Contribution increase stopped: ARD and ZDF want to appear before the Federal Constitutional Court


After Saxony-Anhalt blocked the increase in the broadcasting fee, the public broadcasters now want to turn to the Federal Constitutional Court. “Unfortunately, a constitutional complaint is unavoidable. Without sufficient, independently determined funding, the range of programs, which is rooted in all regions of Germany, will suffer,” said ARD chairman Tom Buhrow.

ZDF director Thomas Bellut also said that he saw no other option than going to Karlsruhe. In this process, public service broadcasting “has evidently become the plaything of politics in a federal state”.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) had previously withdrawn the draft law for the State Treaty to increase the broadcasting fee after a coalition dispute lasting several weeks. This prevented a vote in the state parliament, which in fact also blocks the higher broadcasting fee. This could only have come into force in January as planned with the approval of all federal states – and only if all state parliaments had formally decided on it by the end of December. Not all countries have agreed yet: In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the vote is on Wednesday, and Thuringia will probably only vote in the week before Christmas after postponement.

Despite numerous crisis meetings with the alliance partners, the state CDU emphasized continuously that it would under no circumstances agree to an increase in the radio license fee by 86 cents to 18.36 euros by January 1, 2021. The co-ruling Social Democrats and Greens, however, wanted to support the project of all countries. The CDU could have enforced its veto against the will of the coalition partners with the votes of the opposition AfD. This rejects the increase and the system of the license fee per se. In any case, Haseloff wanted to avoid a joint vote between his CDU and the AfD.

“In the proceedings, the discussion of contributions was completely mixed up with the order question, which we consider inadmissible according to previous case law. Neither factual arguments nor the independent recommendation of the KEF played a role,” said Buhrow, criticizing the approach in Saxony-Anhalt. Among other things, the state interior minister Holger Stahlknecht, who was dismissed last week, justified the CDU’s no with a negative image of East Germany in the public broadcasters. He also criticized reporting with the “raised index finger of moralization”.

Actually, the license fee should rise again for the first time since 2009 – from 17.50 euros to 18.36 euros. The independent commission to determine the financial needs of the broadcasters (KEF) had calculated the contribution plus of 86 cents based on the needs formulated by the broadcasters. A funding gap of around 1.5 billion euros between 2021 and 2024 is predicted for the financing of public broadcasters. ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio, for which the radio license fee is the main source of income, report their needs to the KEF.

It is not yet foreseeable whether and if so, when the 86 Cent Plus will come. According to the assessment of the legal scholar Bernd Holznagel, an urgent procedure before the main proceedings at the Federal Constitutional Court could bring a provisional increase on January 1st – at least until a decision in the main proceedings is available. (With material from the dpa) /


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