German pubcasters face budget shortfall

Local tax not raising enough for ARD, ZDF, public radio

COLOGNE, Germany -- European public broadcasters have largely shrugged off the impact of the global economic downturn, buoyed as they are by TV taxes that exist independent of advertising woes.

But the crisis is finally beginning to bite, even in Germany, home to the world's richest public broadcasters.

A report by the GEZ, the association that collects the TV tax in Germany, shows that public channels ARD and ZDF as well as Germany's public radio networks can expect a budget shortfall of about €400 million ($525 million) during the next four years.

The reason is rising unemployment in Germany. The unemployed are exempt from paying their $23.60 monthly TV tax.

ARD has said it expects a budget gap of "at least" €200 million ($263 million). ZDF will have to manage with at least $130 million less.

The total budget of ARD's nine regional networks is about $8.3 billion. ZDF's annual budget is about $2.1 billion.

German public channels also have been hit by the advertising downturn, with double-digit drops in ad revenue. But advertising accounts for only a small fraction of the budgets of ARD and ZDF, so the impact is relatively slight.
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