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New Swedish culture minister red-faced over unpaid TV licence

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday October 11, 2006

Stockholm- Sweden's newly named culture minister was embroiled in an embarrassing row Wednesday after admitting she had not paid her television licence fee for 16 years. Cecilia Stego Chilo, recruited from a conservative think tank, initially said the reason was that she had lived abroad for several years. But Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter disclosed she had since 1990 not paid the fee that funds public service television and radio, suggesting it was a deliberate move.

The disclosure was all the more embarrassing for Stego Chilo as she for some years worked as a political commentator for Swedish radio, and her ministry is in charge of public service television and radio.

Less than a week ago, her husband filed an application that the family had a television set, Dagens Nyheter said.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told reporters and parliament Wednesday that the licence fee mistake would "be rectified" and he was willing to give her a second chance.

Reinfeldt named Stego Chilo as minister last week when his four- party centre-right government took office. The cabinet is dominated by members of his conservative Moderate Party, including Stego Chilo.

Lars Lindberg, head of Radiotjanst, the agency in charge of collecting licence fees, told Swedish radio that Stego Chilo has now asked to pay her licence fees retroactively for the past 16 years.

Opposition leader Goran Persson of the Social Democrats jumped on the culture minister's negligence during Wednesday's parliamentary debate saying it was "a glaring example of a minister placing herself above the law."

The row is hard on the heels of a similar scandal involving Reinfeldt's Trade Minister Maria Borelius.

Former television reporter Borelius admitted to failing to pay employer fees to nannies she hired during the 1990s to care for her four children, although she and her husband were very well off.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency