The payment obligation, which has been subject to the existence of a suitable reception device in a household, will thereby be turned into a fee which has to be paid independent of the existence, type and number of reception devices. The new scheme will come into force on January 1 2013, until then the current system will remain intact.
Through the change, ARD, ZDF and national public radio broadcaster Deutschlandradio will be put in line with cultural and educational institutions such as schools, universities and theatres for which every citizen has to pay a contribution - whether they use them or not.
In May, Paul Kirchhof, a former judge at the German Constitutional Court, presented the results of a study commissioned by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF in which he recommended this scheme as a practicable model which would be in accordance with the German constitution. The exact figure of the new fee still has to be determined, but it is already clear that it won't exceed the current level of €17.98 per month.
With the change, the prime ministers react to the technical convergence of reception devices. Access to the public channels is no longer restricted to classic TV sets and radio receivers, instead programmes are also available through the internet on computers, mobile phones and other modern devices. The prime ministers also want to make licence fee collection less complicated and close loopholes.
As every household will have to pay the fee, the new system also puts an end to the much criticised detective-style investigations by licence fee collection organisation GEZ to uncover non-payers.
© Rapid TV News 2010