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TV fees: Is Germany getting its money worth?
Photo: DPA

TV fees: Is Germany getting its money worth?

Published: 18 Feb 2013 14:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Feb 2013 14:40 GMT+01:00

Polling group YouGov asked Germany what it thought about the telly on offer, and 51 percent said that they “absolutely did not agree” that the selection of programmes was worth the price tag. Just seven percent said that they “absolutely agreed.”

In fact, two thirds of those asked said that they felt ARD and ZDF state broadcasters had plenty of room for improvement.

German public television is known for its staid shows without evening advert breaks, but foreign sitcoms are often shown on private channels with lots of commercials.

For decades, many people dodged paying the obligatory GEZ TV fees for public broadcasting. Yet at the beginning of 2013, German law changed meaning every single household had to pay for a licence, regardless of whether or not it has a television or radio. The price has remained the same from before the switch, prompting 78 percent of those YouGov asked to say they thought it was too high.

Should Germany lower its fees in order to appease unhappy viewers, admitting defeat to increasingly popular foreign sitcoms?

Or should Germany's public broadcasters think about changing what they air, perhaps using money from the TV license payments to make more engaging television? Have your say.

Registered users of The Local may add their comments in the field below. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here – it’s free and only takes a moment.

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Your comments about this article

15:05 February 18, 2013 by mobaisch
I still don't get and probably never will. If such huge amount is being paid, why the hell there are so so soooooo many Advertisements!!!!!
15:37 February 18, 2013 by pepsionice
Here's the flexing of the muscles. For decades....people just plain whined about this. Well....if you go and ask any 15-to-25 year old....almost none of them utilize the state-TV apparatus, and they are all being forced toward the monthly fee as they move out of the house. These younger viewers are gravitating toward the internet and other options.

It is only a matter of time before these young voters go in and press on the political folks. State-run TV needs to figure some plan B for the period ahead, with half the choices they currently offer, and radically cut on the monthly fee. That's the only way they survive. By 2030, I'm predicting that the vast majority of Germans want the fee tossed entirely.
15:58 February 18, 2013 by The-ex-pat
15:05 February 18, 2013 by mobaisch

I still don't get and probably never will. If such huge amount is being paid, why the hell there are so so soooooo many Advertisements!!!!!

The licence fee is for ZDF and ARD both of which are advert free. The rest have adverts because they have to pay their own way.
16:19 February 18, 2013 by darwiniandemon
The programming from both stations are just horrendous. I don't know any Germans, young and old, that even watch these channels, except for when the national team is playing, Wetten dass?, or some cheesy holiday specials.

At least on SRF1/2 and ORF1/2 in Switzerland and Austria respectively, the programming is decent. SRF2 even has the option to pick between German and English audio channels.

@The-ex-pat

ZDF and ARD do have advertisements. It only truly ad-free after 8 PM. They are allowed up to 20 min of ads during the day. It even says on their website.
16:36 February 18, 2013 by blackboot11
by mobaisch:

'I still don't get and probably never will. If such huge amount is being paid, why the hell there are so so soooooo many Advertisements!!!!!'

this is exactly the first reason why I don't even have a TV here in Germany.

The second reason is most German TV programs are HORRIBLE and so 1990's in style... Yes its time to up your game if you want more money people!

where does all this money go...certainly not into 'new product development'
17:20 February 18, 2013 by whiteriver
UK's BBC is also state funded but has a great choice of programming. As for the German TV, it's total crap. Certainly the tax isn't working. Perhaps a politician may suggest to increase it, so Germany can improve its TV shows quality. But most likely it should just go away.
17:29 February 18, 2013 by twisted
I think it is very much an age thing. My wife and I spend a lot of time on ZDF and ARD, followed by ARTE, Phoenix and NDR. We are both retired and enjoy criminal mysteries series, nature programs and the like which are can understand are not attractions for young people. The commercials on the other stations drive us crazy and so we generally stay away from them, plus the programming is not to our taste. All of this, of course, is personal opinion.

