TV license fees in Germany - Rundfunkbeitrag, formerly known as GEZ

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my tax euros already go on things I don't use

Yes, but those other tax-funded things are still good for society as a whole. Public broadcasting, however, isn't.

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Oh, I know, Flavia. I was just venting. But German TV is dire - I have experience from visits to my German Oma over decades.

 

It seems to me that 'the powers that be' just want people to sit down and watch TV and not do much else. And the quality and purpose of most of the programmes leave a lot to be desired. Every time I see a TV programme, it seems to be people shouting at or quarelling with each other or being in a huff or something akin to the lions versus Christians of the Roman era. Why would one want to encourage an entire nation to watch that stuff when - as you yourself know - there are so many more options? But.. if you're paying for something, you want to get your money's worth out of it. If I, for example, were to have a monthly ticket for public transport, I'd want to make sure I got my money's worth out of it and wouldn't walk anywhere any more. And I need the exercise (I sit down at work all day).

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Monika Piel earns €330,000 per year in her role as intendant of the Westdeutschen Rundfunks.

 

Her household must pay €18 in GEZ fees per month (that's 0.065% of her salary).

 

A single mother who brings home €700 net per month has to pay the same (that's 2.5% of her income).

 

Fair?

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Yes, but those other tax-funded things are still good for society as a whole. Public broadcasting, however, isn't.

 

Actually, I think public broadcasting as a concept *is* good for society. Whether individual programmes contribute anything is a different question. I'd also dispute that *all* my tax revenue goes on things that bring social good. At best, I'd say it's a statistical wash.

 

 

Oh, I know, Flavia. I was just venting. But German TV is dire - I have experience from visits to my German Oma over decades.It seems to me that 'the powers that be' just want people to sit down and watch TV and not do much else. And the quality and purpose of most of the programmes leave a lot to be desired. Every time I see a TV programme, it seems to be people shouting at or quarelling with each other or being in a huff or something akin to the lions versus Christians of the Roman era. Why would one want to encourage an entire nation to watch that stuff when - as you yourself know - there are so many more options? But.. if you're paying for something, you want to get your money's worth out of it. If I, for example, were to have a monthly ticket for public transport, I'd want to make sure I got my money's worth out of it and wouldn't walk anywhere any more. And I need the exercise (I sit down at work all day).

 

Much German TV is bad. Some is truly horrible. Some is good. I wouldn't say the ratio is notably better or worse than in other countries (I've lived in a few), and given that formats are pretty international these days, the level of depravity is also about the same. As are at least half the shows. And I really don't believe that a German documentary about migratory birds in the middle ages is automatically more boring than a Polish/Swedish/American one. Dubbing - well, lots of people don't like it, but it's partly about what you're used to.

 

Do people really watch more TV simply to get value for money out of the GEZ? Wild horses couldn't make me watch something I didn't want to, no matter how little of my 55 euros I'd 'spent' in a particular quarter. I know many parts of Germany are famous for thrift, but I find it hard to imagine a scenario where people would abandon other things they like, which have presumably also cost them something at some point (be it knitting, heavy metal, running marathons, Mills and Boon novels or studying ancient Etruscan) and watch a soap opera to get their money's worth. And if people are watching TV to an extent that prevents them developing any sort of life beyond the screen, then I really don't think the GEZ is the main reason, or the main problem.

 

(I buy monthly transport tickets only when the weather makes cycling impossible, incidentally. But I suspect an "Olympics-World Cup-Election-new series of Show X-no cooking shows ever" television subscription model would be rather more complicated to arrange!)

 

 

Monika Piel earns €330,000 per year in her role as intendant of the Westdeutschen Rundfunks.Her household must pay €18 in GEZ fees per month (that's 0.00045% of her salary).A couple with two school-age children, total household income of €1,400 net, has to pay the same (that's 2.5% of their income).Fair?

 

Of course not. I wasn't really defending the GEZ in its current or new form, merely stating that TV itself isn't evil, and that the system of paying for television isn't intrinsically wrong. Of course there are flaws. As I said, if they're going to charge everyone, I'd prefer it be via the tax system, where the inequalities aren't quite so horrible. On the other hand, while the GEZ example you gave is obviously unfair, so are so many other things about society - this one wouldn't be top of my list to tackle, to be honest. (Abolition of the GEZ won't change the massive income gaps and the growth of the low-paid sector in Germany, even if Frau Piel's salary was 100% funded that way.)

