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What’s likely to change with radio and TV fees in Austria?

After a court ruling, the Austrian government needs to make changes to the public broadcaster's ORF funding fee, the GIS. Here are the three things that could happen and how they will affect you.

TV remote
A TV remote control. Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP

In 2022, the Austrian Constitutional Court ruled that receiving TV programmes online and streaming them without paying so-called GIS fees is “unconstitutional”, as The Local reported.

Consequently, the court has asked the legislative powers (Austria’s National Council, Federal Council and Federal Assembly) to take action by “closing the streaming gap” by the end of 2023.

GIS is Austria’s TV and radio licence that can set people who have TV equipment at home back between €22.45 and €28.25, depending on the state, a month. Most of that money goes to the public broadcaster ORF and pays for in-house productions, broadcasting equipment, technical equipment, licenses and more.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pay Austria’s TV and radio fee, or (legally) avoid it

Even people who don’t watch ORF programmes need to pay for GIS as long as they have a device capable of receiving the broadcast. However, those who don’t pay for it because they don’t have such devices can still stream the content online, which the court ruled unconstitutional.

By the end of 2023, Austria’s Parliament will have to decide on new rules not to exempt those who access ORF online from payment.

Experts have discussed different solutions, from extending payment to every household in Austria to creating a paywall for watching ORF content online. According to Austrian media, there are now three alternatives being considered.

A household taxation

In this alternative, a levy would be collected regardless of reception devices – so exemption due to not owning a radio or TV would no longer exist, according to news site Heute. Instead, every household in Austria would pay around €18 per month, similar to what currently happens in Germany. 

There would be exemptions for low-income households. 

In this scenario, ORF would receive more than 60,000 additional payers – and thus more revenue. 

READ ALSO: Austria set to make TV and radio fees mandatory for everyone

GIS for more devices

Currently, the fee can only be collected for stationary, operational broadcast reception devices (television, radio), according to GIS.

A new solution would be extending the GIS obligation to all devices suitable for broadcast reception or Internet access, such as computers and smartphones. Since practically every household owns such devices, this model would be a de facto household levy. 

However, GIS inspectors would have to continue to ask and check whether there are specific devices in the household.

Government financing

Another possibility discussed is financing ORF via general taxes, adding the broadcaster to the government’s budget. The financing would have to be indexed (adjusted automatically to inflation) with an amount legally fixed through National Council’s approval.

However, there is still concern that adding the ORF to the federal budget would expose the news channel to political influence.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s TV licence changes may affect you (even if you don’t watch TV)

Another alternative many users prefer would be a paywall for watching ORF content online. Many viewers consider this the only fair solution because, they say, one shouldn’t pay for a service not consumed. Logins and access keys may be easily abused, though. Besides, a paywall wouldn’t solve the corporation’s biggest issue, its decreasing revenues.

Which option will actually replace the GIS fee is currently the subject of intensive negotiations between politicians and ORF, Heute said. A decision is to be made by the end of March so that the broadcaster can put together its budget for 2024 in good time.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Austrians are in 11th place in ‘happiness’ ranking

The World Happiness Report again has put Austria out of the top 10 when it comes to the happiness of its people. What are the criteria?

Austrians are in 11th place in 'happiness' ranking

Global happiness levels have remained constant despite crises, and Finland remains the country with the happiest population, according to the World Happiness Report published on Monday.

The EU country took the top spot in the ranking for the sixth time. As in the previous year, Austria came in eleventh.

Finland, the northernmost EU country, is followed at some distance in the annual ranking by Denmark, Iceland, Israel, and the Netherlands before Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand complete the top ten.

While Austria remained stable in eleventh place, Israel made a year-on-year jump from ninth to fourth. The unhappiest among the 137 states surveyed are Afghanistan and Lebanon.

READ ALSO: ‘Bad-tempered locals’: Vienna ranked the world’s ‘unfriendliest city’

The researchers involved, who publish the report based on surveys conducted by the Gallup Institute, calculate the ranking in each case based on data from the past three years. They identified several critical factors for happiness.

They check GDP per capita regarding purchasing power parity, healthy life expectancy at birth, social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceptions of corruption, and positive and negative affect. 

For social support, people are asked, “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”. To evaluate freedom, they are asked, “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”.

Additionally, generosity is measured after the question, “Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?” and perceptions of corruption after asking, “Is corruption widespread throughout the government or not?” and “Is corruption widespread within businesses or not?”.

READ ALSO: Five unwritten rules that explain how Austria works

Finally, positive affect is defined after asking if people have experienced “laughter, enjoyment or interest” the day before. In contrast, negative affect is measured after asking people if they experienced “worry”, “sadness”, or “anger” the day before.

The ranking also uses “life evaluations”, asking people to evaluate their current life as a whole using the image of a ladder, with the best possible life for them as a ten and the worst possible as a 0. Each respondent provides a numerical response on this scale, called the Cantril ladder. Typically, around 1,000 responses are gathered annually for each country. 

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