Last updated: February 18, 2013
On January 1, 2013 a new TV licence fee system was introduced in Germany. Every household is now being asked to pay a flat fee of €17.98 per month. Unlike the previous system which only applied to TV owners, the new system demands that that all households pay regardless of whether they own a television or not.
The charge is once per household and does not vary depending on how many people live there. A single-person household pays the same as a six-person shared apartment, for example. There are reductions for deaf and blind people, and exceptions for those receiving social security payments. There are no exceptions for non-German speakers or anyone who doesn't watch TV.
The German name for the new fee is the "Rundfunkbeitrag". The organisation formerly known as the "GEZ" has been renamed and reorganised. In 2011 there were 40,439,000 households in Germany, with the number increasing every year. The total annual revenue from the new fees is approximately €7.5 billion.
The new system has caused much controversy. The reason for this is that universal availability of cheap, high-speed internet has made publicly-funded TV and radio unnecessary. Everyone in Germany now has easy access, via their computer and mobile phones, to unlimited amounts of independent news and information. Increasing numbers of people don't even own a television, particularly the younger generations. The problem is that the public broadcasters are huge organisations that employ many people and exert a huge amount of political power. Thus reducing or cutting off their source of funding is a very difficult thing to do.