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Really superb post, Flavia! Witty, insightful, thoughtful. Are you sure Toytown is the right place for it??!! :D

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*Blushes* Why thank you, John. (And why not Toytown? Although if any major media outlets are reading, you know where to find me.)

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What I have never understood is this... If you get some British people together, they could spend an entire evening enthusing about TV programmes of the past. Every schoolchild got home at more or less the same time (no-one arrived home shortly after lunchtime, for example) and most children discussed what they watched on TV the next day. There were cult programmes (like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when I was at school). People still enthuse about Bagpuss, for example. Then there are all the cult detective series from the 70s onwards - starting with the Sweeney onwards.

 

And then take the radio. Gardeners' Question Time - been going since 1947. I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue since 1972 - huge fanbase. Just a Minute since 1967. Woman's Hour - daily during the week since 1946. Terry Wogan - hugely popular and well=-known broadcaster in his day. His breakfast radio show was the show that most people listened to in the morning - if they weren't listening to the Today Programme on Radio 4.

 

And in Germany? I've asked Germans but they just don't get it.

 

So all that I personally can conclude is that programmes are so bad here - on the radio and on the TV - that they do not induce any sort of loyalty or enthusiasm or develop and huge fan base.

 

I am a huge radio fan. Ever since I got my first battery-operated radio that I used in bed under the duvet. RAdio Cairo and that 'wobbly' music. Radio Quito! Trying to decipher crackly French broadcasts to try and practise my French. Later I discovered BBC Radio 4. Still a big fan and am listening to programmes on Listen Again. Such a broad range of interesting topics - for my magpie mind. What does German radio offer me? I've tried. I've followed people's recommendations, but...

 

And yet.. I have to pay for dross-filled TV channels.

 

If you think about it, EUR 215 a year is about 7 weeks' worth of food for a careful single person.

 

And we have to pay this so they can spend 2 million euros on a single episode of Tatort?

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"Do people really watch more TV simply to get value for money out of the GEZ? Wild horses couldn't make me watch something I didn't want to, no matter how little of my 55 euros I'd 'spent' in a particular quarter. I know many parts of Germany are famous for thrift, but I find it hard to imagine a scenario where people would abandon other things they like, which have presumably also cost them something at some point (be it knitting, heavy metal, running marathons, Mills and Boon novels or studying ancient Etruscan) and watch a soap opera to get their money's worth. And if people are watching TV to an extent that prevents them developing any sort of life beyond the screen, then I really don't think the GEZ is the main reason, or the main problem."

 

I had a friend who, when she was single, had no TV. Her husband wants a TV, so now.. she watches TV. This means that she now reads less and does less of other things. Having a TV is .. well, it's an easy excuse or temptation shall I say to not do other things.

 

"Oh, it's raining a bit. Oh, I won't bother going to the gym. Let's watch TV instead."

"Oh, what's that on TV? Oh, I won't read that book/do my homework/exercise/whatever."

 

The busiest people I know are the ones without TV. My sister, on the other hand, .. it's the only thing she does.

 

When I was at school, in North Wales, I watched a lot of TV in the evening. But now I am an adult in a city, oh boy... can I find alternative things to do with my free time. Who needs a TV?

 

Edit - I just remembered something my German aunt used to say to me: "You do too much. Why don't you buy a TV and just sit down in the evenings?" I'd rather slash my wrists than have that as the only alternative to work.

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*Blushes* Why thank you, John. (And why not Toytown? Although if any major media outlets are reading, you know where to find me.)

 

It´s a lovely and intelligent post..that´s all! I was just being sarcastic about Toytown!! :)

Nina: yours, too!!! Both of them! :)

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Monika Piel earns €330,000 per year in her role as intendant of the Westdeutschen Rundfunks.

 

Her household must pay €18 in GEZ fees per month (that's 0.065% of her salary).

 

A single mother who brings home €700 net per month has to pay the same (that's 2.5% of her income).

