Court OKs Per-Dwelling Fee for German Public Broadcasting

(CN) – A German law that gets funding for public broadcasting by charging every household a fee, regardless of the number of occupants or their media consumption, passed muster Thursday at the European Court of Justice.

Germany adopted the scheme here in 2013, replacing a previous system where the obligation to pay was dictated by whether the household included a radio, television or other public-broadcast device. The law empowers public broadcasters to bring enforcement actions against those who don’t pay, ultimately provoking a lawsuit by six people who received such collections actions in 2015 and 2016 from the Land broadcasting institution Sudwestrundfunk.

Seeking guidance on whether the scheme qualifies as unlawful state aid, the regional court in Tubingen, Germany, which is hearing the case on appeal, referred the matter to the EU’s highest court.

On Thursday, the Fourth Chamber of that Luxembourg-based body sided with the broadcasters.

“Articles 107 and 108 TFEU must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which confers on public broadcasters powers, as exceptions to the general law, allowing those broadcasters themselves to enforce claims in respect of unpaid broadcasting contributions,” the ruling states.

The ruling identifies Tilo Rittinger as the lead plaintiff. Today the fee comes out to about  $19.85 a month. Germany’s highest court rejected complaints against the fee in July.

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