A television licence (or broadcast receiving licence) is an official record of payment required in many countries for the reception of television broadcasts, or the possession of a television set where some broadcasts are funded in full or in part by the licence fee paid. The licence is sometimes also required to own a radio or receive radio broadcasts. A TV licence is therefore a hypothecated tax for the purpose of funding public broadcasting, thus allowing public broadcasters to transmit television programmes without, or with only supplemental, funding from radio and television advertisements. However, in some cases the balance between public funding and advertisements is the opposite - the Polish TVP broadcaster receives more funds from advertisements than from its TV tax.
- 1 History
- 2 Television licences around the world
- 2.1 Europe
- 2.1.1 Albania
- 2.1.2 Austria
- 2.1.3 Belgium (Walloon Region and Brussels Region)
- 2.1.4 Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 2.1.5 Croatia
- 2.1.6 Czech Republic
- 2.1.7 Denmark
- 2.1.8 Finland
- 2.1.9 France
- 2.1.10 Germany
- 2.1.11 Greece
- 2.1.12 Ireland
- 2.1.13 Italy
- 2.1.14 Macedonia
- 2.1.15 Montenegro
- 2.1.16 Norway
- 2.1.17 Poland
- 2.1.18 Romania
- 2.1.19 Serbia
- 2.1.20 Slovakia
- 2.1.21 Slovenia
- 2.1.22 Sweden
- 2.1.23 Switzerland
- 2.1.24 Turkey
- 2.1.25 United Kingdom
- 2.2 Asia
- 2.3 Africa
- 2.1 Europe
- 3 Countries where the TV licence has been abolished
- 4 Countries that never had a television or broadcasting licence
- 5 Detection of evasion of television licences
- 6 Opinions of television licensing systems
- 7 Internet-based broadcast access
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The early days of broadcasting presented broadcasters with the problem of how to raise funding for their services. Some countries adopted the advertising model, but many others adopted a compulsory public subscription model, with the subscription coming in the form of a broadcast licence paid by households owning a radio set (and later, a TV set).
The UK was the first country to adopt the compulsory public subscription model with the licence fee money going to the BBC, which was formed on 1 January 1927 by Royal Charter to produce publicly funded programming yet remain independent from government, both managerially and financially. The licence was originally known as a wireless licence.
With the arrival of television some countries created a separate additional television licence, while others simply increased the radio licence fee to cover the additional cost of TV broadcasting, changing the licence's name from "radio licence" to "TV licence" or "receiver licence". Today most countries fund public radio broadcasting from the same licence fee that is used for television, although a few still have separate radio licences, or apply a lower or no fee at all for consumers who only have a radio. Some countries also have different fees for users with colour or monochrome TV. Many give discounts, or charge no fee, for elderly and/or disabled consumers.
Faced with the problem of licence fee evasion, some countries choose to fund public broadcasters directly from taxation or via other less avoidable methods such as a co-payment with electricity billing. National public broadcasters in some countries also carry supplemental advertising.
The Council of Europe created the European Convention on Transfrontier Television in 1989 that regulates among other things advertising standards, time and the format of breaks, which also has an indirect effect on the usage of licensing. In 1993, this treaty entered into force when it achieved 7 ratifications including 5 member states. It has since been acceded to by 34 countries, as of 2010[update].
Television licences around the world
The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago notes that two-thirds of the countries in Europe and half of the countries in Asia and Africa use television licences to fund public television. TV licensing is rare in the Americas, largely being confined to French overseas departments and British Overseas Territories.
In some countries, radio channels and broadcasters' web sites are also funded by a radio receiver licence, giving access to radio and web services free of commercial advertising.
The actual cost and implementation of the television licence varies greatly from country to country. The rest of this section looks at the licence fee in a number of countries around the world.
|Country||Price||€ per annum|
|Austria||TV – €223.32 to €279.72. Radio – €65.52 to €82.32. ||€335.14|
|Belgium||Wallonia: €149.67 for TV and €26.73 for radio. Flanders: abolished.||€172.39|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||€46.00||€46.00|
|Croatia||Up to €137||€137.00|
|Czech Republic||1620 Kč||€65.94|
|Germany||TV & radio – €215.74||€215.76|
|Greece||€51.60 (Paid on electrical bills)||€51.60|
|Republic of Macedonia||MKD 2280||€37|
|Montenegro||€3.50 per month||€42.00|
|Poland||TV (inc. radio) - 199.80 zł Radio - 59.40 zł||€52.57|
|Portugal||Multi Media Tax paid via electricity bill||€ +- 33|
|Romania||48 Romanian lei||€11.27|
|Slovenia||€132||TV - €153.00, Radio - €45.24|
|Turkey||2% of electricity bill and indirect charge on appliance at purchase||€0|
|United Kingdom||£145.50 colour / £49.00 monochrome||€170.28|
The Albanian licence fee is 800 lekë (€5.81) per year. However, the licence fee makes up only a small part of public broadcaster RTSh's funding. RTSh is mainly funded directly from the government through taxes (58%), the remaining 42% comes from commercials and the licence fee.
In accordance with the Austria RGG (TV and Radio Licence Law) all broadcasting reception equipment in use or operational at a given location must be registered. The location of the equipment is taken to be places of residence or any other premises with a uniform purpose of use.
Responsible for licence administration in Austria is GIS - Gebühren Info Service GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of the Austrian Broadcasting Company (ORF), as well as an agency of the Ministry of Finance, charged with performing functions concerning national interests. Transaction volume in 2007 amounted to EUR 682 million, 66% of which are allocated to the ORF for financing the organization and its programs, and 35% are allocated to the federal government and the local governments (taxes and funding of local cultural activities). GIS employs some 191 people and approximately 125 free lancers in field service. 3.4 million Austrian households are registered at GIS, percentage of licence dodgers in Austria amounts to 2.5%.
