The Licence Fee

The licence fee is a legally prescribed contribution for citizens, companies and institutions as well as for public interest bodies. For private households, the current fee is 17.50 euros per month.

The contribution serves to finance public broadcasting service based on a contributory model. Contributory means that in principle all adult citizens, companies and institutions as well as public interest bodies in Germany should make a contribution – regardless of their actual media use. In this way, everyone can benefit from the variety and quality of the freely available public broadcasting services – even those who pay a reduced licence fee or none at all. The objective is to ensure the highest possible level of fairness in the financing.

Basically, for citizens who are at least 18 years old, the following applies: One dwelling – one fee. If several persons live together in one dwelling, only one person pays the fee, regardless of how many persons live in it or how many devices they use.

Special regulations apply to companies and institutions and to public interest bodies.

The fee is paid directly to the public broadcasting service and not to the revenue office, for example. This ensures that the public radio, television and internet services can be produced independently of government influence.

The fee amount is not determined by the broadcasting corporations themselves. Following the recommendation of an independent expert commission, the heads of government of the federal states set the amount for the duration of a fee period (as a rule, four years) in a multi-step procedure, and is then adopted by the state parliaments.

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The contribution service of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio

As a joint institution of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio, the contribution service collects the licence fee on the basis of statutory regulations. These regulations are not set by the contribution service itself, but by the heads of government of the federal states in the Public Broadcasting Fee State Treaty [in German]. Here too, the respective provisions also require subsequent ratification by the state parliaments.

As the central point of contact for citizens, companies, institutions and public interest bodies, the employees of the contribution service deal with queries and issues related to the licence fee. For example, they record and process applications, data modifications and requests for reduction and exemption.

There are various ways to contact the contribution service. Most contributor concerns can be resolved online [in German] around the clock. The rundfunkbeitrag.de website has a lot of general information about the licence fee, special regulations and additional contact options [in German].

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The contribution service checks its database on a regular basis

If citizens move into a dwelling and legally register their new place of residence, the residents’ registration office will notify the contribution service of this. The latter will then write to the persons concerned in order to clarify the contribution obligation for the dwelling.

In addition, a nationwide registration data matching takes place at regular intervals. On a specified reporting date, all residents’ registration offices submit the registration data of all adults in Germany to the contribution service. In the course of this, those persons whose dwelling had no record of a contribution account when the data were matched are contacted.

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Data protection

The contribution service administers the contribution accounts of the contributors in Germany and is thus especially committed to data protection. The protection of personal data is very important to the contribution service. It complies with the statutory data protection provisions and the regulations of the Public Broadcasting Fee State Treaty.

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Exemption and reduction

Not all persons must pay the full licence fee. Legislation has defined a series of exception provisions that allow for a licence fee reduction or an exemption from the contribution obligation.

Thus, people awarded the RF code because of their severe disability can apply for a reduction of their licence fee [in German] to one-third, namely 5.83 euros per month.

Persons suffering from severe physical limitations such as deaf-blind people or those who receive blind aid according to SGB (Social Security Code) XII can apply for the exemption to the obligation to pay the licence fee [in German].

However, an exemption can also be granted upon application if contributors receive certain social security benefits from the state. This includes state-supported financial assistance for students known as BAföG. However, those receiving other social security benefits such as the unemployment benefit II or the guaranteed minimum pension are entitled to apply for the exemption from the obligation to pay the licence fee [in German].

If a person has one or more secondary dwellings in addition to the main one, only one licence fee must be paid. The exemption for a secondary dwelling must be applied for [in German], as with every other exemption.

There is no registration obligation for certain dwelling situations. For example, if persons move into a room in an inpatient nursing home, they can deregister [in German] their dwelling with the contribution service office.

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