How is public broadcasting financed in other European countries?

Income-wise participation, levies on electricity bills, termination of certain programmes… At a time when audiovisual license fees are being abolished by the French government, France24 offers you a tour of the horizon of public service media funding. Model in European neighbours.

After nearly 90 years of existence, the audiovisual license fee is living out its final months. President Macron’s campaign promise, the abolition of this tax, was confirmed by the Council of Ministers on 11 May. The executive assured that the tax would be “suspended from this year”.

This contribution to public broadcasting, amounting to 138 euros in 2021, which belongs to France Télévision, Radio France, France Médias Monde, TV5 Monde, Arte France and INA, is paid each year by 23 million households with television. Their disappearance results in a loss of 3.2 billion euros in funding for these public media.

The government has assured that the abolition of the fee will not reduce the means of public broadcasting and now wants to replace this levy with the current budget in several years. “In other words, the vote, every year, within the framework of the Finance Bill [au Parlement]The amounts will be devoted to public broadcasting”, explains Julia Cage, an economist specializing in media, in a report that explores new forms of funding audiovisual license fees. In fact, amendments to the abolition of license fees include: The Integrated Finance Act (PLFR) was introduced in Parliament in early July.

For the researcher, this method of financing can pose a problem because it “goes against the existence of long-term, multi-annual financing that is independent of the circle of the political majority”.

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Towards a paying BBC in the UK?

In terms of declining purchasing power, France is not the only country to have waived its audiovisual license fee. In the United Kingdom, where it finances three-quarters of the BBC’s resources, the government of Boris Johnson has announced that it will be phased out by 2027. A number of ways across channels are being studied: British conservatives can authorize the broadcast of advertising, shut down some BCC channels, tax Internet access providers or even use platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Make some programs or stations chargeable on the K model, which would create a serious problem of equal access for a service audience.

Meanwhile, the British continue to pay 159 pounds of royalties, or 190 euros each year.

Direct paid fees for public broadcasts in Germany

Overall, Julia Kaage says, 13 of the 27 EU member states continue to use the fee, including France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

The French are far from paying the most for their participation in public service media. In Germany, this amount is 210 euros per year, but the payment method is different. Julia Cagg recalled in her report that the fee is levied directly by an agency, which is entirely controlled by the channels, to ensure complete independence of public broadcasting from the government.

Another important difference is that all German households are liable to tax – not just those with television sets in France – on the principle that all Germans benefit from public service media, even those without television. Too. , because they can consult websites. These media listen to podcast programs or watch replays on your smartphone. At this point, France was therefore still an exception, in the same way as Ireland, Poland, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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However, more and more French people are using their smartphones, computers or tablets to watch productions of television channels, even though – according to the Observatory of Home Audio-Visual Equipment – ​​television remains the most widespread screen. , However, its share has been steadily declining, with 91% of households having television access in 2021, compared to 93.4% in 2018.

One tax per income in the Nordic countries

In Sweden, the 250 euro fee was replaced in 2019 by a “public service tax”, which was equal to 1% of each Swede’s taxable income, and was not linked to the tax family. The most polite ones that are not taxable don’t pay. While being more egalitarian, the new tax allowed an increase in the financial resources of public broadcasting, notes the Cage report, which invited the Swedish government to explore Swedish tracks.

Another Nordic country that has innovated in its methods of funding public media, Norway introduced a personal tax by income bracket, causing “a significant reduction in the amount paid for the most modest households, for wealthy individuals”. offset by the increase, while maintaining the same resources for public broadcasting”.

Finally, Finland proposes to pay taxpayers not only according to their income, but also “companies, legal persons, cooperatives, municipalities, savings banks, investment funds and foundations”. It should be noted that the participation of companies in Germany is also requested.

Spain wants to tax Netflix and Amazon Prime

In Italy, the license fee is included in the electricity bill and advertising represents a significant portion of RAI’s resources.

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Spain, for its part, has never imposed an audiovisual license fee, but the public media has long relied on state funding and above all on generous advertising revenue. So much so that the European Commission criticized them for not respecting the mandatory 20-minute gap between each ad break. But since the abolition of advertising on public channels in 2010, the country has struggled to finance its media.

The government has taxed telecom operators for several years, but it backtracked last year and is now considering asking Spain to pay 1.5% of its annual income generated in Spain from streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime. National Public Broadcasting.

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About the Author: Rusty Kemp

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