The main principle of GIS' communication strategy is to inform instead of control. To achieve this goal GIS uses a four-channel communication strategy:
- Above-the-line activities (advertising campaigns in print media, radio and TV)
- Direct Mails
- Distribution channels – outlets where people can acquire the necessary forms for registering (post offices, banks, tobacconists, five GIS Service Centers throughout Austria)
- Field service – customer consultants visiting households not yet registered
Belgium (Walloon Region and Brussels Region)
The licence fee in Belgium's Walloon Region and Brussels Region (encompassing the French and German speaking communities) is €149.67 for a TV and €26.72 for a car radio. Only one licence is needed for each household regardless of how many television sets there are. However, each car with a radio must have a separate car radio licence. Household radios do not require a licence. The money raised by the fee is used to fund Belgium's French and German public broadcasters (RTBF and BRF respectively).
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The licence fee in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around € 46 per year. The civil war and the associated collapse of infrastructure caused very high evasion rates. This has in part been resolved by collecting the licence fee as part of a household's monthly telephone bill. The licence fee is divided between three broadcasters:
- 50% for BHRT - (Radio and Television of Bosnia and Herzegovina) as main state level radio and television broadcaster in Bosnia and Herzegovina (also the only member of the EBU).
- 25% for RTVFBiH - (Radio-Television of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) radio and television broadcaster that primarily serves the population in the Federation of BiH entity
- 25% for RTRS - (Radio-Television of the Republika Srpska) radio and television broadcaster which primarily serves the population of Republika Srpska entity.
The licence fee is charged to all owners of equipment capable of receiving TV and radio broadcasts. The total yearly amount of the fee is set each year as a percentage of the average net salary in the previous year, currently equal to 1.5%. This works out at about €137 per year per household with at least one radio or TV receiver.
The fee is the main source of revenue for the national broadcaster Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT), and a secondary source of income for other national and local broadcasters, which receive a minority share of this money. The Statute of the Croatian Radiotelevision further divides their majority share to 66% for television and 34% for the radio, and sets out further financial rules.
According to law, advertisements and a number of other sources of income are allowed to HRT. However, the percentage of air time which may be devoted to advertising is limited by law to 9% per hour, and is lower than the one that applies to commercial broadcasters. In addition, other rules govern advertising on HRT, including a limit on a single commercial during short breaks, no breaks during films, etc.
The licence fee in the Czech Republic is 135 Kč (€5.33 [using exchange rate 4 January 2013]) per month as from 1 January 2008. This increase is to compensate for the abolishment of paid advertisements except in narrowly defined circumstances during a transitional period. Each household pays for one TV licence regardless of how many televisions they own. Corporations and the self-employed must pay for a licence for each television.
The licence fee in Denmark is 2414 kr (€324) in media licence fee (which applies to all TVs, computers with Internet access, or with TV tuners or other devices that can receive broadcast TV: which actually means that you have to pay the TV licence if you have a relatively new mobile phone). The black/white TV rate is no longer offered after 1 January 2007. The majority of the licence fee is used to fund the national radio and TV broadcaster DR. However, a proportion is used to fund TV 2's regional services. TV2 itself used to get means from the licence fee but is now funded exclusively through advertising revenue. Though economically independent from the licence fee TV2 still has obligations and requirements towards serving the public which are laid down in a so called "public service contract" between the government and all public service providers. TV2 commercials may only be broadcast between programmes, including films. TV2 receives indirect subsidies through favourable loans from the state of Denmark. TV2 also gets a smaller part of the licence for their 8 regional TV-stations which have half an hour of the daily prime time of the channel (commercial free), and may request additional time on a special new regional TV-channel. (This regional channel has several other non-commercial broadcasters apart from the TV2-regional programmes)
In 2013, Finland replaced the television licence with a direct unconditional income tax, Yle-vero, which is 50-140 euros depending on income. The proceeds are used for funding the public broadcaster Yleisradio.
In 2010, the television licence fee in France (mainland & Corsica) was €121 and in the overseas departments it was €78. The licence funds services provided by Radio France, France Télévisions and Radio France Internationale. Metropolitan France receives France 2, France 3, France 5, Arte, France 4 and Gulli, while overseas departments receive Outre-Mer 1ère ('[name of department or territory] 1ère', Tempo, and France Ô), though the Metropolitan France channels are also available in the overseas departments through the expansion of TNT service to these areas. Public broadcasters in France supplement their licence fee income with that from advertising. However, changes in the law in 2009 designed to stop public television chasing ratings, have stopped public broadcasters from airing advertising after 8pm. Between 1998 and 2004 the proportion of France Télévision's income that came from advertising declined from around 40% to 30%. To keep the cost of collection low, the licence fee in France is collected as part of local taxes.
As of 1 January 2013, the licence fee in Germany is now a blanket contribution of €17.98 per month (€215.76 per annum) for all households and is payable regardless of equipment or television/radio usage. Businesses and institutions must also contribute (the amount is based on several factors including number of employees, vehicles and, for hotels, number of beds). The fee is billed by the month, but typically paid quarterly (yearly advanced payments are possible). People on minimum wage (Arbeitslosengeld II or certain similar types of income e.g. low unemployment benefits) are exempt from the licence fee and those with certain disabilities can apply to pay a reduced contribution of €5.99.
Prior to 2013, only households and businesses with at least one television were required to pay. Households with no televisions but with a radio or an internet-capable device were subject to a reduced radio-only fee.
The licence fee is used to fund the public broadcasters ZDF and Deutschlandradio as well as the nine regional broadcasters of the ARD network, who altogether run 22 television channels (10 regional, 10 national, 2 international: Arte and 3sat) and 61 radio stations (58 regional, 3 national). Two national television stations and 32 regional radio stations carry limited advertising. The 14 regional regulatory authorities for the private broadcasters are also funded by the licence fee (and not by government grants), and in some states, non-profit community radios also get small amounts of the licence fee. In contrast to ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio, Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle is fully funded by the German federal government, though much of its new content is provided by the ARD.
Germany currently has one of the largest total public broadcast budgets in the world. The per capita budget is close to the European average. Annual income from licence fees is approximately 7.6 billion euros, with an additional 500 million euros in revenue from commercials.
