Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has indicated he will look into asking the Revenue Commissioners to help prevent people evading payment of their television licence.

He said the proposed Broadcasting Charge should not be shelved completely but tackling "large-scale" TV licence evasion is a short-term way of bringing more money into the broadcast sector. 

He said he does not think there is anywhere else in Europe where there is the same level of evasion as in Ireland.

"It is three times higher than those experienced in the UK and in Germany. It is estimated that it could be anywhere up to €40m per annum."

Opening the debate on broadcasting, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said: "Very early into your ministership you ruled out the introduction of a broadcasting charge.

"That is a policy decision you have taken but it doesn't get away from the fact that the sector, both commercial and public, has funding issues.

"The independent sector will say they have a public service dimension such as news and sports coverage".

He said that they would have hoped to benefit from a broadcasting charge.

Mr Dooley pointed to Broadcasting Authority of Ireland reports that RTÉ would need additional funding into the future.

He said there are funding shortfalls in the public and private sectors to be addressed.

Mr Dooley also asked if there is a role for the Revenue Commissioner in tackling this evasion and Minister Naughten replied that there may very well be.

He also said he had met with An Post last week and expressed his concern over the level of evasion and the company is coming forward with an initiative on that within the next couple of months.

"I want to see progress on this in the short-term. In tandem with that we are looking at the existing database.

"We have had an independent consultant come in and look at the existing database in the context of the local property tax register, the electricity meter register and look to see are there other ways of identifying people who may be evading the TV licence."

"There is also issues in relation to content charges that we are exploring as well."

The minister also said the channel Irish TV is expected to be broadcast on Saorview "within the next few months."

Competition and lower funding 'exceptionally challenging' for TG4

Mr Naughten said: "TG4's funding was reduced by €500m in 2015, this reduction, combined with an increased pressure on commercial income due to competition in the broadcasting market, made things exceptionally challenging and impacted TG4's ability to deliver on its commitments for last year.

He said TG4 was unable to increase its hours of new, original Irish language content in 2015 as planned.

An additional €300,000 in the current funding has been provided in 2016 to assist TG4 in meeting its obligations and to allow it to compete by producing more home produced content to help distinguish itself from international channels.

The monies paid to TG4 are key to ensuring the continued access to a comprehensive range of programming in the Irish language, he said.

TG4 will continue to maintain cost efficiency, control its overheads and costs to maintain a lean and cost effective structure, he added.

He complimented some of the innovative programming TG4 has done in sport, history and for younger people. 

Call for RTÉ to move to Dublin city centre

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has suggested that RTÉ should move to Moore Street in Dublin city centre as an alternative to its current base in Donnybrook.

Mr Ryan asked: "Would the minister consider bringing his NewEra team to look at RTÉ's options in terms of alternative sites" for the broadcaster?

"Could we look at Moore Street for example, that big development area in the centre of town? Put RTÉ back to where it started, near to Henry Street, the centre of the foundation of the State."

"And we could launch thousands of new eircode addresses for homes in the 35 acres in Donnybrook, half of which at the moment is rolling meadow or car park, which is a ridiculous use of space so close to the centre of town."

Mr Naughten joked in reply: "In relation to RTÉ, maybe we could even bring it back to its home in Athlone where it was originally broadcast from. I would be quite positively disposed to that.The old Marconi transmitter is still there in Athlone. We are hoping to make a museum and a visitor attraction out of it."

He added: "No, the objective at the moment is to consolidate the Montrose site. We are looking at disposing [of] maybe part of that site and reinvesting capital.

"At the moment the focus is on the Montrose site and seeing how best we can utilise that site and leverage that site in the interest of the company.

"But in the longer time I am quite happy to bring it to Athlone."