One real shortcoming of German TV is the last of original sound tracks or under titles, Has anyone ever notices how much better citizens of Denmark and the Netherlands speak English, French (and German) and much of that goes to their broadcasting programs in the original languages. I think there is something to be learned from those two countries and their TV industry.
17:47 February 18, 2013 by Keith Harris
I guess that this is a common issue nowadays. We pay slightly less than £100 per month for multi-channel TV from Sky, together with broadband and free telephone calls to many countries. We also pay the annual licence fee to the state broadcaster BBC. However, it is sometimes easy to scroll through the electronic programme guide and decide that there is nothing interesting to view. Before we had access to multi-channel TV here in the UK I remember reading comments made by TV viewers in North America suggesting that although they had access to 100+ channels there was nothing but rubbish to watch. Is that really the fault of the broadcasters or is it in part due to a lack of imagination of the viewers? To a certain extent a modern electronic programme guide is like a library: You need to select something that you will find interesting, otherwise you will be disappointed. You need to expand your interest in other activities, and just watch, either live or recorded, programmes that appeal to you. The TV viewing environment will continue to evolve in the future as viewers will simply download programmes that interest them via broadband, then maybe the number of broadcast channels will decrease. The growing popularity of low cost HD tablet devices and smartphones here in the UK, together with increased access to free wi-fi Internet is helping to change viewing habits. In the near future viewers will be able to select what they want to watch at any time that is convenient to them.
18:14 February 18, 2013 by rosenthalenglish
Seing as we are all paying and are family have no TV,why do these stations not stream ALL their content online.I wrote complaining and got the stat letter from the state broadcaster telling me what a great job they did and I should be grateful to pay my money for such a great service.I reckon the best thing to do is scrap the fee completely and let these broadcasters sink or swim with the competition.
18:44 February 18, 2013 by LiberalGuy
German TV is one of mankind's cruelest jokes. From the prime time show of a B-grade singer singing folk songs in the alps, to the genius who thinks playing the theme from Halloween as a cat walks down the stairs is a good choice. All of it is garbage.

I especially like how at anytime of day, you could turn on the TV and find at least 1 show from a zoo, or a rerun of the Nanny.

When is Netflix coming to Germany?
20:02 February 18, 2013 by jillesvangurp
Do like my home country Holland did: end tv license fees and fold it into the general tax system. Then basically decide the budgets for state subsidized television as part of the overal budget based on a sensible vision for quality/quantity.

This has two advantages:

1) it puts an end to the silly bureaucracy for the separate tax on TV and the endless debates on whether that's fair for people not even owning a TV. If everyone needs to pay it, it's tax. So, stop making things more complicated then needed. I happen to believe governments have a job to subsidize/stimulate cultural activities, including those on TV. Those subsidies come out of the overall tax budget and are subject to the same scrutiny as other expenses.

2) it opens things up to have sensible political decision making about the scope of public television. For example in Holland, it didn't make a lot of sense to a lot of people that state funded television was competing with commercial television in a rather unfair way (e.g. running game shows, bidding for football broadcasting rights). Also, it opened the discussion about why quite a few people were getting fat salaries well exceeding that of the prime minister out of tax money. Bureaucracies have a tendency to be self serving.

As for German public television, I don't watch TV at all but I understand it is popular with lots of Germans. Personally, I think it is mostly redundant and the government could instead work with commercial broadcasters on subsidizing specific programming that actually needs it.
20:03 February 18, 2013 by Bigfoot76
"the genius who thinks playing the theme from Halloween as a cat walks down the stairs" I love that guy! And the Cat is the next "The Hoff".
20:35 February 18, 2013 by Dizz
It would be nice if someone knowledgeable could explain the legal basis for this. Its effectively a poll tax, how are taxes imposed here? Does they need to passed in parliment, can they be imposed by edict? By what authorities? I accept that if every tax were up to the voting public there wouldn't be any but I'm curious how both sides of the argument get heard. Incidentally, presume this payment is tax-deductible at least??

Also does anyone know how many households there are in Germany and how much money they will actually get per month?
21:22 February 18, 2013 by Kennneth Ingle
German public television is certainly not worth the money we are forced to pay for its programmes, whether we use them or not. For some years now, there has been a definite change from quality to quantity and apart from this, the attempt to force certain political points of view onto those watching, is something no real democracy should put up with.

With enough international and private alternatives available, the national television would do well to concentrate on providing news and information, without further elucidation or manipulation, so that members of the general public can form their own opinion.

