Millions for millionaires: What I don’t like at german public-service broadcasting

Logos des öffentlich-rechtlichen RundfunksGermany has a huge public-service broadcasting system (mainly ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandradio), which is financed by a mandatory contribution called “Haushaltsabgabe”. Every houshold has to pay 17,98 Euro per month. Foremost with that system the public-service broadcasting collects about 9 billion Euro a year. Alone the ARD – with a national television station (Das Erste), several regional and focussing channels plus radio stations – gets more than 6 billion Euro per year, which makes it to the biggest non-commercial broadcaster worldwide.

There is quite lot of debate in Germany about the entitlement of the compulsory system and for what the fees should be spend for. Public-service broadcasting in Germany has a so called public-service remit (“Grundversorgungsauftrag”) which primarily means to inform people and to retain the economic and political independence (“Wahrung der politischen und wirtschaftlichen Unabhängigkeit”). But of course: The programme of the Public-Service Sector goes far beyond. The largest part is, guess, entertainment programme.

What really is something of a scandal to me: Public-service broadcasting is the biggest financier of the football industry. They pay hundreds of million for broadcasting rights, for the national league and for broadcasting international events like the world championship in Brazil. So everybody in Germany, even low paid workers, even people who haven’t the slightest interest in football, they all have to pay the million-euro salaries of some football-stars.

What I understand is the rationality, the political economy, behind the decision to broadcast entertainment, like family shows, movies and sport. Content that fits to the mass leads to the support of a mandatory contribution. Because the majority decides, the majority has to be satisfied.

So this is the insolvable problem for the institution public-service broadcasting: They have the order to broadcast primarily information like political news. But if they would fulfil their mission they would loose support (because just a minority is that big in information) and in the end they would disappear. So I understand why a institution financed by obligation spend millions for millionaires, but that doesn’t mean I could accept.

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