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GEZ: The Coinslot on your PC

The powers that be in German public broadcasting are currently deciding how to collect fees from computer users starting in 2007. Public broadcasting is currently financed by fees from TV and radio owners, ┬Ç17.03 a month per household or business (┬Ç5.52 for radio only). It's kind of like pledge week for US public television, except it's mandatory and there's no pledge week. There's a whole bureaucracy set up to collect the fees called the *Geb├╝hreneinzugszentrale der ├Âffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten*, or GEZ for short. They advertise quite a bit with spots that try to be hip, if you can imagine it could ever be hip to pay TV fees, since their main source of new income seems to be students who live away from home.

Now that video and audio streams are available on the internet, so the logic goes, then "internet-capable" devices should also be subject to the broadcast fee, namely PCs and UMTS cell phones. Those that already pay GEZ fees would not pay any more, however any household or business with a computer would have to start paying in January. At the TV rate, that would be like an internet tax of over €200 per year with absolutely zero benefit. As a compromise, the ARD is proposing to tax PCs at the radio rate. The ZDF might be against that, since the ZDF has no radio broadcasts.

I have nothing against subsidizing broadcasting, even if it seems to be aimed more at senior citizens than the general population. Maybe by the time I'm a senior citizen, they'll broadcast punk concerts instead of *Volksmusik*. But the whole GEZ is an archaic concept. TV and radio are no longer luxury goods, but public goods, and the subsidy should be paid by everyone by taxes, not just viewers and listeners. Then the whole collection apparatus could be done away with, and there would be no need for an internet tax.

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