The board of public broadcasters sued the German states for interference with their budgeting process, and on 11 September 2007 the Supreme Court decided in their favour. This effectively rendered the public broadcasters institution independent and self-governing.
Public broadcasters have announced that they are determined to utilize all available ways to reach their "customers" and as such have started a very broad Internet presence with media portals, news and TV programs. National broadcasters have abandoned an earlier pledge to restrict their online activities. This resulted in newspapers taking court action against the ARD, claiming that the ARD's Tagessschau smartphone app, that provides news stories at no cost to the app user, was unfairly subsidised by the licence fee, to the detriment of free market providers of news content apps. The case was dismissed with the court advising the two sides to agree a compromise.
The licence fee in Greece is indirect but obligatory and paid through electricity bills. The amount to be paid is €51.60 (2013) for every separate account of the electrical company (including residence, offices, shops and other places provided with electricity). Its beneficiary is the state broadcaster Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi (ERT). Predicted 2006 annual revenue of ERT from the licence fee (officially called "retributive" fee) is €262.6M (from €214.3M in 2005).
There has been some discussion about imposing a direct licence fee after complaints from people who do not own a television set and yet are still forced to fund ERT. An often quoted joke is that even the dead pay the licence fee (since graveyards pay electricity bills).
In June 2013, ERT was closed down to save money for the Greek government. In the government decree, it was announced during that time, licence fees are to be temporary suspended.
As of 2012 the cost of a television licence in Ireland is €160. In 2006, the charge was €158, up from €155 in 2005. However the licence is free to anyone over the age of 70 (regardless of means or circumstances), to some over 66, and to the blind (although these licences are in fact paid for by the state). The Irish post office, An Post, is responsible for collection of the licence fee and commencement of prosecution proceedings in cases of non-payment. However, An Post has signalled its intention to withdraw from the licence fee collection business. The Irish TV licence makes up 50% of the revenue of RTÉ, the national broadcaster. The rest comes from RTÉ broadcasting advertisements on its radio and TV stations. Furthermore, some RTÉ services, such as RTÉ 2fm, RTÉ Aertel, RTÉ.ie, and the transmission network operate on an entirely commercial basis.
The licence fee does not entirely go to RTÉ. After collection costs, 5% is used for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's "Sound and Vision Scheme", which provides a fund for programme production and restoration of archive material which is open to applications from any quarters. 5% of what RTÉ then receive is granted to TG4, as well as a requirement to provide them with programming. The remainder of TG4's funding is direct state grants and commercial income.
The licence applies to a particular premises, so a separate licence is required for holiday homes or motor vehicles which contain a television. The licence must be paid for premises that have any equipment that can potentially decode TV signals, even those that are not RTÉ's.
In 2014, the licence fee in Italy was €113.50 per household with a TV set, independent of use. There is also a special licence fee paid by owners of one or more TV or radio sets on public premises or anyhow outside the household context, independent of the use.
Italy has problems with collection of the licence, with approximately 40% of viewers not paying their licence. One of the reasons is that the maximum fine is only half the licence fee itself, compared to the UK where the fine is up to £1000 (about €1300).
Viewers in the province of South Tyrol, Italy, which has a large German-speaking majority, can also receive Austrian and German public TV and radio channels via terrestrial transmissions, with no additional licence fee.
The licence fee in the Republic of Macedonia is around €26 per year. Until 2005 it was collected monthly as part of the electricity bill. The current Law on Broadcasting Activity, which was adopted in November 2005, reads that the Public Broadcasting Service – Macedonian Radio and Television (MRT) shall collect the broadcast fee. The funds collected from the broadcasting fee are allocated in the following manner:
- 72% for MRT for covering costs for creating and broadcasting programmes;
- 4.5% for MRT for technical and technological development;
- 16% for MRD (Makedonska Radiodifuzija – Public operator of the transmission networks of the Public Broadcasting Service) for maintenance and use of the public broadcasting network;
- 3.5% for MRD for public broadcasting network development and
- 4% for the Broadcasting Council for regulating and development of the broadcasting activity in the Republic of Macedonia.
The MRT shall keep 0.5% of the collected funds from the broadcasting fee as commission fee.
However, MRT still has not found an effective mechanism for collection of the broadcast tax, so it has suffered a severe underfunding in the recent years.
Recently, the Macedonian Government decided to update the Law on Broadcasting authorizing the Public Revenue Office to be in charge of collection of the broadcast fee.
In addition to broadcast fee funding, Macedonian Radio-Television (MRT) also takes advertising and sponsorship.
The broadcasting fee is paid by: every family household in the Republic of Macedonia, hotels and motels are charged one broadcasting fee for every five rooms, legal persons and office space owners are obliged to pay one broadcasting fee to every 20 employees or other persons that use the office space, owners of catering and other public facilities possessing a radio receiver or TV set must pay one broadcasting fee for each receiver/set.
The Government of the Republic of Macedonia, upon a proposal of the Broadcasting Council, shall determine which broadcasting fee payers in populated areas that are not covered by the broadcasting signal shall be exempt from payment of the broadcasting fee. The households with a blind person whose vision is impaired over 90% or families with a person whose hearing is impaired with an intensity of over 60 decibels, as determined in compliance with the regulations on disability insurance, are exempt from the duty to pay the broadcasting fee for the household where the family of the person lives.
In accordance with the Broadcasting Law (December 2002), every household and legal entity, situated in the Republic, where technical conditions for reception of at least one radio or television programme have been provided, is obliged to pay a monthly broadcasting subscription fee. The monthly fee is €3.50.
The Broadcasting Agency of Montenegro is in charge of collecting the fee (currently through the telephone bills, but after the privatization of state owned Telekom, the new owners, T-com, announced that they will not administer the collection of fee from July 2007).
