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Critics call for end to GEZ television licence fees

DPA/The Local · 8 Jun 2010, 11:23

Published: 08 Jun 2010 11:23 GMT+02:00

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Experts suggest that the fees, required of everyone who owns a television or radio, be reformed to a per-household sum instead of the current system, which charges per radio and television. The topic is expected to be addressed at the meeting of state premiers, several of whom have already expressed an interest in making changes.

Private broadcasters have long alleged that the GEZ gives the public stations – who collected €7.26 billion in fees in 2008 – an unfair advantage.

“The question is whether the GEZ is still really necessary as an institution,” said the head of independent advisory board the Monopolies Commission, Justus Haucap. “If another form of levying fees comes, then we don’t need this huge machine the GEZ any longer.”

The Cologne-based GEZ stands for the mouthful Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or “Fee-collection Centre of Public Broadcasting Institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany.”

The organisation requires a licence of some 42.5 million owners of televisions, radios and, for the past few years, even computers and mobile phones that access the internet. The fee money funds public broadcasters such as ARD and ZDF, and is often collected by plainclothes officials who go door-to-door busting fee-shirkers.

It’s a difficult task for the organisation’s 1,100 employees, and consumers frequently bring cases against the GEZ to court.

Constitutional lawyer Paul Kirchhof called the household checks “Inquisition-like,” and has recommended that state premiers institute a flat household fee.

“Or the fee can be taken out of taxes,” said Haucap of the Monopolies Commission, who has also written a book on the “flood” of German bureaucracy. “The collections could be left up to the tax offices. I advocate cutting the GEZ.“

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Meanwhile Jürgen Doetz, president of the VPRT, an alliance of private radio stations, also said the GEZ should be trimmed down significantly.

“With that, the job of GEZ sheriff would die out,” he said. “They would become superfluous, the spying would end, and that would be a big benefit.”

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:17 June 8, 2010 by dcgi
I think the word you were searching for was "draconian".
12:46 June 8, 2010 by jonathanmarks
You don't need a GEZ if you take it out of public taxation. Why does media need a separate tax? Holland has had it for years.

When I watch TV on an IPAD or a mobile phone, do I need a TV licence in Germany? er....why spend money solving the unsolvable.

The GEZ is entering a new phase in its development - history.
13:06 June 8, 2010 by Bushdiver
The TV Tax, Dog Tax, and Solidarity taxes should all be done away with. Most people are allready paying either cable or satellite subscription as it is. It's a dumb tax but that's the way many things are in Germany. Do you think they will do away with it? I doubt it.
13:27 June 8, 2010 by luckycusp

You may need to dig-up some history on why these GEZ taxes are needed. The basic motivation is to keep the news media/radio news independant of Government funding, so that the Government does not influence the people with their propaganda etc.
14:10 June 8, 2010 by vitor
The original idea of the GEZ makes sense, but right now the government and the german TVs are standing in the way of the only really free and meaningful media: the Internet. It's so hard for companies like Netflix or Pandora to come to Germany because of copyright laws that the germans are cut out from innovation. I agree the GEZ should be abolished and the TV should get less benefits, with the internet and interactive media getting more attention or at least given the room they need to grow. If I am going to pay taxes to support media and news organizations, I want them to be up-to-date with the newest technologies, and not struggling to keep an outdated model alive.
14:13 June 8, 2010 by darwiniandemon
I wouldn't mind if they actually had quality programming but they simply don't have anything good. What I don't get is that they manage to collect over €7 billion in fees and yet they still run advertisements in their programming. Double dipping if you ask me.

Look at Austria's ORF. Fantastic programming schedule and no commercial breaks during programs. I would happily pay the GEZ if they broadcast something similar to ORF.
14:33 June 8, 2010 by Clapoti
They run adverts and they have 1100 employees. If it was taken out of the income taxes for example, they could cut their fees a bit by not having so many employees and they would have no need to advertise.
16:04 June 8, 2010 by Bushdiver
Those of you so willing to pay TV taxes must be German. I for one don't see any point to it. ARD, ZDF and HR-3 can survive the way other private stations do.

@ luckycusp

The basic motivation is to keep the news media/radio news independant of Government funding, so that the Government does not influence the people with their propaganda etc.

There you have it. Since the taxes derrived from the GEZ aren't being used to subsidize these channels then what is it be used for?
05:08 June 9, 2010 by 1FCK_1FCK
" I for one don't see any point to it. ARD, ZDF and HR-3 can survive the way other private stations do."

I hope part of the point is to insulate these channels from being purely profit-oriented. Otherwise you're going to have a dozen (or however many you have) channels with nothing but Big Brother reality shows & Britain's Got Talent-like garbage on all the time because these types of shows are cheap to produce & so are big income generators.

Long-form news/documentary shows & hour-long dramas are rare on commercial TV because they don't pull in huge amounts of money. If you like or value these types of shows you might want to think twice. You may not like all the programming on the public channels but it could be so, so much worse.
20:23 June 9, 2010 by LouR
I beleive this tax is a joke! I'm quite sure that if you audit GEZ, you will find out that most of the money collected, is no going for that purpose. It is ridiculous topay for each and every set that you own. It should be per household;not per set. I also believe that is the public channels need our money to stay "afloat", then they should hold a yearly "telethon" and have viewers pledge donations. that's my 2 cents worth!
10:12 June 11, 2010 by hOU
Yes, this tax is a joke, but so is German TV & Radio.
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