Ministers not alone in licence fee dodge

Since the new government took over less than two weeks ago television licences have been all over the news. The licencing authority, Radiotjänst, decided last week to report three non-paying ministers to the police.

Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s first choice culture minister, Cecilia Stegö Chilò, resigned yesterday, having failed to pay her licence fee for the last 16 years. Despite an apology and Chilò’s decision to pay the long-outstanding fee with interest, Radiotjänst elected to report her to the police.

Maria Borelius resigned as trade minister on Saturday, primarily for reasons unrelated to the licence fee. She had not renewed her licence since returning to Sweden from the UK in early September.

And now the pressure is mounting for migration minister Tobias Billström, who has admitted to not paying his television licence feefor 10 years for ideological reasons.

In the midst of all the revelations it also emerged that a host of other high-profile figures, such as for example Expressen’s managing editor Otto Sjöberg, had not paid their licence fees either.

Radiotjänst has not reported any of these to the police.

The Local talked to Radiotjänst’s CEO, Lars Lindberg, and asked why he decided to report the three politicians to the police:

“Because to not pay the licence fee is against the law,” he replied.

But Maria Borelius had only been back in the country a few weeks. Was it necessary to report her?

“The reason we chose her too is that we want to test three different periods: 16 years, 10 years, and 2 months. We need the court decision to know if there is any difference between them.”

Why was the decision made to report the three politicians and not all the other people who have found not to have paid?

“We are waiting for a result from the courts before deciding whether to report the others. There is no difference between the politicians and anyone else but we need these decisions first.”

So the issue of non-payment of the licence fee has not been tried in a court before?

“Yes, that’s right.”

Kent Asp from the Gothenburg School of Journalism told The Local that Radiotjänst has already reported 40 members of the public to the police this year for non-payment of the licence fee. He is surprised to learn that the issue has never been tried in the courts before.