The funds from the subscription received by the Agency belong to:
- the Republic's public broadcasting services (radio and television) – 75%
- the Agency's fund for the support of the local public broadcasting services (radio and television) – 10%
- the Agency's fund for the support of the commercial broadcasting services (radio and television) – 10%
- the Agency – 5%
The licence fee in Norway is 2680,56 kr (€358.05) per annum. The fee is mandatory for any owner of a TV set, and is the primary source of income for Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK). The licence fee is charged on a per household basis. Therefore addresses with more than one television receiver generally only require a single licence. An exception is made if the household includes persons living at home who is no longer provided for by the parents, e.g. students living at home. If persons not in parental care own a separate television they must pay the normal fee.
The current (2012) annual licence fee in Poland for television set is 199.80 zł (€45,33 at average NBP exchange rate from 2011-12-29) per annum. The licence may be paid monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually, but the total cost when paying for less than a year in advance is higher (up to 10%). Those that have no TV but have a radio must pay the radio-only licence which costs 59.40 zł (€13,48) per year. The licence is collected and maintained by the Polish post office, Poczta Polska.
Around 60% of the fee goes to Telewizja Polska with the rest going to Polskie Radio. In return public television is not permitted to interrupt its programmes with advertisements (advertisements are only allowed between programmes). The TV licence is waived for those over 75. Only one licence is required for a single household irrespective of number of sets, but in case of commercial premises one licence for each set must be paid (this includes radios and TVs in company vehicles). However, public health institutions, all nurseries, educational institutions, hospices and retirement homes need to pay only single licence per building or building complex they occupy.
There is a major problem with licence evasion in Poland. This is due to the collection based on the honesty-based opt-in system, rather than the British system of opt-out, i.e. a person liable to pay the licence has to register on their own, there being no effective means to compel people to register and to prosecute those that fail to do so. Also as the licensing inspectors, who are usually postmen, do not have the right of entry to inspect premises and must get the owner’s or main occupier’s permission to enter. Due to this, it is estimated that about 65% of households evade the licence fee, compared to an average of 10% in the European Union. Due to the difficulty in licence fee collection, the current PO-PSL government is reviewing the funding for public broadcasting, which could include abolishing the fee.
Polish prime minister(current) Donald Tusk in 2008 called television licence archaic and „haracz” (forced tribute in Polish, required by bandits, mafia). 73% of Poles are against it, according to 2012 research poll.
The licence fee in Romania for a household is 48 RON (€ 11.27) per annum. Small businesses pay about €45 and large businesses about € 150. The licence fee is collected as part of the electricity bill. The licence fee makes up part of Televiziunea Română's funding, with the rest coming from advertising and government grants.
Licence fees in Serbia are bundled together with electricity bills and collected on a monthly basis. There have been increasing indications that the Government of Serbia is considering the temporary cessation of the licence fee until a more effective financing solution is found. However, as of 28 August 2013 this step has yet to be realized.
Since June 2013, the annual licence fee in Slovenia stands at €153.00 for receiving both television and radio services, or €45.24 for radio services only, paid by the month. This amount is payable once per household, regardless of the number of televisions or radios (or other devices capable of receiving TV or radio broadcasts). Businesses and the self-employed pay this amount for every set, and pay higher rates where they are intended for public viewing rather than the private use of its employees.
The licence fee is used to fund national broadcaster RTV Slovenija. In calendar year 2007, the licence fee raised €78.1 million, or approximately 68% of total operating revenue. The broadcaster then supplements this income with advertising, which by comparison provided revenues of €21.6 million in 2007, or about 19% of operating revenue.
The current licence fee (Swedish: TV-avgift, literally TV fee) in Sweden is 2076 kr (€250) per annum. It is collected on behalf of the three public broadcasters (Sveriges Television, Sveriges Radio and Sveriges Utbildningsradio) by Radiotjänst i Kiruna AB, which is jointly owned by them.
The fee pays for five TV channels, 45 radio channels as well as TV and radio on the Internet. In Sweden, the term "television licence" was replaced in the 2000s by "television fee". The fee is collected by Radiotjänst from every household containing a TV set, and possession of such a device must be reported to Radiotjänst as required by law. One fee is collected per household regardless of number of TV sets, in the home or in alternate locations owned by the household such as summer houses. Although the fee also pays for radio broadcasting, there is no fee for radios.
Suggestions of replacing the fee with a tax occur sometimes in the media. Around 90% of households have reported that they have a television set and thereby need to pay the fee. However, the number of households not containing a TV set are considered by Radiotjänst to be a lot fewer than the 10% that don't pay licences. The personnel of Radiotjänst i Kiruna AB have no authority to investigate inside households (for instance flats on higher floor levels).
In February 2013 Radiotjänst i Kiruna AB changed their interpretation of the Swedish television fee law. In their new interpretation any personal computer connected to the Internet was also considered a TV set and thereby required payment of the TV fee. On 12 June 2014 this interpretation was declared void by the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden, prompting Radiotjänst to return the illegally collected fees.
According to the Swiss Federal Law on Radio and Television (RTVG), the reception of radio or television programs from SRG SSR must be registered and is subject to reception fees. The fees are paid per household or business location and not per device.
Viewers in South Tyrol, Italy, which has a large German-speaking minority, can also receive the Swiss German-language channels via terrestrial digital transmissions, but do not have to pay a licence fee.
According to the law, a licence fee at the rate of 8% or 16%, depending on equipment type is paid to TRT (state broadcaster) by the producer/importer of the TV receiving equipment. Consumers indirectly pay this fee only for once, at initial purchase of the equipment. Also 2% tax is cut from each household/commercial/industrial electricity bill. However, government has plans to cancel this tax soon and fund the state broadcaster mainly from state budget.
No registration is required for purchasing TV receiver equipment.
A television licence is required for each household where television programmes are watched or recorded as they are broadcast, irrespective of the signal method (terrestrial, satellite, cable or the Internet). A licence is not required, however, if a television is only used to watch DVDs or play video games, or programmes are watched via catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer or 4oD on a computer after they have been shown on TV.
