For an American, the German TV/Media Tax is one of those odd things that you ask a hundred questions over, and eventually realize that there are only a dozen answers....the rest aren't answerable.
Everyone in Germany is expected to pay for it. It used to be that if you had no radio and TV (to include no car radio)....you could slide by. They decided to modify the tax some years ago because of the internet, and it's hard to find anyone except those who live under bridges.....who don't have TV, internet or radio.
The fee? 17.50 Euro a month. Most expect the fee to rise within two years....mostly because the ARD/ZDF empire says they need more money to operate.
How do business and hotels operate with it? There is some formula that exists which uses the factor of employees, vehicles, beds, etc.....and then you pay off that estimated number. It's not a perfect system. It's as best as you can make....with the circumstances.
Those on unemployment? You can be exempted....only while unemployed. On disability pay? You get a reduced rate....roughly six Euro a month.
The chief complaints?
1. For folks between 15 and 25....it is a declining audience who watch public-TV/State-run. Most will tell you that they watch commercial TV, with a trend growing for those who have no TV or radio....using an internet connection to watch Netflix instead.
2. If you do pull up the state-run/public-TV menu each night, there are roughly fourteen channels available. But the list goes from some chat forum, to some cooking show....onto some news documentary, a French-movie in German from the 1990s, and onto some 90-minute movie about some Bavarian doctor who has women problems. At least once a month.....some National Geographic-like 45-minute show will pop up over some region of the world where I might have interest (with at least sixty of such shows each month possible). And after that, it's 25-percent cop shows, murder mysteries, or such.
3. Up until four years ago...no one said biased news much or suggested that ARD or ZDF did slanted topics. Ever since the immigration episode occurred....the topic comes up more often, and sometimes goes onto various political topics now way outside of the immigration circle. It angers the reporters with the two organizations. But they aren't having much luck convincing the public otherwise. Skepticism grows.
4. The salary structure. There's a fair amount of frustration over what the public networks pay their people. It's mostly a secretive listing and not discussed very much. Six months ago, the topic came up over what they were paying sport announcers, and that shocked folks with the soccer championship.
5. Coverage of sports. The last five years....virtually every time that a big contract is awarded to ARD or ZDF over sports....the amount becomes a hot topic for about a week....where folks are frustrated that they actually paid X-amount of money (often considered way over acceptable).
6. Trying to nudge the commission over ARD or ZDF. This gets brought up on rare occasions. Most political folks will agree that the large commission is bulky and not able to really manage ARD or ZDF. It's mostly designed in a way that makes political intrusion almost impossible. But it also means that the general public has no real way to say anything....other than turning it off or flipping to a non-public channel.
7. The gimmick to bring youth back? Well....the politicians are very worried that a whole generation of kids will just walk away and refuse to participate with state-TV/public-TV. So, they convinced the managers to add another network....this one however, would be a streaming-video ONLY deal. It would also feature more comedy....more science-fiction (something that both ARD/ZDF hate sponsoring), AND have public forums designed for teens. Yeah....political shows for teens. The general perception after a couple of months of this now? It's not selling much beyond the university crowd. Maybe in five years, with more production in effect....it'll improve. I have my doubts.
8. The talk of intellectuals giving up? That's an topic too....because a lot of intellectuals will tell you that they watch less than four hours a week, and it's mostly the more clever or informational shows that they prefer. I think these folks have been around for decades, but no one ever realized that they exist and really don't care much for ARD or ZDF either.
My best guess is that in some form, both ARD and ZDF, with the tax....will survive on for another five to eight years. Eventually, some government change....with two parties suggesting massive change....will force the pair to combine, and whittle down the tax to something less. I also think within two decades....you will be able to find 25-percent of the population who absolutely won't watch a single hour of public-TV throughout the entire year. And it'll be hard to keep the tax going at that point.