Plans to increase the licence fee for German public broadcasters, ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio have been cancelled, despite financial pressures. 

Following weeks of disputes within the Coalition government over increasing the radio broadcasting fee, the Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff, withdrew the draft bill on 8 December before it could be voted on in parliament. 

15 state parliaments approved the bill, except for Saxony-Anhalt. Without the approval of all federal states before the end of the year, the treaty could not be enacted for 1 January 2021, as originally scheduled. The Federal Constitutional Court also dismissed an urgent application by the public broadcasters for a temporary injunction against the blocking of the bill. 

Malu Dreyer, Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate and head of the Broadcasting Commission, denounced the bill’s withdrawalsaying that the federal states had to ensure the adequate financing for public broadcasting. The draft law proposed the mandatory, monthly licence fee – which has remained at €17.50 for twelve years – to increase by 86 cents to €18.36. This could help alleviate some of the ongoing financial challenges facing German public media, which has exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As ARD Chairman, Tom Buhrow, warns, “Without sufficient, independently determined funding, the range of programmes, which is rooted in all regions of Germany, will suffer.”  

Deutschlandradio has already announced considerations for austerity measures. According to Der SpiegelDeutschlandradio could incur a 66.5 million deficit within the next four years if the licence fee isn’t increasedSimilarly, ZDF could lose out on around 150 million a year 

The Federal Constitutional Court, however, has not ruled out whether the blocking of the licence fee increase violates the freedom of broadcasting. Germany’s highest judges must now vote on probable violations in main proceedings. But while media lawyer, Wolfgang Schulz, considers that the judges may vote in favour of the public broadcasters, he criticised the PSBs for ineffectively arguing the urgency and necessity of the licence fee increase.  

Other PSM funding updates:
  • WDR’s Broadcasting Council approved the station’s budget for 2021. Read more. 
  • Following new guidelines developed by Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council designed to enable Latvia’s public media organisations to operate outside of the commercial market, the organisations have now left the commercial market. This means that viewers will no longer see advertisements appear across LSM portals. Read more. 
  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in the US has received a $10 million increase in funding for fiscal year 2023 following the passing of a new appropriations bill by the Senate, but was denied emergency reliefRead more. 
  • The UK government has delayed plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee until at least 2022. The licence fee makes up most of the BBC’s income. Read more. 

Header Image: ZDF Symbol At The Capital Studio In Berlin. Credit: cries/istock