The licence fee is used almost entirely to fund the BBC's domestic radio, television and internet services. The money received from the fee represents approximately 75% of the cost of these services with most of the remainder coming from the profits of BBC Worldwide — a commercial wing of the corporation which sells programmes and runs stations overseas (such as BBC World News), as well as other business allied to broadcasting such as publishing. The BBC also receives some funding from the Scottish Government via MG Alba to finance the BBC Alba television service in Scotland. The BBC also used to receive a direct government grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to fund television and radio services broadcast to other countries such as the BBC World Service radio and BBC Arabic Television. These services run on a non-profit, non-commercial basis distinct from other BBC 'branded' overseas services provided by the commercial BBC Worldwide. However, the grant was abolished as of 1st April 2014, leaving these services to be funded by the UK licence fee, a move which has caused some controversy. The BBC's web sites are popular outside the UK but these carry advertising when seen outside the UK. Advertising is not seen on the BBC web sites when viewed from within the UK. Advertising is seen however on BBC web sites created by the BBC Worldwide company, regardless of where they are viewed; the BBC web site clarifies (at the foot of the page) the funding source.
The BBC is not the only public service broadcaster. Channel 4 is also a public television service but is funded through advertising and Government grants. The Welsh language S4C in Wales is funded through a combination of direct grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, advertising and receives some of its programming free of charge by the BBC (see above). These other broadcasters are all much smaller than the BBC.
In addition to the public broadcasters, the UK has a wide range of commercial television funded by a mixture of advertising and subscription. A television licence is still required of viewers who solely watch such commercial channels, although more than 80% of the population watches BBC1 in any given week (with 95% of the population watching television), making it the most popular channel in the country.
The current licence costs £145.50 (€174.99) for a colour licence and £49.00 (€58.89) for monochrome. Discounted, free or government-paid licences are available to viewers over 75, blind people and those in residential care. One licence covers multiple receivers in a 'household', with separately rented or leased rooms and apartments being considered as individual households. The cost is set annually by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport with the BBC responsible for collecting payment. As it is classified in law as a tax, evasion is a criminal offence. A small portion of the licence fee is used by the BBC to enforce payment, as well as funding Digital UK, a body established to assist in the process of digital switchover and a direct payment to Channel 4, to assist in its digital switchover.
A similar licence, mandated by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904, existed for radio, but was abolished in 1971.
The television licence for 2014 in Israel was ₪ 345 (€76) and the radio licence (for car owners only) was ₪ 136 (€30). The licence fee was the primary source of revenue for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, the state broadcaster; however, its radio stations carry full advertising and some TV programmes are sponsored by commercial entities. Due to reforms that abolished the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Israel's television tax was terminated in March 2015.
In Japan, the annual licence fee (Japanese: 受信料, known in English as receiving fee) for terrestrial television broadcasts is ¥15,490 (€144.29) (slightly less if paid by direct debit) and ¥25,520 (€237.72) if you receive satellite broadcasts. There is a separate licence for monochrome TV, and fees are different in Okinawa. The Japanese licence fee pays for the national broadcaster Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK).
While every household in Japan with a television set is required to have a licence, it was reported in 2006 that "non-payment [had] become an epidemic" because of a series of scandals involving NHK. As reported in 2005, "there is no fine or any other form of sanction for non-payment".
In South Korea, the television licence fee (Korean: 수신료 징수제) is collected for the Korean Broadcasting System and Educational Broadcasting System and is ₩30,000 per year (about €20.67). It has stood at this level since 1981, and now makes up less than 40% of KBS's income and less than 8% of EBS's income. Its purpose is to maintain public broadcasting in South Korea, and to give public broadcasters the resources to do their best to produce and broadcast public interest programs. The fee is collected by the Korea Electric Power Corporation through electricity billing.
The licence fee in Mauritius is Rs 1200 per year (around €29). It is collected as part of the electricity bill. The proceeds of the licence fee are used to fund the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). The licence fee makes up 60% of MBC's funding with most of the rest coming from television and radio commercials. However, the introduction of private broadcasting in 2002 has put pressure on MBC's revenue from commercials and this is decreasing. Furthermore, MBC is affecting the profitability of the private stations who want the government to make MBC commercial free
The licence fee in South Africa is R250 (about €23) per annum (R312 per year if paid on a monthly basis) for TV. A concessionary rate of R70 is available for those over 70, and disabled persons or war veterans who are on social welfare. The licence fee partially funds the public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation. The SABC does, unlike some other public broadcasters, derive much of its income from advertising. Proposals to abolish licencing have been circulating since October 2009. The national carrier hopes to receive funding entirely via state subsidies and commercials. According to IOL.co.za: "Television licence collections for the 2008/09 financial year (April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009) amounted to R972m." (almost €90m)
Countries where the TV licence has been abolished
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The following countries have had television licences, but subsequently abolished them:
Radio licence fees were introduced in Australia in the 1920s to fund the first privately owned broadcasters which were not permitted to sell advertising. With the formation of the government-owned Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1932 the licence fees were used to fund ABC broadcasts while the privately owned stations were permitted to seek revenue from advertising and sponsorship. Television licence fees were also introduced in 1956 when the ABC began TV transmissions. All licence fees were abolished in 1974 by the Australian Labor Party government led by Gough Whitlam on the basis that the near-universality of television and radio services meant that public funding was a fairer method of providing revenue for government-owned radio and television broadcasters. The ABC has since then been funded by government grants, now totalling around A$1.13 billion a year, and its own commercial activities (merchandising, overseas sale of programmes, etc.).
In 1964 the Australian Television Licence cost £6; the fine for not having a licence was £100. The licence was issued on a punch card.
Belgium (Flemish region)
Cyprus used to have an indirect but obligatory tax for CyBC, its state-run public broadcasting service. The tax was added to electricity bills, and the amount paid depended on the size of the home. By the late 1990s, it was abolished due to pressure from private radio and TV broadcasters. CyBC is currently funded by advertising and government grants.
Finland abolished its television fee on 1 January 2013, replacing it with a ring fenced so-called "Yle tax". Unlike the previous fee, the tax is progressive, meaning that people who earn less will pay less and vice versa - from €50 to €140, depending on income. However, the new tax is also be applied to all adults and not just once per household, meaning in essence that under the new system, some will pay less than before and others will pay more. Very low-income earners are completely exempt from the Yle tax.