The statement by ex-chancellor Schmidt, in which he says, ( news is not enough, an expert is needed to explain it), is an insult to all who are intelligent enough to think for themselves.
22:42 February 18, 2013 by Berlin fuer alles
So the new TV license covers all media devices. Great that we all have to pay to watch GEMA block what we would like to watch. Brilliant system in Stasi-land.
23:11 February 18, 2013 by Steve1949
Personally paying a TV tax these days are rediculous. Most people these days are already paying for a cable or satellite package and are bascially being forced to pay twice to watch tv. This is a tax that should have been droped many years ago because the original purpose of this tax is no longer revelant, Germany for one though is a country that once a tax is law it's almost never gotten rid of again. British Sky TV is another overpriced rip off that really doesn't offer good programming either unless of course you compare it to some of the other local stations. The film channels offered by Sky still show films that have been out for months. German Sky is the same. The only real benefit of these packages are maybe the sports channels.The rest is all junk.
08:32 February 19, 2013 by lordkorner
in ten words or more or less NO NO NO
10:00 February 19, 2013 by belladons
Taxing taxpayers who watch TV is as Socialist as you can get as a state. Wow, you have got to be kidding me? Ok, got it. In this current and shameful world economy, where¦#39;s all the tax money at? Where¦#39;s it going? I know live in the U.S. and feel the same as many German citizens do. I had Time Warner cable TV, but dropped them for satellite TV because I paid a lot of money for reruns and tv advertisements. And yes, TV is state ran TV.
12:18 February 19, 2013 by gkh50
as a good little Auslander. asked for a MwsT invoice for 2012 and Microfirma invoice for 2013..... still waiting.. no rush old bean. I have your receipt confirmation email that I have asked too... hee haa.. And yes. GEMA are well. Dont start me.

And do not even have a TV so can not get the channels the Stasi taxi is for..
15:49 February 19, 2013 by adam.müller
waiting in line is more fun than watching German TV.
18:35 February 19, 2013 by sinanjua
The joke of the matter is that the TV stations charge great fees for advertisement, and we pay to see the advertisements. The stations should be advertisement free, as almost all of the programs are talk or game shows. For the money collected per household, the TV programming is lousy. Maybe a new station should be established using the funds.
06:38 February 20, 2013 by MattyB
18:44 February 18, 2013 by LiberalGuy

Sign up for a VPN service, get a U.S. IP address, and you can watch Netflix, Blockbuster, or AmazonPrime. The VPN is only around $10 a month and you probably already know those tv/movie services mentioned are dirt cheap.

As an added bonus, you can also watch stuff on the big 4 (NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox), and you can watch stuff on youtube.
13:53 February 20, 2013 by kingtutt
My wife brought this up today. I wasn't aware that we pay more in TV taxes than my self imposed entertainment budget! VPN + Netflix = 15 USD a month.... and no ads. I really hate this tax.
14:45 February 20, 2013 by chetpatil
Worst part is, I registered last year as I only had a laptop at home and now I am paying €17.89 for nothing.

This is really a loot....

I hate this TV tax. I am not interested to see and listen to this crap radio and Tv.
14:56 February 20, 2013 by Froggels
So what would happen if *everyone just stopped paying or didn't register? How would they be able to enforce such a thing? I'm all for a mass boycott of this madness.

*meaning a very significant % of the population.
09:47 February 21, 2013 by mobaisch
thanks to the 2 persons who answered my question!
09:30 February 22, 2013 by gkh50
Do not start me on this. I have no TV, a laptop for my company.. it is just another Stadt tax. A radio in my car and that is it..... now they ramm this tax down your throat. What will most Germans do.... the same as always fall in line like good little chipmunks and do what they are told to do.. as its the rules.. Tried the microfirma route but then that would be extra for car radio!!! extra on top of paying for a flat with no radio or TV

I would like to say what I think but the sensors will not allow it.
16:17 February 22, 2013 by rmsbl4
Has anybody got addresses where complaints can be sent??? I can't even get german tv if i wanted to watch it.

It is surprising they aren't taxing the air we breathe or is that next on the agenda.

I would like to send them something that they can take their licensing fee and shove it where the sun doesn't shine.
21:34 February 22, 2013 by Steve1949
@ Froggels.........The way I understand this system is under the new law everyone is taxed. It makes no difference if you have a TV, Radio, Computer or whatever. There is no registration anymore. You pay on a per household basis and since Germany requires everyone living in the country to register where they are living it is easy to find out who to send the bill to.
23:02 February 22, 2013 by onemark
It is fundamentally and inherently unfair to be forced to pay pay for a service you do not receive simply for the sake of bureacratic simplicity.
14:30 February 23, 2013 by bellsucks
Suckers is what you Germans are. How did you get sucked into that.
19:45 October 25, 2013 by auslander2011
When will people get off there fat butt and say enough is enough about paying for trash TV? If all you people speak up, they have to change this fee mess.
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