Budget 2011: Radio & TV licence fees to be removed

SINGAPORE : Radio and television licence fees will be permanently removed with immediate effect.

The annual licence fee for televisions was S$110 and S$27 for vehicle radios.

Those who have not paid this year’s fees will not have to make the payment, while a refund will be given to those who have already paid.

In his Budget Statement, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the fees are losing their relevance.

He said televisions are no longer limited to middle and higher—income groups, with 99 per cent of lower—income households owning them today.

He added that with increasing media convergence, Singaporeans can now receive broadcast content over the Internet and mobile devices. These means of receiving the content do not attract licence fees.

The government revenue forgone from the removal of the fees will work out to around S$120 million annually.

In a statement, the Media Development Authority (MDA) said all radio and TV licence fees that have been collected this year will be refunded by April 2011.

MDA will mail the refund cheques to households and other licensees.

To be fair to the vast majority of licensees who have already paid the licence fees, MDA said it would continue recovery of unpaid licence fees for 2010 and earlier.

Licensees with outstanding fees will receive a payment advice from the MDA from March 15 and have up to May 31 to pay up.

Radio and TV licence fees were first introduced in 1963. The fees collected are used to fund public service broadcast content.

In 2009, MDA collected S$132.5 million in radio and TV licence fees.

It said from this year, it will receive funding for public service broadcasts (PSBs) from the government.

Chief executive officer, Aubeck Kam, said MDA will work closely with the industry to continuously improve the quality and reach of PSB contents. This includes making them available on new platforms, in step with Singaporeans’ changing media habits.

MDA said PSB programmes celebrate our identity, culture and heritage, as well as bring knowledge and learning to Singapore viewers.

PSB support helps to ensure that quality programmes of some 3,000 hours yearly, which promote Singaporeans’ shared values, are available across all seven free—to—air television channels.

Examples of well—received PSB programmes include homegrown productions enjoyed by families ("Fighting Spiders", a drama series on Channel 5), children ("Club M.A.G.I.C", a preschool series on okto) and the elderly ("The Golden Age", a magazine series on Channel 8).

PSB programmes also serve the interest of the minority communities — such as dramas "Sollameley" (Without Saying) on Vasantham and "Gerimis Di Hati" (Cries of the Heart) on Suria.

More PSB content has been made available since Vasantham and okto became full channels in 2008.

PSB content is also available on new media platforms, in particular, the online video portal XINMSN.

— CNA/al