Media Law

Political parties wrangle over controversial TV licence fee

In January 2013 a new TV licence fee model was introduced in Germany. The topic is the subject of controversy, with businesses threatening to challenge the fee in the constitutional courts. With election fever now gripping Germany, the political parties have waded into the debate.

Political parties wrangle over controversial TV licence fee © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Political parties wrangle over controversial TV licence fee © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

German TV licence fee

Under the new rules Germany’s TV licence fee is calculated per household, regardless of how many people live there or how many televisions or radios there are in the house.

In the case of businesses, the fee is calculated in accordance with the number of premises owned, employees employed and how many commercial vehicles are in use. The fee finances ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio.

FDP – TV tax

Liberal members of Germany’s Free Democratic Party advocate a TV licence fee calculated based on the individual as opposed to households.

As a result the fee would be more like a tax, with proponents foreseeing collection by tax authorities together with income tax. The fee would be collected without exception.

Supporters argue that such a method of collection is not a tax, as the funds would be directed towards financing public broadcasting, as opposed to boosting the general state budget. They argue that collecting the fee together with income tax would not contravene the principle of media independence. The matters to solve are merely practical, it is claimed.

Central administration of the fee is run by ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio. Called the “Fee Service”, it uses information to assess citizens’ obligations to pay by comparing data which it receives from local registry offices.

Personal data which is passed on includes: name, date of birth, address, previous last names and marital status.

Pirate Party – Data protection

Germany’s Pirate Party has expressed objection to the mass transfer of personal data, claiming that there is an increased risk of abuse, which could include the sale of personal data to third parties.

Depublication

Germany’s Green Party takes exception to the so-called ‘de-publication’ rules. Under these rules public broadcasters in Germany are obliged to remove their budgets from the internet seven days after publication.

The party takes the view that such an obligation is contrary to the principle of freedom of information and argues that it is unjustifiable for information about budgets to be available for such a short period of time, even though they are financed by the public.

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Rafaela Wilde is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE.

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