Participation according to income, levy on the electricity bill, end of free certain programs… At a time when the audiovisual license fee is about to be abolished by the French government, France 24 offers you a tour of horizon of public service media funding models in our European neighbours.
After almost 90 years of existence, the audiovisual license fee is living its last months. President Macron’s campaign promise, the end of this tax was confirmed by the Council of Ministers on May 11. The executive assured that the tax would be “suspended from this year”.
Amounting to 138 euros in 2021, this contribution to public broadcasting, which concerns France Télévisions, Radio France, France Médias Monde, TV5 Monde, Arte France and INA, is paid each year by 23 million households with a television. His disappearance causes a loss of 3.2 billion euros in funding for these public media.
The government has assured that the end of the fee will not lead to a reduction in the means of public broadcasting and now wishes to replace this levy with a current budget over several years. “In other words, the vote, each year, within the framework of the finance bill [au Parlement]amounts that will be devoted to public broadcasting”, explains Julia Cagé, an economist specializing in the media, in a report that explores new forms of financing the audiovisual license fee. Indeed, the abolition of the license fee will be integrated into the amending finance law (PLFR) presented to Parliament in early July.
For the researcher, this method of financing can pose a problem because it goes against “the existence of long-term, multi-annual financing that is independent of the cycles of political majorities”.
Towards a paying BBC in the UK?
In a context of declining purchasing power, France is not the only country to waive its audiovisual license fee. In the United Kingdom, where it finances three-quarters of the BBC’s resources, Boris Johnson’s government has announced that it will be abolished by 2027. Several avenues are being studied across the Channel: the British Conservatives could authorize the broadcasting of advertising, close certain BCC channels, imposing a tax on Internet access providers or even making certain programs or stations chargeable on the model of platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, which would pose a serious problem of equal access to a service audience.
In the meantime, the British continue to pay 159 pounds of royalties each year, or 190 euros.
The license fee paid directly to public broadcasting in Germany
In total, says Julia Cagé, 13 of the 27 member countries of the European Union continue to use the fee, including France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy and Portugal.
The French are far from paying the most for their participation in public service media. In Germany, this amounts to 210 euros per year, but the payment method differs. The fee is directly levied by an agency entirely controlled by the channels themselves in order to ensure the total independence of public broadcasting from the government, recalls Julia Cagé in her report.
Another significant difference is that all German households are liable for tax – not just those with a television set as in France – on the principle that all Germans benefit from public service media, even without owning a television. , since they can consult the websites of these media on their smartphone, listen to podcast programs or view replays. On this point, France was therefore an exception so far, in the same way as Ireland, Poland, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
However, more and more French people are using their smartphone, computer or tablet to watch the productions of television channels, even if – according to the Observatory of household audiovisual equipment – the television remains the most widespread screen. . However, its share is steadily declining, with 91% of households equipped with a television in 2021, compared to 93.4% in 2018.
A tax according to income in the Nordic countries
In Sweden, the fee of 250 euros was replaced in 2019 by a “public service tax” equal to 1% of the taxable income of each Swede, and not linked to the tax household. The most modest who are not taxable do not pay. While being more egalitarian, the new tax has allowed an increase in the financial resources of public broadcasting, notes the Cagé report, which invites the French government to explore the Swedish track.
Another Nordic country to have innovated in the methods of financing its public media, Norway introduced an individual tax by bracket according to income, leading to “a significant reduction in the amounts paid for the most modest households, offset by an increase for wealthier individuals, while maintaining equivalent resources for public broadcasting”.
Finally, Finland proposes not only to make taxpayers pay according to their income, but also “companies, legal persons, cooperatives, municipalities, savings banks, investment funds and foundations”. It should be noted that a participation of companies is also requested in Germany.
Spain wants to tax Netflix and Amazon Prime
In Italy, the license fee is included in the electricity bill and advertising represents a significant part of RAI’s resources.
Spain, for its part, has never imposed an audiovisual license fee, but the public media have long relied on state funding, and above all on generous advertising revenues. So much so that the European Commission criticized him for not respecting the mandatory 20-minute interval between each advertising break. But since the abolition of advertising on public channels in 2010, the country has struggled to finance its media.
The government has taxed telecom operators for several years, but it backtracked last year and is now considering asking streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime to pay 1.5% of their annual income generated in Spain to Spain. national public broadcasting.