ZDF, ARD call for hike in funding

Pubcasters deny money will be spent on sport

BERLIN — German pubcasters have denied accusations by commercial rivals that a planned increase in TV viewer fees is being used primarily to pay for soccer rights.

Fritz Pleitgen, head of regional web WDR, an affiliate of national pubcaster ARD, rebuffed charges recently made by Juergen Doetz, head of Germany’s association of commercial radio and television (VPRT), that the pubcasters’ proposed €2 ($2.33) a month rise in mandatory fees was simply a way to finance costly sports rights and would in effect be nothing more than a “soccer tax.”

TV and radio fees are set to go up to $21 a month with the increase. Doetz also blasted pubcasters for using viewer fees on auxiliary media like their online platforms, which the VPRT claims is not part of the pubcasters’ mandate.

Pleitgen said Thursday that ARD has no need to raise additional funds solely for sports rights and added that Internet costs had already been carefully calculated in its budget. He also rejected growing criticism that pubcaster programming increasingly resembles that of commercial rivals and pointed to the pubcasters’ “far larger commitment in culture and education.”

Doetz, an exec at German broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1, has been VPRT prexy since 1996 and earlier this month won another two-year term to head the org.

The proposed fee increase has met with widespread opposition among German viewers. In a survey published Thursday by German publication TV Today, 77% of viewers called the planned rise “unjustified,” while 19% said the fee hike was “reasonable.” The survey also found that 37% of viewers would be in favor of more TV advertising on ARD and fellow pubcaster ZDF in primetime (after 8 p.m.) if it meant lowering viewer fees, while 18% would support commercials in primetime just to keep the proposed increase from being introduced.

Germany’s pubcasters only air limited advertising in the early evening but not after 8 p.m.

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