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Public broadcaster microphones: This time the alliance against an increase is much broader

Photo: Marijan Murat / dpa / picture alliance

The decision surprised no one: After months of examination and discussions, the Commission for determining the financial needs of broadcasters (KEF) made its final recommendation on Friday that the contribution for ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio should be increased.

Accordingly, instead of the previous 18.36 euros, a slightly higher 18.94 euros per household per month could be due from 2025.

The number had been circulating for some time in a preliminary draft by the independent auditors.

The contribution would therefore increase by 58 cents.

However, the proposed increase is an announcement in the subjunctive.

The final decision lies with the federal states, which determine the amount in a state contract.

All 16 state parliaments must then agree to this.

This complex procedure is intended to secure broadcasting freedom - but at the same time it is a political minefield.

There was already resistance in 2021

The fact that an increase does not always go smoothly was shown, for example, when determining the contribution for the current contribution period.

In the summer of 2021, the broadcasters were only able to enforce the increase in the contribution through the Federal Constitutional Court.

At that time, Saxony-Anhalt had resisted an increase of 86 cents from 17.50 euros to 18.36 euros and thus temporarily prevented the increase.

This time the alliance against an increase is much broader.

The CDU and CSU had already spoken out against it in June.

But SPD Prime Ministers such as Dietmar Woidke from Brandenburg or Stephan Weil from Lower Saxony have also made it clear that they will not support a contribution above the previous 18.36 euros.

This is due less to the analysis of the broadcasters' financial demands than to the belief that people simply cannot currently be expected to pay a higher broadcasting fee.

Radio contribution as an election campaign issue

It should not be underestimated that there will be three elections in East Germany in September.

The broadcasting fee could not only be relevant for the AfD.

The Union parties have also long since found this to be a powerful election campaign topic.

It's hard to assume that the front people from ARD and ZDF will bring anything into this.

That hadn't worked before: in 2020, the then ARD chairman Tom Buhrow tried to change politicians' minds through massive shuttle diplomacy in the East German state parliaments.

At that time, ARD was still able to score points by locating the new ARD Kultur community institution in Thuringia.

The current ARD chairman Kai Gniffke is now repeatedly trying in interviews to highlight the cooperation projects and streamlining within his broadcasting network - but many in politics do not see savings of 250 million euros over four years and the widely announced elimination of insignificant special interest channels as a sufficient cure.

So what could happen next?

If the states do not make a decision this year, the broadcasting fee will initially be frozen at the current level.

It has not yet been decided whether the broadcasters will then appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court.

A kind of moratorium by the states could also come into play because they are working on a major reform process in the Broadcasting Commission at the same time and the KEF is supposed to prepare a special report on possible savings.

In this way, the Prime Minister could keep the issue in limbo and postpone the urgently necessary decisions again.

Preferably until after the elections in September.

With material from dpa