Thursday, 30 April 2009

Which Countries Make You Pay for a TV License?

You’d like all the entertainment, edutainment and action that the world has to offer. So you buy a gorgeous 42-inch flat panel TV set, and next you get movie, sports and other entertainment channels that cost you a lot. Just as you get used to the wonderful world of entertainment, you learn that you have to pay a TV license fee.

What? Why should you pay for the channels and then the licence fee?

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

How Common Are TV License Fees?

About 75% of the countries in Europe and approximately half the countries in Asia and Africa fund their public television by making inhabitants pay for TV licences. Since TV broadcasts began in the late 1920’s, TV has been seen as a public resource or public good.

The great economist Paul Samuelson in his 1954 paper The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure compared TV to roads (uncongested roads). “Goods are called public if one person’s consumption of them does not preclude consumption by others.

Different Models of Financing TV Broadcasting

Now, public goods also need to be financed somehow. There have been three approaches for financing TV broadcasts in different countries. The British model of taxing people at their homes through licence fees for receiving TV broadcasts took hold in many countries.

In America, most early TV stations owners were broadcasters whose radio broadcasting background had taught them how difficult it was to collect fees from homes and they thought that advertising should pay for the costs.

In countries, where it is difficult to make people pay for TV, the government funds TV broadcasting from taxes collected by other means. The Albanian government funds 58% of TV costs and 42% comes from advertising and licence fees.

Countries with No TV Licence Fees

Photo source: Wikemedia Commons

In many countries TV is seen as a vehicle for spreading literacy, education, social consciousness and of course propaganda for the ruling regime.

There are many countries, which have no TV licence fees. The following have never had a TV licence fee - Andorra, Canada, China, Estonia, Iran, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, USA.

The following have abolished TV licences after toying with different approaches - Australia, Belgium (Flemish), Cyprus, Gibraltar, Hungary, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal.

Now, there is a downside to this as all European visitors to the US point out pretty quickly - the profusion of commercials on every programme, every channel. Once you get used to TV programmes without advertising, the constant advert breaks is really infuriating. Sincere apologies to the creators of the
Guiness White horses in the sea ad, TV advert buffs, and to people, who run sites like the most popular TV adverts ever.

Photo source

Yearly TV Licence Fee in Different Countries

  • Albania - €6.30 per household.
  • Austria – Fees vary by state – Styria €284 to Upper Austria €223, radio €80. Would Joseph Fritzl have needed a separate TV license for his private prison?
  • Belgium (Wallonia) - €149 for TV/per household €26,72 for a car radio but house radio is free.
  • Bosnia - €36. Each household is charged along with the telephone bill.
  • Croatia - €137
  • Denmark - €288 ingenuously called Media Licence Fee. This covers TVs. Computers with Internet access above 256 kbit/s or with TV tuners and mobile phones, which can receive broadcast TV. Radio only licence is €43.
  • Finland - €252. TV licence fee inspectors knock on those people’s doors who haven’t paid, but you don’t need to let them in if you don’t want to. Update: 9.11.2012 -The new TV-tax, coming in force from 1.1.2013 is 0.68% of income and capital gains per person. The maximum amount of TV-tax per person is 140€/person no matter how high the income may be.
  • France - €116. Added to the local tax bill to reduce collection costs. 30% of government owned France Television’s revenues come from advertising.
  • Germany – 204 billed monthly in German precision but paid quarterly. The unemployed, disabled and those living solely on government support need not pay.
  • Ghana – Stupendous amount of 0.30 Euro cents billed per household. There are rumours that even government ministers do not pay.
  • Greece - €51, charged per electricity connection and paid with the electric bill.
  • Iceland – The most expensive TV licence fee in the world - €346.
  • Ireland - €160. Once you are over 70 or blind, you need not pay. Last year 54 people were jailed for not paying. Fines range from €635 for a first offence and €1,270 for a second.
  • Israel - €70/year to fund Israel Broadcasting Authority, but the channels also get commercial "sponsoring".
  • Italy – A delightfully Italian affair. Licence fee is €106 per household with TV sets or computers, mobile phones, video-intercoms, which can receive broadcast. The penalty for non-payment is only half of the licence fee plus the licence. 40% of households, especially people living in the sunny south do not pay.
  • Japan – Known in Japanese as reception fee or 受信料 is €110 for terrestrial and €165 for satellite. Over 1 million Japanese do not pay, as you need not let TV inspectors into your house. Office workers and students who commute get discounts. People in Okinawa, famous for the longest life expectancy in the world also pay lower rates.
  • Korea (South) - €25/year through electricity bills.
  • Macedonia - €25.30 per year
  • Malta - €34.40 per year.
  • Mauritius - €30 and Pakistan €3 both collect the fee with the electricity bill.
  • Norway - €270 and Sweden €194 both collect fees per household and not per TV set.
  • Pakistan - Rupees 300 (€4) collected as Rs.25 per month with electricity bills to fund PTV.
  • Poland – €53 for TV and €17 for radio. Households need one TV licence per household but commercial premises one licence per TV set. 98% of businesses and 45% of households do not pay as TV inspectors may not inspect premises without permission from owners.
  • Romania - €12
  • UK – Very Big Brother (in an Orwellian sense) approach with adverts reminding of "a database of 28 million addresses that shows who does and who does not have a current TV licence". TV license reminder slogan ‘Your Arse Won’t be Safe in Prison reception detection vans and intrepid high-tech “enforcement officers” with hand-held devices. £142.50 colour £48.00 BW billed per household. People over 75 do not pay. The legally blind pay only half. Penalty for non-payment is £1000 + legal costs. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair use MP’s expenses and do not pay out of their pockets.
  • Zimbabwe - Z$10 million per year for each TV set in companies, Z$3 million for office radios and Z$5 million for car radios. Data from 2007. 

