-mail, or by calling its customer service hotline at 1800-4785-478.

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