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German Finance Minister calls for cap on TV tax after Queen’s funeral coverage

Germany's Finance Minister Christian Lindner is calling for a freeze on broadcasting fees as well as savings, citing the example of coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's funeral for where savings could have been made.

A remittance slip for German broadcasting fees
A remittance slip for German broadcasting fees. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Every household in Germany has to pay the broadcasting contribution fee – called the Rundfunkbeitrag – regardless of whether there is a radio, television, or computer in the home or not. 

Lindner said he saw large savings potentials among the state broadcasters, referring to the coverage in Germany of the Queen’s funeral on Monday. 

“The fact that (German broadcasters) ARD, ZDF and Phoenix are broadcasting live and in parallel from the Queen’s funeral from London, and are each in London with their own staff, vividly demonstrates that there is considerable potential for savings,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

READ ALSO: Do I have to pay Germany’s Rundfunkbeitrag?

He also called for a freeze on future fee hikes.

As The Local reported, the tax went up in 2021 from €17.50 to the current €18.36. It can be paid by direct debit or by quarterly invoice and is the main source of income for public broadcasters in Germany. 

“Suspending fee increases relieves the burden on people at a time of rapidly rising prices,” said Lindner. 

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Lindner also said it would serve as an incentive for broadcasters to become leaner and focus on their core mission. He added: “I’m sure that cooperation can save large sums of money without having a negative impact on programming.”

A spokeswoman for NDR, the broadcaster responsible for ARD’s reporting, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that the staff costs were comparatively low, but did not give details.

In total, ARD and ZDF sent just under 50 employees to London, including presenters, experts and production staff, the statement said. ZDF said it has been alternating other royal events with ARD by arrangement for several years, but the death of Elizabeth II was an exception. In future, broadcasters will return to the old practice. 

At the weekend, Lindner called on top staff at public broadcasters to cap their salaries, telling Bild am Sonntag that “no director should earn more than the chancellor”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pay Germany’s TV tax, or (legally) avoid it

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CITIZENSHIP

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

Politicians will gather in the Bundestag on Thursday afternoon for an urgent question-and-answer session on Germany's planned changes to citizenship law.

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

According to information on the Bundestag website, the urgent discussion was scheduled on the request of the opposition CDU party, who have been fiercely critical of the planned reforms in recent days.

The debate, which is scheduled to start at 2:50pm and last an hour, will see Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) appear and take questions from MPs on the government’s planned changes to citizenship law.

Faeser is currently in the process of drafting a bill that will simplify and speed up the naturalisation process in Germany, which she said this week is “as good as done”.  

The law will end a ban on dual nationality for non-EU citizens, meaning people from places like India, the USA and the UK can naturalise as Germans without losing their current citizenship – or citizenships. 

It also foresees a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it takes to become eligible for German citizenship.

In future, people would be able to naturalise after five years of residence in the country rather than the current eight, while people who speak good German or fulfil other integration criteria could naturalise after three years rather than six.

Additionally, the Interior Ministry wants to grant automatic German citizenship to the children of foreign parents – provided their parents have been in the country at least five years – and remove language requirements for members of the guest-worker generation who want to become German. 

READ ALSO:

‘We don’t need reform’

High-profile politicians from the CDU have slammed the government’s plans to ease citizenship rules, with parliamentary leader Thorsten Frei describing the move as an attempt to “sell-off” German passports as a “junk commodity”.

“We don’t need reform,” Frei told public broadcaster ZDF. “There would no majority whatsoever in any party’s supporters for this change.”

Earlier this week, CDU leader Friedrich Merz had argued that expediting the naturalisation process would damage integration and allow people to immigrate into the benefits system more easily. 

“The CDU will not close its mind to a further modernisation of immigration law and the citizenship law of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merz told a meeting of CDU and CSU MPs in Berlin on Tuesday.

“However, we also attach importance to the fact that the granting of citizenship takes place at the end of an integration process and not at the beginning of it.” 

The CDU and CSU have previously been vocal opponents of permitting dual nationality, arguing that holding more than one citizenship would prevent people from fully integrating into German life. 

Nevertheless, it remains unclear if the opposition will be able to block the legislation in any meaningful way.

If there aren’t any substantial changes to the core of the citizenship bill when the amendments are made, the Interior Ministry believes it won’t need to be put to a vote in the Bundesrat – the upper house where the CDU and CSU hold a majority.

Instead, the parties of the traffic-light coalition – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) – would simply be able to vote it through in the Bundestag. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could Germany’s conservatives block dual citizenship?

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