 

Fair?

 

Regressive to its very core. Those who benefit from the funding obviously just care about themselves or they would come up with either a more progressive manner of assessment or would make ARD and ZDF pay TV for those who want it.

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When I was at school, in North Wales, I watched a lot of TV in the evening. But now I am an adult in a city, oh boy... can I find alternative things to do with my free time. Who needs a TV?

 

I need a TV. I would get really bored without one. Yeah, maybe I'd do more of other stuff but I'd still be bored.

 

You can still avoid paying GEZ if you live in a WG where somebody else already has one. Although people who have a registered TV and live in WG's will probably start asking their roomies to pitch in now.

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and with regard to this 'public good' argument... Why isn't everyone forced to pay for library membership then? Aren't libraries something that is for the 'public good'? Learning resources, newspapers, magazines, CD ROMs for learning languages, DVDs - films for educational and entertainment purposes, audio books, music CDs, sheet music, ...oh, and even books. Oh, and board games even!

 

Library membership in the UK is free of charge (as is having a dog [no licence any more] and listening to the radio). In Germany, I now pay EUR 16 a year (used to be 10 euros) for membership of the German library system. Why doesn't every person over 18 pay towards libraries? If the argument is that people could watch TV because TV is generally available, then how about paying for libraries as libraries are also generally available.

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I USED to have a TV, Leon!! :D A small one on top of a wooden wine container! I don´t watch TV mostly..but a couple of weeks ago the cat jumped on top of it and managed to knock it over onto the floor! Smashed... ex-TV! I chucked it out!

( Mind you, my girlfriend has a glorious wide-screened one so for anything important, including DVDs...!!)...

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Do you think they will one day stop this crazy tax? I feel sorry for pensions and low income earners as I suppose TV is all they have especially when its cold or very hot :( I know it won't be anytime soon but i am hoping.

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People on social benefits do not have to pay as well as people with certain disabilities.

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and with regard to this 'public good' argument... Why isn't everyone forced to pay for library membership then? Aren't libraries something that is for the 'public good'? Learning resources, newspapers, magazines, CD ROMs for learning languages, DVDs - films for educational and entertainment purposes, audio books, music CDs, sheet music, ...oh, and even books. Oh, and board games even!

 

Library membership in the UK is free of charge (as is having a dog [no licence any more] and listening to the radio). In Germany, I now pay EUR 16 a year (used to be 10 euros) for membership of the German library system. Why doesn't every person over 18 pay towards libraries? If the argument is that people could watch TV because TV is generally available, then how about paying for libraries as libraries are also generally available.

 

We don't need libraries anymore, we have the internet...

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We don't need libraries anymore, we have the internet...

 

we have a great little library near us with a great selection of books,films,magazines and music you can even order the next dvd/cd released and they send you an email when it arrives... all for nothing!

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What I have never understood is this... If you get some British people together, they could spend an entire evening enthusing about TV programmes of the past...And in Germany? I've asked Germans but they just don't get it. So all that I personally can conclude is that programmes are so bad here - on the radio and on the TV - that they do not induce any sort of loyalty or enthusiasm or develop and huge fan base.

Oddly enough, I've had this exact conversation with Germans and received a different answer. They definitely felt nostalgic about TV shows of the past. Some German, some international. (The fact that I know who Schimanski is has kick-started more than a few conversations.) So all I can conclude is that people are different!

 

 

I am a huge radio fan. Ever since I got my first battery-operated radio that I used in bed under the duvet. RAdio Cairo and that 'wobbly' music. Radio Quito! Trying to decipher crackly French broadcasts to try and practise my French. Later I discovered BBC Radio 4. Still a big fan and am listening to programmes on Listen Again. Such a broad range of interesting topics - for my magpie mind. What does German radio offer me? I've tried. I've followed people's recommendations, but...

