Debate on radio license fees: what the proposed fee reform means for viewers

debate on radio license fees: what the proposed fee reform means for viewers

The broadcasting contribution reliably generates political discussion. So far, all 16 german states have to agree on how much their households will pay for ARD and ZDF. One reform model now proposes linking the fee to the rate of inflation. Frankfurt a.M. . The discussion about the future of ARD and ZDF continues: the media politicians of the federal states will discuss a possible reform of broadcasting fees next week. In the future, the levy could be based on the general price increase. This is a proposal that baden-wurttemberg, bavaria, hamburg, saxony, schleswig-holstein and thuringia have worked out. The six states also call for a redesigned mission for public broadcasting.

Broadcasting contribution: fee to be linked to inflation rate

The paper submitted by the six states also emphasizes that ARD and ZDF should focus on information, culture and education. The broadcasting commission of the states will discuss possible reforms at its meeting in berlin on wednesday, and the proposals could also be discussed at the conference of ministers-presidents on thursday.
If the broadcasting fee were indexed, it would automatically rise in line with the respective inflation rates. The states would then no longer have to decide the future level of the contribution every four years, as they had done previously. The process has been "depoliticized, as the proposal states.

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The levy currently stands at 17.50 euros per month and household. The proposed model is based on a contribution level of 17.20 euros, increased by the inflation rate for 2019 and 2020. On this basis, the contribution was then adjusted every two years by the inflation of the previous two years.

Reform: more freedom for broadcasters

In the future, the six states want the broadcasters to be able to decide for themselves which programs they offer and on which playout channels. The necessary mandate from the federal states was thus eliminated. In the future, only the first and third channels, ZDF, arte and a full program with a cultural focus organized with european partners (currently 3sat) should have a fixed mandate.

However, the number of linear radio and television programs is to be limited to the current level. In addition, broadcasters should be free to decide whether to abandon programs or replace them with new ones, according to the proposal. Until now, all 16 states have had to agree if ARD and ZDF are to launch new programs, such as the recent youth program funk. Critics consider the procedure too inflexible.

Flexibility: "we need to rethink"

Radio and television are no longer the only means of dissemination, schleswig-holstein's minister president daniel gunther (CDU) told the "neue osnabrucker zeitung (friday) on the plans. "That's why we need to rethink: we need a more flexible mandate based on content, away from looking at distribution channels.", so gunther.

The reforms were designed to make the institutions more independent of the state, the working group stresses. Because the broadcasters themselves would be given greater freedom in budgeting, the broadcasting and administrative councils would be given greater responsibility in controlling spending. The independent financial commission KEF, which until now has determined the financial needs of the broadcasters and made recommendations for the level of the contribution, was given a new role: it was to monitor more closely whether the broadcasters were managing their budgets economically.

Debate on the future of public broadcasting in europe

The working group that drafted the reform proposals includes members of the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the left party. It was established at the end of january on the initiative of schleswig-holstein, bavaria and baden-wurttemberg. Later saxony, thuringia and hamburg joined in.

How public broadcasting is to be financed in the future is currently being debated in many european countries. Denmark and sweden want to abolish the broadcasting fee and finance broadcasters through taxes in the future.

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