German license fee increased to fight against “fake news”

Months of blocking for 86 cents more. In Germany, the increase in the license fee for public broadcast media was finally validated by the Constitutional Court. From now on, each German household will pay 18.36 euros per month, according to an amount set by an independent commission (KEF) in February 2020. The public broadcast media initially asked for a fee of 19.34 euros. The question was then the subject of such political tension that it took the intervention of the supreme judges, on August 5, for it to be definitively adopted. At the time of Netflix and Amazon, does it still make sense to subsidize a media model, which dates from the last century?

Yes, the judges from Karlsruhe answered bluntly. The German public broadcast media have a “Growing importance” at a marked time “On the one hand by complex and multiple information flows, on the other by unilateral positions, filter bubbles, false information and deepfakes [hypertrucages] ». With a budget increased by 1.5 billion between 2021 and 2024, they must work to present “The truth thanks to authenticated information, researched with seriousness, and which makes it possible to differentiate the facts from the opinions, while not letting the sensationalism take the top”.

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The judgment also seals the independence of the media from the political game. ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio had seized the court after the refusal of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt to validate the increase negotiated within the KEF. The minister-president of this region, Reiner Haseloff (CDU), had committed to it, but on December 8, 2020 the fear of seeing his coalition shattered led him to cancel the consultation of his Parliament. Some conservative MPs were preparing to vote against the 86 cents more, with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Eight months later, justice returns Haseloff to the ropes: no Land can afford to block the funding of public media for political reasons.

A judgment denounced by the far right

According to lawyer Bernd Holznagel, a media specialist, the judgment provides lasting protection for the media from populists: “If the AfD ever gains power in a Land, it will not be able to change anything. ” The AfD has been calling for the removal of the levy for years and has been campaigning vigorously against the public media presented as henchmen of established power and well-thinking. Journalists covering protests often have to be accompanied by bodyguards.

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