 

Growing up in Australia does leave one at a disadvantage when it comes to developing a taste for quality radio, it's true. But I have fond memories nonetheless. And I discovered Radio 3 and 4 when I lived in the UK. Excellent. But I've also found lots to interest me in Germany. I'm sorry you haven't, but that's no more a sign that every German programme is awful than the fact that I find The Archers terminally dull is representative of BBC. To give my examples, NDR Klassik could do with more variety in their recorded offerings. But the concerts are good (Sunday morning in particular), and Am Morgen Vorgelesen has introduced me to more new authors than Radio 4 Book of the Week. (That's how I first encountered last year's German Book Prize Winner, actually. Recommended. This year's I read. A library copy, even!) But BR Klassik, which I can also receive, fills in the gaps (their classical television offerings are also good, which is something the BBC definitely doesn't do well) and MDR Figaro gives me enough quirkiness to keep me happy.

 

All that says is that we have completely different taste in radio, I suspect! Although I also think we'd probably be able to have a pretty lively discussion in defence of our own preferences. ;)

 

(I think the legal requirement for German radio to cover the full political spectrum and be relatively neutral does lead to a bit of blandness, and I can't say anything about good new music, because my musical development got a bit stuck around 1927 or so. Maybe that coverage is dire. But that doesn't mean the whole system is bad.)

 

 

And yet.. I have to pay for dross-filled TV channels.If you think about it, EUR 215 a year is about 7 weeks' worth of food for a careful single person.And we have to pay this so they can spend 2 million euros on a single episode of Tatort?

 

Yes, the lack of a "no-tv" opt-out a la the BBC is a problem. (Although I believe TV owners living in Britain who don't watch terrestrial TV and only receive foreign satellite coverage also have to pay the license fee now. So English-sat-watchers in Germany would technically be liable if the fee regime were similar!) The financial hit is obviously worst for those earning above benefits level, but not enough to be in a position to wave off EUR 215 as a trifle, because the money is a sunk cost.

 

However, even if Germany did wake up and allow non-watchers not to pay (what a mouthful!), I'm really not sure I want to be the culture police to the extent that I tell someone struggling to sell their TV, buy vegetables, and go for a walk instead. Rote Rosen gives me hives, but who am I to say that someone else shouldn't enjoy watching it? I didn't stop paying my license fee in the UK because I didn't like EastEnders! (I think you have to grow up with it. Kind of like Vegemite.)

 

 

I had a friend who, when she was single, had no TV. Her husband wants a TV, so now.. she watches TV. This means that she now reads less and does less of other things. Having a TV is .. well, it's an easy excuse or temptation shall I say to not do other things."Oh, it's raining a bit. Oh, I won't bother going to the gym. Let's watch TV instead." "Oh, what's that on TV? Oh, I won't read that book/do my homework/exercise/whatever.

 

My experience is that this sort of thing tends to happen in relationships, with or without TV involvement ;) . I've never had a partner with identical hobbies, even when our interests overlapped. In order to see each other more-than-occasionally, some activities would have to fall by the wayside.

 

 

The busiest people I know are the ones without TV. My sister, on the other hand, .. it's the only thing she does.When I was at school, in North Wales, I watched a lot of TV in the evening. But now I am an adult in a city, oh boy... can I find alternative things to do with my free time. Who needs a TV?

 

My sister watches masses more TV than I do, but she also has 227% more of a social life. Perhaps the issue is cities - she's in Sydney, where there's no shortage of things to do! Although my small city also has lots to offer. It's just that many of my hobbies aren't substantially more communal than watching TV would be. Reading, going to classical concerts, sewing, gentle cycling etc. But I wouldn't call any of these things "worthier" than TV, or at least that's not why I do them - it happens to be what I prefer.

 

 

Edit - I just remembered something my German aunt used to say to me: "You do too much. Why don't you buy a TV and just sit down in the evenings?" I'd rather slash my wrists than have that as the only alternative to work.

 

Yes, as the only alternative it would be very miserable indeed. But sometimes, after a day at work that's left me both physically exhausted and mentally fried, it's rather nice to collapse in front of a soothing voice and pretty pictures telling me about the life cycle of Alpine goats, or to watch well-built Scandinavians travel 20km on cross-country skis through a beautiful landscape while occasionally shooting at things, or to see Inspector Implausible reveal that it was the butler with the candlestick in the library. I don't think that makes me lazy, or limited - it makes me human. As Leon says, I'd be very reluctant to give that up, if for different reasons.

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