Before the introduction of the Yle tax, the television fee in Finland used to be between €244.90 and €253.80 (depending on the interval of payments) per annum for a household with TV (as of 2011). It was the primary source of funding for Yleisradio (Yle), a role which has now been taken over by the Yle tax.
It was announced in Gibraltar's budget speech of 23 June 2006 that Gibraltar would abolish its TV licence. The 7,452 TV licence fees were previously used to part fund the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). However, the majority of the GBC's funding came in the form of a grant from the government.
In Hungary the licence fees nominally exist, but since 2002 the government has decided to pay them out of the state budget. Effectively this means that funding for Magyar Televízió and Duna TV now comes from the government through taxation.
As of Spring 2007 commercial units (hotels, bars etc.) have to pay television licence fees again, on a per TV set basis.
Since the Parliament decides on the amount of public broadcasters' income, during the 2009 crisis it was possible for it to decide to cut their funding by more than 30%. This move was publicly protested by the EBU.
The television licensing scheme has been a problem for Hungarian public broadcasters ever since the initial privatization changes in 1995, and the public broadcaster MTV has been stuck in a permanent financial crisis for years.
The TV licence fee for Iceland's National Broadcasting Service was abolished in 2007. Instead a Poll tax of 17.200 kr. is collected from all people who pay income tax, regardless of whether they use television and radio.
India introduced a radio receiver licence system in 1928, for All India Radio Aakaashavani. With the advent of television broadcasting in 1956–57, television was also licensed. With the spurt in television stations beginning 1971–72, a separate broadcasting company, Doordarshan, was formed. The radio & TV licences in question needed to be renewed at the post offices on a yearly basis. Annual premium for radio was Rs.15 in the 1970s and 1980s. Radio licence stamps were issued for this purpose. In 1984, the licensing system was withdrawn with both of the Indian national public broadcasters, AIR and Doordarshan, funded instead by the Government of India and by advertising.
Until it was discontinued in 2000, television licence in Malaysia was paid on annual basis of MYR 24 (MYR 2 per month), one of the lowest fees for television service in the world. Now, RTM is funded by government tax and advertising, whilst Media Prima owned another four more private broadcasting channels of TV3, NTV7, 8TV and TV9. The other two, TV Alhijrah and WBC are smaller broadcasters. Astro is a paid television service, so they operate by the monthly fees given to them by customers, and it is the same thing for HyppTV and ABNXcess.
The licence fee in Malta was €34.90. It was used to fund the television (TVM) and radio channels (Radio Malta and Radju Parliament) run by Public Broadcasting Services. Approximately two-thirds of TVM's funding came from the licence fee, with much of the remainder coming from commercials. Malta's television licence was abolished in 2011 when the free-to-air system was discontinued.
Since 1967, advertising has been introduced on the public television and radio, but this was only allowed as a small segment before and after news broadcasts. It wasn't until the late 1980s so called "floating commercial breaks" were introduced, these breaks are usually segments of multiple commercials with a total duration of 1 to 3 minutes and are placed in-between programmes, to allow programmes themselves to run uninterrupted. At the time, advertising on Sundays still wasn't yet allowed, mainly in part due to the heavy influence of the churches. In 1991 advertising on Sundays slowly began to take place.
With the plan to abolish the licence fee in 2000 due to the excessive collection costs and in order to pay for public television from government funds, income tax was increased in the late 1990s and maximum run time of commercial breaks was extended to 5 and 7 minutes. The Netherlands Public Broadcasting is now funded by government subsidy and advertising. The amount of time used by commercial breaks may not exceed 15% of daily available broadcasting time and 10% of the total yearly available time.
Licence fees were first used in New Zealand to fund the radio services of what was to become the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation. Television was introduced in 1960, and with it the television licence fee, later known as the public broadcasting fee. This was capped at NZ$100 a year in the 1970s, and the country's two television channels, while still publicly owned, became increasingly reliant on advertising. From 1989, it was collected and disbursed by the Broadcasting Commission (NZ On Air) on a contestable basis to support local content production. The public broadcasting fee was abolished in July 1999,. NZ On Air was then funded by a direct appropriation from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
The licence fee was abolished in 1992 by the Cavaco Silva government, the fee funded the national public broadcaster RTP (Rádio e Televisão de Portugal). It was replaced with direct government subsidy and advertisements.
However, since the merger between the public radio and television enterprises in Portugal, a fraction of the radio licence fee has served to fund the commercial advertising-free channel RTP2. The radio licence fee was instituted in the early 1990s to fund the public radio channels which are advertising-free, and is charged through electricity bills under the name "Taxa de Contribuição Audiovisual" (Portuguese for Broadcasting Contribution Tax). The radio licence fee is approximately €33 per year (€2.81 per month).
Singaporeans with TVs in their households or TVs and radios in their vehicles were required to acquire the appropriate licences from 1963 to 2010. The cost of the TV licence for a household in Singapore was S$110. Additional licences were required for radios and TVs in vehicles (S$27 and S$110 respectively).
The licence fee for television and radio was removed with immediate effect from 1 January 2011. This was announced during Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's budget statement on 18 February 2011. Mr Shanmugaratnam chose to abolish the fees as they were "losing their relevance".
Countries that never had a television or broadcasting licence
Ràdio i Televisió d'Andorra, the public broadcaster, is funded by both advertising and government grants, there is no fee.
In Estonia there are two public TV channels: Eesti Televisioon (ETV) and ETV2. The funding comes from government grant-in-aid. Around 15% of which was until 2008 funded by the fees paid by Estonian commercial broadcasters in return for their exclusive right to screen television advertising. Showing commercials in public broadcasting television was stopped in 2002 (after a previous unsuccessful attempt in 1998–1999). One argument was that its low-cost advertising rates were damaging the ability of commercial broadcasters to operate. The introduction of licence fee system was considered but ultimately rejected in the face of public opposition.
