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German Finance Minister calls for cap on TV tax after Queen’s funeral coverage

Germany's Finance Minister Christian Lindner is calling for a freeze on broadcasting fees as well as savings, citing the example of coverage of Queen Elizabeth II's funeral for where savings could have been made.

A remittance slip for German broadcasting fees
A remittance slip for German broadcasting fees. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Every household in Germany has to pay the broadcasting contribution fee – called the Rundfunkbeitrag – regardless of whether there is a radio, television, or computer in the home or not. 

Lindner said he saw large savings potentials among the state broadcasters, referring to the coverage in Germany of the Queen’s funeral on Monday. 

“The fact that (German broadcasters) ARD, ZDF and Phoenix are broadcasting live and in parallel from the Queen’s funeral from London, and are each in London with their own staff, vividly demonstrates that there is considerable potential for savings,” he told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

READ ALSO: Do I have to pay Germany’s Rundfunkbeitrag?

He also called for a freeze on future fee hikes.

As The Local reported, the tax went up in 2021 from €17.50 to the current €18.36. It can be paid by direct debit or by quarterly invoice and is the main source of income for public broadcasters in Germany. 

“Suspending fee increases relieves the burden on people at a time of rapidly rising prices,” said Lindner. 

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Lindner also said it would serve as an incentive for broadcasters to become leaner and focus on their core mission. He added: “I’m sure that cooperation can save large sums of money without having a negative impact on programming.”

A spokeswoman for NDR, the broadcaster responsible for ARD’s reporting, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that the staff costs were comparatively low, but did not give details.

In total, ARD and ZDF sent just under 50 employees to London, including presenters, experts and production staff, the statement said. ZDF said it has been alternating other royal events with ARD by arrangement for several years, but the death of Elizabeth II was an exception. In future, broadcasters will return to the old practice. 

At the weekend, Lindner called on top staff at public broadcasters to cap their salaries, telling Bild am Sonntag that “no director should earn more than the chancellor”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pay Germany’s TV tax, or (legally) avoid it

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POLITICS

EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.

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