The Public Media Alliance welcomes the Federal Constitutional Court’s decision to allow a temporary increase of the broadcasting fee that funds Germany’s public broadcasters. This is a positive step towards supporting the vital role and financial independence of public media.

On Thursday, the supreme court announced that the monthly broadcasting fee (Rundfunkbeitrag), which funds ARD, Deutschlandradio and ZDF, will temporarily increase by €0.86 to €18.36. The increase was originally intended for 1 January 2021, but the state of Saxony-Anhalt blocked the increase in December 2020 by not providing its consent.

The public media organisations filed constitutional complaints with Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which the Court upheld today. The Court has now not only approved the fee increase but ruled that as Saxony-Anhalt did not justify its failure to consent to the State Treaty, ‘and thus the lack of appropriate funding for broadcasting’, the state had ‘violated the freedom of public broadcasters’ as per the Basic Law.

The increase will now come into effect retroactively as of 20 July until a new state treaty regulation is voted on and comes into force. Compensation has also been considered in the form of ‘compensatory additional equipment’ for the delayed increase.

The decision follows a period of financial uncertainty whereby some public broadcasters had already adjusted their financial plans and implemented cost-saving measures to make up for the expected funding shortfall. Financial pressures have also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more: Radio license fee increases temporarily to 18.36 euros

ZDF Director Thomas Bellut welcomed the Court’s decision. In a press release he said that “The clear decision of the Karlsruhe judges confirms and strengthens the independence of public broadcasting.” He also said that the increase allows ZDF to “plan reliably for the coming years and continue to offer the audience high-quality programmes.”

Deutschlandradio Director, Stefan Raue, explained that the judgement reminds the federal community that “Media-political considerations and questions of finance must not be linked. The fact that the judges once again emphasise the growing importance of public broadcasters for authentic and carefully researched information is both confirmation and a claim.”

Deutschlandfunk reported that ARD Chairman and WDR Director, Thomas Buhrow, expressed gratitude for the increase and said that the public broadcaster was now in ‘reform mode’. Deutschlandfunk also highlighted that this is the first increase in the broadcast fee in 12 years.

Needed more than ever

Citizens expect their public broadcasters to provide high-quality, engaging, and relevant content. But this can only be achieved with stable and sustainable funding, which requires consolidated public and political support. The Court’s ruling today is a positive step in ensuring that PSM in Germany can more securely plan their programming for the next few years. It will also enable them to continue their essential work and demonstrate their value to society, which is more critical than ever amid a global pandemic and growing disinformation.

Header Image: Close up of invoice from german radio and tv broadcast service (GEZ, ARD and ZDF Beitragsservice – focus on center). Credit: Ralf Liebhold/