Germany's TV licence fee to increase to 18,36 euros per month
Last year, the state of Saxony-Anhalt moved to block an increase in Germany’s TV licence fee (Rundfunkbeitrag) by 86 cents. The Federal Constitutional Court has now decided that the TV tax should indeed go up.
Rundfunkbeitrag will increase, after all
In its decision on Thursday, the court in Karlsruhe ruled that a single federal state cannot hold back the decision to increase the licence fee, and thus sided with a constitutional complaint submitted by the public broadcasters ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio.
The ruling means that the Rundfunkbeitrag will increase from 17,50 euros to 18,36 euros per month. The higher fee will be applied retroactively from July 20, 2021, until a new agreement enters into force. This is the first time the “tax” has gone up since 2009.
TV tax source of much debate in Germany
Since 2013, every household in Germany has been obliged to pay the licence fee, regardless of whether they listen to the radio or watch TV or not. Faced with a funding gap of more than 1,5 billion euros, state broadcasters in Germany last year submitted a request to increase the licence fee by 86 cents.
In order to do this, they required the approval of all 16 federal states in Germany. However, on December 8, 2020, the state premier for Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff, withdrew the treaty to increase the Rundfunkbeitrag before the state parliament could vote on it, after it became apparent that his CDU party would not support the motion. The change was therefore blocked.
The TV tax is a particularly thorny subject in post-reunification Germany. Although residents of the eastern federal states have paid the same fee since reunification, apart from one ARD studio in Berlin and the children’s channel in Erfurt, all offices and facilities are concentrated in the west of Germany, which - the tax’s critics argue - shapes reporting and creates a west-centred media landscape that does not represent the everyday reality of life in the east.
The broadcasters decided to sue, but their initial motions were thrown out shortly before Christmas. Now, the court in Karlsruhe has decided that Saxony-Anhalt “violated the freedom of public broadcasters” by failing to approve the increase.