New culture minister skipped TV licence fee

Sweden's new culture minister, Cecilia Stegö Chilò, has neglected to pay her television licence fee for the last 16 years, it has emerged. This means that she has withheld at least 15,000 kronor from public service broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).

As culture minister she is responsible for the entire public service broadcasting sector, which includes SVT. Just five days before she became a member of the new cabinet Stegö Chilò’s husband registered television ownership for the first time.

Stegö Chilò has announced via her press secretary that she regrets not paying. She blamed this on the fact that she has moved in and out of the country. However, she did not leave Sweden for Germany until 1995 and, according to Dagens Nyheter, did not pay her licence fee either before the move or since returning in 1997.

Kenneth Sundin, chairman of the journalists’ union at SVT, told Dagens Nyheter that he thinks the minister should resign.

“I find it difficult to understand how the culture minister can basically ignore a law that is accepted by almost 100 per cent of all Swedes.”

“Her actions stand in stark contrast to everything public service stands for. And she has lost her credibility when it comes to being responsible for public service”, said Sundin.

When approached this morning, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt did not wish to comment on the revelations.

Lars Lindberg, CEO of Radiotjänst, the agency responsible for collecting licence fees, is critical of Stegö Chilò.

“I think this is bad. It seems strange that the person ultimately responsible has circumvented the system. It is this licence that keeps public service going. Parliament has decided for democratic reasons that public service should be financed via licences to avoid it ending up in the budget”, Linberg told Dagens Nyheter.

It is against the law for television owners not to pay the licence fee. Those who do not pay may be reported to the police and can face fines. Anyone who admits to non-payment may however come to an agreement with Radiotjänst and pay retroactively.

Nine out of ten Swedish households pay their television licence fee, which currently amounts to 1,968 kronor.