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!





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