Does TV watching Make You Unhappy?

The world’s most depressed people watch the most TV.

As Maryland University sociologist John P. Robinson has discovered by
analyzing data from 30 000 people over 30 years. 

Happier people read, socialize, enjoy nature, travel and have sex with real people than with their TV (or computer) screens.

Enjoy your TV wisely!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Shortest Lived States in History!

Charismatic leaders often boast how their regimes would last forever or at least a thousand years. 

The Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler often spoke of "Tausendjähriges Reich" (thousand year kingdom). 
Photo source

Not only in politics, but also in religion we find similar ideas. There is a Christian doctrine called Premillennialism, which teaches that this current age will end with the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth to set up a kingdom that will continue for one thousand years. 

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Tiananmen gate in Beijing has placards saying "Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó wànsuì" (traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國萬歲; simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国万岁; literally "People's Republic of China will last for ten thousand years"). Lasting so long is not uncommon in China. During the Cultural Revolution, it was common to say "Máo Zhǔxí wànsuì!" meaning Chairman Mao will live for ten thousand years. In the Ming dynasty, only emperors were allowed to live so long. 

But not to be outdone, Eunuchs like Liu Jin (from the Ming dynasty) and We Zhongxian, who held real power over weak rulers, called themselves "jiǔ qiān suì" (九千歲, literally "9000 years"). In We Zongxian's case he was the second most important person in the empire as the Emperor was called Ten Thousand Years 

How about the opposite! What are the states with ultra short life spans?

Shortest Lived States in History

One day of statehood! There is one instance of one country existing as an independent state for one day only.

The world record for the shortest duration of statehood goes to
Carpatho-Ruthenia, which broke away from Czechoslovakia and declared independence on 15th March 1939 under its leader Avhustyn Voloshyn. The next day Hungary forcibly occupied the country. Soon the Nazis took over and then after some time it was integrated into the Soviet Union. It is now part of Ukraine. 

The pop art Guru Andy Warhol was a Carpatho Ruthenian, though he was born in Pittsburgh, USA. 

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The French supported Parthenopaean Republic declared independence on 23rd January 1799 from the Spanish Bourbon Kingdom of Naples and survived until it was forcibly retaken on 13th June 1799.

Rauracian Republic was formed from parts of modern France and Switzerland. It existed for a few months before being gobbled up by the French First Republic in 1793.

Islands of Refreshment – Jonathan Lambert became the self-proclaimed ruler of Tristan da Cunha, a remote volcanic group of island in the southern Atlantic Ocean at the end of 1811. Island of Refreshment ended on 17th May 1812, when Lambert was drowned while fishing.

Biafra, seceded from Nigeria, existed from 30 May 1967 to 15 January 1970, when it was forcibly reintegrated with over one million people dying in the civil war.

Photo source
On 8th August 1960, the Mining State of South Kasai was proclaimed. On 12th April 1961, the president Albert I Kalonji became emperor with the title Mulopwe. On 30th December 1961, the Congolese army re-annexed South Kasai after a bloody battle.

