Minister for Communications Alex White has told the Seanad that he believes the introduction of a public service broadcasting charge is inevitable.

Mr White said the charge would reflect the changing ways that people access public service broadcasting.

He said he believed it was inevitable that such a charge would be introduced, but he added that it would not be introduced until public understanding for the change was built.

He said he expected the charge would come in during the term of the next government.

The minister was speaking during a debate on public service broadcasting.

He said the changing media environment had implications for public service broadcasting and commercial operators.

“In a competitive and converged media market place, the availability of public service broadcasting on various platforms has implications for other media," he said.

“This means the structure and mandate of public service broadcasting needs to be continually monitored to ensure they meet objectives but do not constrain other commercial broadcasters."

Mr White said the Government was committed to providing funding for public service broadcasting.

He said it was also worth considering whether the obligation remains for commercial radio to provide 20% of news and current affairs was necessary or desirable.

He said the question of further distributing public funds to independent commercial broadcasters beyond supports that already exist would constitute a major change to broadcasting policy.

The net effect would be to reduce the amount of funding to community and public broadcasters, he said.

While television and radio advertising was showing small growth, Mr White said the revenue for media would never reach the levels of the past and the media landscape had changed.

The minister said that with the rapidly changing environment the core public purpose of RTE and TG4 is as important and relevant as ever.

Fianna Fáil Senator Pascal Mooney questioned An Post's record in collecting the licence fee. He said he was not suggesting that business should be taken away from An Post, but he pointed out that there was an evasion rate of 20% or €30m a year.

He said in England the same evasion rate was 5%.

Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy said that RTE had recently confirmed, though not by name, that two presenters were paid between €400,000 and €500,000 a year; two more were earning between €200,000 and €300,000 a year; seven contractors were earning between €150,000 and €200,000, while five staff were earning between €200,000 and €300,000.

He said it was wrong to withhold who is getting tax payers' money.

Senator Mulcahy said we no longer live in a world that can be state subsidised, and he added that he was not in favour of any new charge.