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Friday, October 20, 2006

Germany - media regulation gone mad: a tax on PCs and mobiles?

I've just read this post at MobileBurn suggesting that the German government is to try and impose a levy of $7 a month on devices "capable of receiving TV programming or radio broadcasts", as a way of ensuring continued funding of state-run media stations.

Obviously, living in the UK, I also pay a TV licence annually to fund the beloved BBC. But the notion that just because a device has an IP connection and a decent screen, it is equivalent to a TV tuner.... and that (if I'm reading this correctly), the levy applies per PC/phone and not per-household is patently ludicrous. And given that this is only a couple of days after Symbian and Sling Media announced their "place-shift TV to the smartphone", this clearly has the possibility of creating all manner of problems for the communications industry if enacted.

At first sight, this legislation looks to me like something that probably won't survive the onslaught of pressure from industry groups - not to mention the practicalities. It does seem rather stupid that the government that raised the most money from 3G spectrum auctions might turn out to be the most keen to limit the migration from 2G phones by extra taxation.

I need to dig into this a bit more....


alex said...

According to the usually trustable magazine SPIEGEL, this is far less dramatic in practise.

The "TV license for PCs" applies only if a household or company isn't paying yet for a regular TV or radio license.
So this might hit very badly certain small companies but not consumers.

Second, with 5.52 Euro/month this is about 1/3 of the regular TV&radio license and about the same as a radio-only license.

So this new license is more of a long-term insurance against potential future TV-to-PC-or-mobile substitution.

The German state governments have admitted that the new rule is not a reasonable definition for the Internet age, but the easiest way for 16 governments to find consensus is to minimize changes to the current rules which is based on "TV capable device".
Interestingly already today one is obliged to pay the full TV license if one has a PC with TV card instead of a real TV set.

Governments have bought now time to negotiate a new TV licensing framework that makes sense in the long-term.
Typically negotiations for a consensus on disruptive changes take a couple of years in the German federal system.

lugboy said...

Alex writes:

"So this might hit very badly certain small companies but not consumers."

It will hit anyone working as a freelancer who has a pc at home.
And the money will be collected by the dreaded GTZ, which from personal experience is a classic bureaucratic bully, not subject even to an Ombudsman.

Why should we pay for something we did not order and don't use?