New license fee structure for German pubwebs

Monthly household tax replaces current license fee

BERLIN – Germany has restructured its license fee system for financing public broadcasting, with a monthly household tax replacing the current license fee levied on individual television and radio sets.

The new system will go into effect in 2013 and will require every German household to pay a €17.98 ($21.60) monthly tax to bankroll public radio and television. Low-income families will not have to pay.

By levying the tax per household and not electronic device, Germany's pubwebs get around the tricky issue of the Internet. Currently, people who watch German public channels ARD or ZDF online or listen to public radio on their PCs, do not have to pay the license fee. Public broadcasters here had suggested taxing all Internet-ready computers sold in Germany as a way of closing that gap, but that proved unpopular with retailers and computer manufacturers.

The new structure will likely mean the end of the dreaded GEZ, the policing body that goes door to door checking if homeowners with TVs and radios have paid their license fee.

It is not clear what impact the new system will have on pubwebs' overall budget, currently around $10 billion annually. A government calculation suggests a slight drop, by around 0.2%, under the new rules.
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