Karlsruhe (dpa) – Consumers have to pay more for public broadcasting. The Federal Constitutional Court has ordered the broadcasting fee to be increased by 86 cents per month to EUR 18.36, until the federal states jointly decide on a new contribution.
According to the information, this is retroactive to July 20. In addition, the Karlsruhe court reprimanded Saxony-Anhalt, the only state that had not approved a negotiated state treaty to increase the contribution. Constitutional complaints from ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio were therefore successful. Broadcasters welcomed the decision. Criticism, for example, came from the AfD. (Az. 1 BvR 2756/20 et al.)
Breathe a sigh of relief at the ÖRR
ARD chairman Tom Buhrow said: “The decision will allow us to continue to create the best possible program for the people for years to come.” The license fee should be exempt from political interests.
ZDF director Thomas Bellut sees the independence of the public broadcasters strengthened. His colleague from Deutschlandradio, Stefan Raue, looked at the future contribution procedure: “For the first time, the federal responsibility community is addressed with this clarity, in which each country is “jointly responsible”. Going alone as in Saxony-Anhalt is not allowed.
The German Journalists’ Association reacted with relief to the decision.
When the court rejected urgent requests from the broadcasters shortly before Christmas, ARD and Deutschlandradio announced austerity measures for the houses, which the public will feel.
Now the contribution service of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio has to prepare the implementation of the court decision. “This is now an administrative and logistical task, which is of course a bit complicated with about 40 million membership accounts,” says Buhrow of the dpa.
Reactions from AfD and Haseloff
The AfD, on the other hand, strongly criticized the decision. “The ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court is highly undemocratic because it undermines state participation in determining the contribution,” party leader Tino Chrupalla said. Public broadcasting must be converted into a payment model. Every citizen should be free to decide whether to subscribe to the program.
After the defeat of Saxony-Anhalt, incumbent Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) defended his approach to the case. The debate over the raise alone brought about positive changes for broadcasters, he said in Magdeburg.
For example, the institutions have recently given considerably more leeway, both in the distribution of communal facilities and in the programming of East Germany. Critics of the dues increase had complained, among other things, that the East was too rare, especially on ARD and ZDF. “It has set itself in motion a lot and is on the right track,” said Haseloff.
He respected the court’s ruling, the head of government said and emphasized the great importance of public broadcasting. However, Haseloff regretted that the Karlsruhe judges had not specified a new procedure for determining the amount of the contribution. It remains unclear what will happen if the KEF sets a certain financial requirement that the state parliaments would then not accept. The parliaments are in any case free in their decision. “This is a democratic problem that we have here that has not been solved.” No increase since 2009
No increase since 2009
The radio license is the main source of income for the public broadcaster. It has been collected for every apartment since 2013 – regardless of whether and how often the offers are used. Most recently that was 17.50 euros per month. At the turn of the year it should have risen to 18.36 euros. The independent committee KEF has determined the need. The premium was last increased in 2009, then decreased in 2015 to 17.50 euros per month.
The current increase aims to fill a financial gap of €1.5 billion between 2021 and 2024. For the negotiated state treaty to enter into force, all 16 states would have had to agree.
Saxony-Anhalt Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) had withdrawn the bill before the vote in the state parliament in December because it became clear that his party – unlike coalition partners SPD and Greens – would not support the increase. And the head of government did not want to make a bad deal with the AfD, which is known as a critic of the public broadcaster. But because all 16 state parliaments have to agree, the increase is blocked.
Court justifies increase
In times of “increased complex information on the one hand and one-sided presentations, filter bubbles, fake news, deep fakes on the other,” the importance of the contribution-funded public broadcaster is growing, the Senate Senate under Court President Stephan Harbarth concluded with the decision published July 20. The broadcasters must present reality undistorted through “authentic, carefully researched information that distinguishes fact and opinion” and not focus on the sensational. In this way they formed a “counterweight that guarantees diversity and offers orientation”.
The legislator ensures, among other things, that the financial preconditions for these tasks are set. “If a country does not fulfill its co-guarantee obligation and thus the fulfillment of the fundamental right to financing becomes impossible, this already constitutes a violation of the freedom of broadcasting,” it said.
Saxony-Anhalt had stated that it had tried unsuccessfully for years in the Länder to reform the structure of the public broadcasting system. According to the court, this does not justify concluding a contract that has not been agreed with all countries.
Media policy is primarily a country issue. For new regulations to come into effect, the approval of all countries is currently required time and again in the absence of another agreement, the court stressed. If a country deems a deviation from the needs identified by the KEF necessary, it is up to that country to bring about the agreement of all countries. “That didn’t work.”
The Federal Constitutional Court can determine who carries out its decisions. According to the Federal Constitutional Court Act, it can also regulate the mode of enforcement in individual cases.
At the beginning of the year, she refrained from increasing the contribution afterwards. According to the decision, the consequences of not adjusting the contributions for the broadcasters must now take place in the procedure agreed in the international agreement. Means: A new statement from the KEF and a new state treaty are needed.
According to the resolution, the broadcasters are entitled to “compensatory additional equipment”. The legislator should take this into account when determining the license fee. This should also take into account the additional needs created by deferred investments and reserves, as well as any effects of the corona pandemic on the financial needs of the broadcasters and the reasonableness of dues increases for citizens.