ETV is currently one of only a few public television broadcasters in EU which has neither advertising nor a licence fee, and is solely funded by national governments grants. At the moment, only RTVE of Spain has a similar model, and from 2013 and onwards, the Finnish Yle broadcaster will follow suit.
In Liechtenstein there is the public radio station Radio Liechtenstein. It was founded as a private station in 1995, but was nationalized in 2004. Radio Liechtenstein is funded by commercials and government grants. A television station, 1FLTV, was launched in August 2008.
Luxembourg has never had a television licence, because when RTL (RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg) was established, it was simply a commercial broadcaster, and acted with public broadcasting dimension in its programming. Plus many Luxembourgers are trilingual in French, German and Luxembourgish, so many watched French, German and Belgian television as well as local TV, so putting a television licence in place would be seen as unfair.
RTVE, the public broadcaster, had been funded by government grants and advertising incomes since it was launched in 1937 (radio) and 1956 (television). Although the state-owner national radio stations removed all its advertising in 1986, its public nationwide TV channels continued broadcasting commercial breaks until 2009. Since 2010, the public broadcaster is funded by government grants and taxes paid by private nationwide TV broadcasters and telecommunications companies.
In contrast to the situation in Europe, receiver licensing in Canada never had much to do with the funding of broadcasts. Before 1952, Canadian law required the licensing of all radio receivers, not just those for tuning in broadcasts. In 1952 the Radio Act was amended to exempt broadcast-only receivers from licensing, and the Department of Transport (DOT) was given authority to exempt other receiver types from licensing as it saw fit. DOT exempted all "home-type" receivers capable of receiving any radio communications other than "public correspondence" (a term defined as "radio transmissions not intended to be received by just anyone but rather by a member of the public who has paid for the message" – examples include ship-to-shore radiotelephone calls or car-phone transmissions). After 1952, licences were required in Canada only for general coverage shortwave receivers with single-sideband capability, and VHF/UHF scanners which could tune to the maritime or land mobile radiotelephone bands.
Beginning in 1982, in response to a Canadian court's finding that all unscrambled radio signals imply a forfeiture of the right to privacy, the DOC (Department of Communications) required receiver licensing only in cases where it was necessary to ensure technical compatibility with the transmitter.
Regulation SOR-89-253 (published in the 4 February 1989 issue of the Canada Gazette, pages 498–502) removed the licence requirement for all radio and TV receivers.
The responsibility for regulating radio spectrum affairs in Canada has devolved to a number of federal departments and agencies, beginning with the Department of Marine and Fisheries (to 1935), Department of Transport (from 1935 to 1969), Department of Communications (1969 to 1996) and most recently to Industry Canada (since 1995).
In the United States, historically, privately owned "commercial" radio stations selling advertising quickly proved to be commercially viable enterprises during the first half of the 20th century; though a few governments owned non-commercial radio stations (such as WNYC, owned by New York City from 1922 to 1997), most were owned by charitable organizations and supported by donations. The pattern repeated itself with television in the second half of that century, except that some governments, mostly states, also established educational television stations alongside the privately owned stations.
The United States created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 1967, which eventually led to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR); however, those are loose networks of non-commercial educational (NCE) stations owned by state and local governments, educational institutions, or non-profit organizations, more like U.S. commercial networks (though there are some differences) than European public broadcasters. The CPB and virtually all government-owned stations are funded through general taxes, and donations from individual persons (usually in the form of "memberships") and charitable organizations. Additionally, all individual programs on PBS and NPR are now sponsored by companies. While programming is not interrupted by traditional commercial breaks, underwriting spots typically precede and follow each program. Because between 53 and 60 percent of public television's revenues come from private membership donations and grants, most stations solicit individual donations by methods including fundraising, pledge drives or telethons which can disrupt regularly scheduled programming. Normal programming can be replaced with specials aimed at a wider audience to solicit new members and donations.
In some rural portions of the United States, broadcast translator districts exist, which are funded by an ad valorem property tax on all property within the district, or a parcel tax on each dwelling unit within the district. Failure to pay the TV translator tax has the same repercussions as failing to pay any other property tax, including a lien placed on the property and eventual seizure. In addition, fines can be levied on viewers who watch TV from the signals from the translator without paying the fee. As the Federal Communications Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over broadcast stations, whether a local authority can legally impose a fee merely to watch an over-the-air broadcast station is questionable. Depending on the jurisdiction, the tax may be charged regardless of whether the resident watches TV from the translator or instead watches it via cable TV or satellite, or the property owner may certify that they do not use the translator district's services and get a waiver.
Another substitute for TV licences comes through cable television franchise fee agreements. The itemized fee on customers' bills is included or added to the cable TV operator's gross income to fund public, educational, and government access (PEG) television for the municipality that granted the franchise agreement. State governments also may add their own taxes. These taxes generate controversy since these taxes sometimes go into the general fund of governmental entities or there is double taxation (e.g., a tax funds public-access television, but the cable TV operator must pay for the equipment or facilities out of its own pocket anyways, or the cable TV operator must pay for earmark projects of the local municipality that are not related to television).
Neither the Republic of China (est. in 1912), nor its contemporary, the People's Republic of China (est. in 1949), has ever had a television licence fee to pay for the state broadcaster. The current state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), established in 1958, is funded almost entirely through the sale of commercial advertising time, although this is supplemented by government funding. As a result, almost all television channels in China show commercial advertising.
Hong Kong has never had a television licence fee, despite having been a British crown colony until 1997. Over-the-air television terrestrial broadcasts are always free of charge, no matter whether they are analogue or digital.
There are public television programmes produced by Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). RTHK is funded by the Hong Kong Government, but it does not have its own TV channel. Rather, it uses commercial television channels to broadcast its own programmes, and each of the traditional four terrestrial commercial TV channels in Hong Kong (TVB Jade and ATV Home, which carry Cantonese-language broadcasts, and TVB Pearl and ATV World, which carry English-language broadcasts), are required to broadcast 2.5 hours of public television per week. However, there is no such requirement for the newer digital channels.
