Critics have blasted the Israel Broadcasting Authority for what they call its increasingly aggressive efforts to collect the television license fee that is mandatory for every television owner. IBA chairman Amir Gilat acknowledged on Thursday that it is sometimes difficult to reach the IBA collection department, but added that non-payment of license fees by citizens is unacceptable.
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In 2011, alone, the IBA’s ombudsman’s office received more than 1,500 complaints from citizens about the authority’s collection practices. The IBA says Gilat has ordered the staff of the collection department to be beefed up to improve accessibility to the public. Gilat acknowledged that it is currently difficult for citizens to get through to the collection department.
At a conference on Thursday, however, Gilat also declared a policy of zero tolerance against those who chronically fail to pay their license fees. “A situation cannot be tolerated in which hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens pay their license fees while many others take the law into their own hands and evade payment. We’re dealing here with a shekel a day,” he said of the license fee.
Some of the criticism of the IBA’s collection policies relates to outside collection lawyers acting on the authority’s behalf who threaten legal action. The authority said it does not plan a major overhaul of its collection practices but would remind the firms of its collection policies and oversee the lawyers’ activities.
Currently five law firms are involved in collection of license fee scofflaws. According to an IBA document, the firms were paid NIS 63 million shekels in legal fees over three years.