Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio
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The Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio (fee collection service of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio) formerly known as GEZ, short for Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is a joint organization of Germany's public broadcasting institutions ZDF, Deutschlandradio and the ARD state broadcasting institutions that is located in Cologne. The Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio is responsible for the collection of license fees. Mandatory license fees for every household are set in the Rundfunkfinanzierungsstaatsvertrag (state treaty on the financing of broadcasting). Since 2013, these fees must be paid by every household in Germany, regardless of whether the household actually has the capability to receive the broadcasts themselves.
The Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio is an association of administrations subject to public law and has no legal capacity. It operates as a joint data center of the ARD state broadcasting institutions, the ZDF and Deutschlandradio, and is entrusted to conduct administrative duties in the collection of license fees. It was created by an administrative agreement.
The Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio is therefore not a legal entity of its own, but a part of the public broadcasting institutions. However, the Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio is a public authority in the material sense according to the Administrative Procedures Act Of The Federal Republic Of Germany (VwVfG), because it is charged with conducting tasks of public administration. It conducts these tasks on behalf of the state broadcasting institutions.
Since January 1, 1976, the Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio (before 2013: GEZ) is charged with the collection of Rundfunkgebühren (broadcast license fees) as set in the Rundfunkfinanzierungsstaatsvertrag (state treaty on the financing of broadcasting). This had previously been the responsibility of Deutsche Bundespost (German federal post office). The GEZ's tasks in detail were:
- Collection of license fees (obtaining license fees in arrears, handling of payments)
- Remission of license fees
- Planning of license fees
- Costumer care
On December 31, 1976, 18.5 million TV sets and 20.4 million radios were registered in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Planning of license fees
The Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio has overall control over the planning of license fee revenues from the supply of public-legal broadcasting in the Federal Republic of Germany. Based on preliminary work by the Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio, license fees are planned for a period of five years in advance or the current fee period by the Arbeitsgruppe Gebührenplanung (license fee planning work group), which is a subgroup of the Finanzkommission der Rundfunkanstalten (financial commission of broadcasting institutions). The managing director of the Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio serves as chairperson of the Arbeitsgruppe Gebührenplanung.
Charging of license fees
The licences fees for Radio, TV and the New Media amounted to € 17,98 per month, from 1 January 2009 on. For radio reception alone, the monthly fee was € 5.76.
On June 9, 2010, it was decided by state governors that Heidelberg University Professor Paul Kirchhof's model of a flat-rate household license fee would be introduced in 2013. The model proposes to collect license fees as a lump sum per household, regardless of the number of broadcast reception devices present, or even, if any devices are present at all. This means a reorganization of the GEZ, and that broadcast license fee commissioners will no longer be employed by the state broadcasting institutions. The monthly fee per household will be at € 17.98, the amount previously payable for television reception. Participants which previously only registered a radio or a "novel broadcast reception device" but no TV set, will see their license fee increase by 212% (from €5.76 to €17.98), however households which previously had to pay multiple license fees will have to pay less.
Beginning on 1 January 2013 on, people with disabilities are no longer exempt from paying license fees but will have to pay one third of the household flat-rate of €17.98. Under the previous regulations, the deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers with disability identification cards denoting GL (Gehörlosigkeit - Deafness) and RF (Rundfunk - Radio) had been exempt. However, they started to contribute in 2013 in spite of fewer hours of programming with closed-captioning. The Sign Dialog, the working group of German Association of the Deaf, has nominated that they are more willing to pay the full rate once the milestone of 100% closed-captioning programming has been reached.
License fee revenues and administrative costs
In the year 2010, the GEZ collected €7,65 billion in license fees for the state broadcasting institutions, while generating costs of €160,5 million, which is about 2.13% of total revenue or €3.83 per participant. Additional costs are generated in the state broadcasting institutions by the so-called Beauftragtendienste (commissioner services), those expenditures for license fee collection amounted to €184.97 million in 2007, according to the ARD 2008 yearbook.
According to the 2010 annual report, the GEZ employed 1148 people.
Elicitation and storage of data
The state broadcasting institutions, and the GEZ respectively, are allowed to store and administer all data of participants which is necessary to perform their tasks. The Federal Statistical Office of Germany counts 39 million private households, while the GEZ as of 2004 holds 41.2 million participant data sets. These include 2.2 million data sets of de-registered participants. The GEZ therefore maintains one of the most comprehensive databases on the population of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Another source of data are resident registration offices. These forward new registrations and changes of registration to the GEZ. In the year 2002, German registration authorities transferred over 12 million citizen's data sets to the GEZ.
In order to trace non-registered participants, the GEZ compares their database with additionally purchased data sets from commercial address vendors. This is legitimized by the Rundfunkstaatsvertrag (state treaty on broadcasting).
Investigation and Observation
The GEZ does not have its own field service. It acquires new participants exclusively through voluntary registration of the users, comparison of addresses, writing notices and gathering data from other sources.
If there is no reply to the first written notice, the following two letters are drafted in an increasingly caustic tone, often evoking connotations of official measures being taken shortly afterwards. Because these letters are potentially received by all residents of the address, even people who have no legal obligation to give information may be prompted to do so.
In addition to this, the GEZ - to supplement data sets gathered from the resident registration offices - is working together with the broadcast license fee commissioners of the state broadcasting institutions in order to gather new data. These commissioners are often self-employed field service workers working on commission, or employees working for the state broadcasting institutions. They have no official powers, and must identify themselves with their id card issued by the state broadcasting agency.