Won’t pay TV licence? Expect a court summons

Won’t pay TV licence? Expect a court summons

 

By Chua Hian Hou

 

THE annual crackdown on people who have not paid their $110 TV licence is under way.

 

Several thousand home owners who have not paid up so far will get a court summons, and if they ignore this, they risk arrest and fines of up to $40,000.

 

There are no ifs or buts: All households with working TV sets must pay the licence fee.

 

Some 925,000 licences were issued as at Dec 31 last year.

 

But the Media Development Authority (MDA) estimated that about 100,000 households, or one in 10, do not pay the annual licence fee. The ratio has remained fairly constant over the years.

 

Some deliberately do not pay, while others complain about paying for content they do not watch.

 

However, most offenders let the payment slip because they either missed the notice or were financially strapped, said MDA customer and licensing services manager Regina Chang.

 

She said the fee ensures that ‘commercially less viable’ TV and radio programmes that ‘inform, educate and entertain our multicultural and multiracial society’ get made.

 

These include cultural shows as well as current affairs, drama, local sports and children’s programmes, and are broadcast on the six free-to-air TV channels and radio stations.

 

The MDA sends out notices to pay the TV licence together with the Inland Revenue Authority’s property tax assessment notice every December.

 

It sends a reminder to pay the original amount plus a $25 late payment fee to households that have not paid by Jan 31.

 

After this, and a second late notice, the agency sends a summons via registered mail to the ‘very small percentage’ that still do not pay up, said Ms Chang.

 

The summons has the desired effect, with ‘almost 80 per cent’ of the holdouts quickly paying up the $110 – plus a fine of up to $1,000 – to avoid going to court.

 

The few who ignore the summons can end up being arrested and going before a judge, said Ms Chang, although the agency only does this as a last resort.

 

Those found guilty face a maximum fine of $40,000 under the Broadcasting Act.

 

The Government has temporarily frozen the TV licence fee until the end of this year as part of a larger bundle of government fees that were left unchanged to help minimise the impact of inflation.

 

Besides Singapore, Japan, Germany, Britain and Switzerland also impose a TV licence fee.

 

Source: Straits Times

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