RTHK plans to have four digital television channels, with one being a high-definition channel, after its move to the new Tseung Kwan O headquarters in 2015. RTHK's own programmes will return to RTHK's channels in the future.
Iran has never levied television licence fees. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, National Iranian Radio and Television was renamed Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, and it became the state broadcaster. In Iran, private broadcasting is illegal.
Today, almost all television channels in Vietnam carry advertisements, although these networks are state-owned and the media is heavily censored. Now-defunct television and radio stations that operated in the former North and South had almost no commercials, and were also government funded and run
In the Philippines, almost all television services are financed through advertising. Additionally, two of the three broadcasters with state ownership, Radio Philippines Network and the Intercontinental Broadcasting Company, lease their airtime to commercial broadcasters, such as Solar Entertainment and TV5,
Television licences are not used in Nigeria, except in the sense of broadcasting licences granted to private networks. The federal government's television station, NTA (Nigerian Television Authority), has two broadcast networks – NTA 1 and NTA 2. NTA 1 is partly funded by the central government and partly by advertising revenue, while NTA 2 is wholly funded by advertisements. Almost all of the thirty-six states have their own television stations funded wholly or substantially by their respective governments.
Detection of evasion of television licences
In many jurisdictions, television licences are enforced. The BBC states 'television detector vans' are employed by TV Licensing in the UK. Besides claims of (usually undisclosed) sophisticated technological methods for the detection of operating televisions, detection of illegal television sets can be as simple as the observation of the lights and sounds of an illegally used television in a user's home at night. Detection is made much easier because nearly all houses do have a licence, so only those houses that do not have a licence need to be checked. However, in the UK there has been not one single prosecution for TV licence evasion based upon evidence obtained using detection equipment, and there is no technical evidence supporting claims that such detection equipment is capable of carrying out the specific task of locating television sets accurately; indeed, detection equipment used even at the perimeter of a dwelling cannot specifically pinpoint receiving devices based upon the equipment's I.F. (intermediate) frequency. This frequency is too low down the frequency spectrum (very low wavelength) to allow such capabilities of any equipment, handheld or otherwise. An effort to compel the BBC to release key information about the television detection vans (and possible handheld equivalents) based on the Freedom of Information Act was rejected. The BBC has stated on record "... detection equipment is complex to deploy as its use is strictly governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (British Broadcasting Corporation) Order 2001. RIPA and the Order outline how the relevant investigatory powers are to be used by the BBC and ensure compliance with human rights.
Opinions of television licensing systems
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Advocates argue that one of the main advantages of television fully funded by a licence fee is that programming can be enjoyed without interruptions for advertisements. Television funded by advertising is not truly free of cost to the viewer, since the advertising is used mostly to sell mass-market items, and the cost of mass-market goods includes the cost of TV advertising, such that viewers effectively pay for TV when they purchase those products. Viewers also pay in time lost watching advertising.
Europeans tend to watch one hour less TV per day than do North Americans, but in practice may be enjoying the same amount of television but gaining extra leisure time by not watching advertisements. Even the channels in Europe that do carry advertising carry about 25% less advertising per hour than their North American counterparts.
Critics of receiver licensing point out that a licence is a regressive form of taxation, because poor people pay more for the service in relation to income. In contrast, the advertisement model implies that costs are covered in proportion to consumption of mass-market goods, particularly luxury goods, so the poorer the viewer, the greater the subsidy. The experience with broadcast deregulation in Europe suggests that demand for commercial-free content is not as high as once thought.
The third option, voluntary funding of public television via subscriptions, requires a subscription level higher than the licence fee (because not all people that currently pay the licence would voluntarily pay a subscription) if quality and/or output volume are not to decline. These higher fees would deter even more people from subscribing, leading to further hikes in subscription levels. In time, if public subscription television were subject to encryption to deny access to non-subscribers, the poorest in society would be denied access to the well-funded programmes that public broadcasters produce today in exchange for the relatively lower cost of the licence.
The UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as part of its BBC Charter review, asked the public what it thought of various funding alternatives. Fifty-nine percent of respondents agreed with the statement "Advertising would interfere with my enjoyment of programmes", while 31 percent disagreed; 71 percent agreed with the statement "subscription funding would be unfair to those that could not pay", while 16 percent disagreed. The Department concluded that the licence fee was "the least worse [sic] option".
The British government described the licence fee system as "the best (and most widely supported) funding model, even though it is not perfect". That is, they believe that the disadvantages of having a licence fee are less than the disadvantages of all other methods. In fact, the disadvantages of other methods have led to some countries, especially those in the former Eastern Bloc, to consider the introduction of a TV licence.
Both Bulgaria and Serbia have attempted to legislate to introduce a television licence. In Bulgaria, a fee is specified in the broadcasting law, but it has never been implemented in practice. Lithuania and Latvia have also long debated the introduction of a licence fee but so far made little progress on legislating for one. In the case of Latvia, some analysts believe this is partly because the government is unwilling to relinquish the control of Latvijas Televīzija that funding from general taxation gives it.[who?]
The Czech Republic has increased the proportion of funding that the public broadcaster gets from licence fees, justifying the move with the argument that the existing public service broadcasters cannot compete with commercial broadcasters for advertising revenues.
Internet-based broadcast access
The development of the global Internet has created the ability for television and radio programming to be easily accessed outside of its country of origin, with little technological investment needed to implement the capability. Prior to the development of the Internet, this would have required specially-acquired satellite relaying and/or local terrestrial rebroadcasting of the international content, at considerable cost to the international viewer. This access can now instead be readily facilitated using off-the-shelf video encoding and streaming equipment, using broadband services within the country of origin.
In some cases, no additional technology is needed for international program access via the Internet, if the national broadcaster already has a broadband streaming service established for citizens of their own country. However, countries with TV licensing systems often don't have a way to accommodate international access via the Internet, and instead work to actively block and prevent access because their national licensing rules have not evolved fast enough to adapt to the ever-expanding potential global audience for their material.
For example, it is currently not possible for a citizen of the United States to pay for a British TV Licence in order to watch all of the BBC's programming, streamed live over the Internet in its original format.
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