Would a serious politician in Germany come up with the idea of abolishing the license fee and putting 220 euros in the wallet of every payer every year? So that the increase in the cost of living can be curbed and purchasing power strengthened?
Emmanuel Macron, French President, included this idea in his campaign program and now, after confirmation in office and parliamentary elections, it is time to implement it. The French National Assembly decided on Saturday to abolish broadcasting fees.
In the future, public service broadcasting is to be financed, among other things, by part of the VAT. The second chamber of parliament, the Senate, still has to approve the bill. 170 MPs voted in favor of the project, 57 voted against. A clear majority.
So far, the fee in France has been 138 euros per year. It is due for all households that own a television. The abolition of the fee means no privatization of the stations from France Télévisions to Radio France and Arte, which have so far been able to earn more than three billion euros from the fee. This sum is to come from state sources in the future.
Macron’s maneuver initially has something of a sleight of hand. So far, citizens have financed public service directly through television fees, but in future they will do so indirectly through their taxes. Does that increase purchasing power?
The French government has not yet named a sum that should go to the broadcasters concerned via the state budget. Unlike ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio, France Télévisions and the other broadcasters do not have a clearly defined program mandate.
It cannot be ruled out that Macron, who likes to be subtle and yet doesn’t shy away from the rough word, wants to rein in the broadcasters, which he recently called a “shame”. The principle also applies in France: Whoever pays, creates. France’s public service broadcaster does not have to be demoted to state radio, but the determination of funding by the state is a means of aligning programs with politics and – even worse – with party politics.
The abolition of the TV license fee is what the abolition of the license fee would be in Germany: an act of hypocrisy, an act of populism. Looks citizen-friendly, the effects are questionable: Anyone who wants public service broadcasting – and a democratic community needs it – must clearly and transparently determine who should finance the broadcasters, how and with how much.
The action of President Macron and his supporters will have to be measured against this: For whose good and woe is the funding being reallocated? Who determines the size of the station budget, which programs are to be served with which order? Emmanuel Macron has opened the box of the radio Padora. Not only the French can be curious how and with what content he will close it again.
A word on the opening question. It is not to be expected that Macron’s initiative will spill over the Rhine. The performance of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlanderadio is acknowledged by all criticism, necessary and adequately financed with 8.4 billion.
The next, extremely exciting challenge will be: How high will the current monthly contribution of 18.36 euros be after the end of the 2024 contribution period? Inflation also hits broadcasters and employees. The first strikes have already started to drive the wage demands.
What are the financial requirements reported by ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio for the years after 2024? What amount of contributions will politicians accept? Both France and Germany are concerned with the financing of public service broadcasting. So it’s not about the question of what a baguette or a pretzel costs, but about the question of what public service broadcasting is worth, must be worth to a society.