United States of Stellaland survived from 7th August 1883, when the Boer republics Goshen and Stellaland joined, until 30th September 1885, when the British army forcibly re-integrated the area into British Bechuanaland.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Republic of the Rif (Arabic: جمهورية الريف‎) was created on 18th September 1921, when the Riffians or Berbers, revolted and declared their independence from Spanish and Moroccan occupation. On 27th May 1926, the Spanish, using German made chemical weapons against the Rif dissolved the republic.

Republic of Texas existed as a sovereign state between United States and Mexico between 1836, when it seceded from Mexico, until 1846 when it was annexed as a state of the USA.
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The system of racial segregation called Apartheid created
Bantustan as a homeland for the Black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia). Transkei (in 1976), Venda (1979), Bophuthatswana (1977) and Ciskei (1981) were even declared independent republics though no other country but South Africa recognised them. When apartheid ended in 1994, these were reintegrated into South Africa, some though not without trouble and violence. 

Photo source:

The Most Exotic Attempt to Create a State

The most exotic attempt to create a state is that of Minerva in the South Pacific Ocean with no inhabitants. Lithuanian born Michael Oliver, a Las Vegas real estate millionaire formed Ocean Life Research Foundation to anticipate a libertarian society with no form of taxes, state subsidies, welfare or meddling from government. In 1971 barges of sand was brought from Australia to raise the reef level high enough to construct a small tower with a flag. The  Republic of Minerva declared independence on 19th January 1972, with Morris C. Davis as Provisional President.

Neighbouring Tonga was the only nation that acted swiftly. The King, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, saw Minerva as a threat and went there in a rowboat, a naval gunboat and with a convict work group to haul down the flag of Minerva and formally annex the reef to the Kingdom of Tonga on 21st June 1972.

Photo Source:

Do You Want to Establish Your Own State

Yes, it is possible.

Those planning to start their own state can look up help in Strauss, Erwin S
. How to Start Your Own Country, 2nd ed. Port Townsend, WA: Breakout Productions, 1984. ISBN 1-893626-15-6

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

To Kill or Not to Kill – Who has the right to Capital Punishment?

Easter is a time of resurrection. Life triumphs over death on the religious and mythological scene. In the garden the yearly miracle, when nature shoots out dainty stems through the patches of snow or ice is a renewal of hope. 

While pondering on the sanctity of life, I was wondering how common is the death penalty nowadays.

60% of our planet’s population lives in countries, which use the death penalty or capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. Of these countries, four are the most populous in the world China, India, USA and Indonesia.

Can Institutions in the EU Kill People?

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In the EU, Chapter 1, Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits using capital punishments. But there is a footnote (actually a footnote hidden inside another footnote), which forbids death penalty 
"except in the case of war, riots and upheaval". 
Individual nation states are allowed to interpret what constitutes riots and upheavals, isn't that so!

Though EU member states cannot kill people legally, there are however institutions which do kill people. One of the largest European-American institutions, NATO, does not kill people and cannot do that in EU territory but in war areas (like Afghanistan or Iraq and earlier in Serbia or Bosnia) NATO gets away with lots of killing. If it’s the wrong target or the media reports later on that it’s a wedding party they killed then “Oops! We’re sorry!” and everything’s just fine. NATO needs to label undesirable people (living in far off, non EU places like Afghanistan) as terrorists or enemy combatants to justify air strikes or other military actions that kill people.

There are many ‘
institutions’ in EU, which have taken upon themselves the right to kill people when they want to. Some examples are the: 
In all likelihood, these organisations use different codes and terminology that those in TV shows like the Sopranos. If asked, members of these organisations would probably claim that they use “lethal force” against specific targets if it had approval from high on.

The Sicilian Cosa Nostra even has
Ten Commandments. The fourth and the tenth commandments are 
  • Don’t go to pubs and clubs!” and 
  • People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: …. anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.
In the town of Corleone, Italy there is a Mafia museum. This is very different from the Mob Museum or Mafia Museum in Las Vegas, USA.

Budapest, Hungary also has a
mafia museum. 

Do Spooks or Spy Agencies Have a Licence to Kill?

Photo source: Wikimedia commons

In the movies and books, James Bond 007 or the “
Real 007” are supposed to have the “licence to kill”, but their employers or governments do not and would never acknowledge this. Governments of countries are also not allowed to legally kill people unless it takes place within the confines of its judicial system, and only if capital punishment is allowed in its constitution. Over the years, persistent claims that certain espionage agencies get rid off unwanted people by killing them refuse to die. Often these cannot be verified, because of the nature of the business, so rumours persist.

