Sunday, August 17, 2014

Berlin Diaries: Media consumption - a step backward

Recently I had to pay my first rent. There is concept of cold (kaltmiete) and warm rent (warmmiete). Cold rent means that tenant has to pay for heating costs and some other charges himself. Since mine is later one, I thought I only had to pay total rent amount quoted.

 I saw some other charges too. Electricity is not included in it, which is fine. But there is  fee called GEZ amounting €17.98 per month. I asked a local friend what this charge was. She said it's fee I have to pay for TV, even though I don't own any TV or have any connection for that matter. I got bit of a shock there and decided to do bit of research.

Turns out it's a fee every household (flat) has to pay for public broadcasting every month. This fee was initially for public radios and TVs, and people have to pay separately because somehow government won't use tax money for that purpose. Some years ago, only those who subscribed paid for it. Then they started broadcasting over internet as well, and since every household would have internet connection - they made the monthly flat fee required for everybody. 

There is worse than that. Every time when I try to play my favorite song - Wind of Change by Scorpions I get this message.


Yes, Wind of Change and most of popular songs are blocked in Germany. There is an organization called GEMA which collects all fees from public broadcasting and distributes to artists or production company. Then there came internet, and internet is public. Since everything that is put on internet is 'public broadcasting' GEMA wants a flat fee from any website which does so, including Youtube. As far as I understand, Youtube has agreed to pay percentage of ads revenue - but GEMA wants a flat money. The thing I don't understand is why GEMA is after Youtube, because above song was put on Youtube by Scorpions, the band themselves for free. 

There are many good things in Federal Republic, but media consumption is not one of them. It's hard to digest the fact that my favorite song is blocked. For me this is step backward - remember, I lived in India before I moved here.