CIA is a common target of such rumours and speculations. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former British MI6 chief has openly confirmed before a British jury that MI6 was authorised to use “lethal force” against specific targets if it had ministerial approval.

The KGB or the FSB nowadays, can’t avoid such reputation with rumours of a certain “
Department Eightwhich, is reportedly involved in 
planning assasinations and sabotage in support of war or crisis activities.”

Death Penalty Global Situation

Photo source: Wikimedia commons

According to
Amnesty International: Out of 192 United Nations members, 

  • 92 countries have abolished capital punishment. 
  • 10 have retained it for special circumstances only. 
  • Fifty-nine countries have kept the death penalty and out of these 36 have not used it for over ten years.
The gold medal for maximum executions goes to China with 470 executions in 2007. Based on anecdotal evidence, the USA and HongKong based Dui Hua foundation estimates the real total in China to be 5000. Iran gets the silver medal with 317 and Saudi Arabia gets the bronze with 143.

If we calculate in executions per million people in the country: 

  1. Saudi Arabia is the world leader with 5.18. 
  2. Iran is the runner up with 4.5 and 
  3. Iraq in third place with 1.13. China falls much behind Pakistan (0,78) but is slightly ahead of USA (0.14).
More details about the US death penalty situation here.

The use of death penalty around the world (as of February 2011). Photo source: Wikimedia

In 2008 the worldwide execution rate grew to 2,390. 
  • China executed 1,740, 
  • Iran 342
  • Saudi Arabia 102
  • Pakistan 36
  • United States 37
  • Japan 15 people. 
Children were also not spared the death sentence. 

In some countries they try to execute people in a manner that they wouldn’t feel much pain, while in some countries the trend is the opposite. In Somalia, a girl of 13, who had been gang raped by three men (the men were not even arrested), was buried up to her neck in a football stadium in front of 1000 people and stoned to death.

In Iran the number of juveniles on death row grew to
140 up from 71 in 2007.

Capital Punishment Trends in Different Countries

According to an
October 2005 poll, 64% Americans, 44% Canadians 49% Britons support the death penalty. In all the three countries, support for capital punishment was lowest among 18-29 years olds.

29 % of Finns would approve of the death penalty as a punishment for certain crimes committed during peacetime. 41 % of those aged 35 to 49 are in favour of capital punishment. (Helsingin Sanomat, Suomen Gallup: November 21, 2006)

A recent government survey revealed that despite a recent rush of violent crimes in Japan, support for capital punishment had only risen by 2.1 percent, to 81.4%. (The Japan Times, February 20, 2005)

Is Death Penalty Effective as a Deterrent?

No, death penalty is not an effective deterrent! Statistics show that the opposite is true.

Photo source: Blue states have no death penalty. Dark brown = only lethal injection. Orange=lethal injection primary method, but can use others. Green= never used lethal injections.

In 2007, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States in USA was 5.5 per 100,000 people, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.1 per 100, 000 people. 
  • Iowa (with no capital punishment) has a murder rate of 1.2 per 100,000 people. 
  • New Hampshire (has retained capital punishment for capital murder, but the last execution was in 1939) has only 1.1 per 100,000 people murder rate. 
  • Louisiana (a capital punishment state) has a murder rate of 14.2.
Photo source:

A 1995 study of the annual percentage increases in homicide rates in California showed that murders increased 10% a year during 1952 to 1967 when the state executed people. When California did not execute people (1968-1991) the average rate of increase was less (4.8%).

Canada's homicide rate has
dropped 27% since the death penalty was abolished in 1976.

A 1998 research study for the United Nations recommended a moratorium on the death penalty and concluded: 

"This research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole still gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis." Source: R. Hood, "The Death Penalty: A World-wide Perspective," Clarendon Press, (1996), Page 238.

What People Say - Quotes About the Death Penalty
  • "Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders." "For centuries the death penalty, often accompanied by barbarous refinements, has been trying to hold crime in check; yet crime persists." - 
    Resistance, Rebellion and Death
  • "What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing!" 
    -Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables
The best quote about death penalty can be attributed to the US President notorious for saying things in ridiculous ways.

  • "I don’t think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don’t think that’s right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people’s lives."  - 
    George W Bush at presidential debate 17.10.2000

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