In the crisis of the crown, restaurants and hotels are now forced to take a break for the second time. The owners still have to pay for public television and radio. Why?
Wechselburg / Chemnitz.
The lights are already off in the bowling alley and restaurant “Gut Holz” in Wechselburg. In March, owner Stephan Reichelt had to close for two months due to the corona pandemic, and since the beginning of November the pub in the central district of Saxony has once again been banned from operating across the country. Nobody visits the bar, but what about the radio license during this time? In the spring, Stephan Reichelt turned to the contribution service of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio. In May, he wrote an email requesting a tax exemption. In mid-October he received the answer: he should continue to pay the radio license fees for his restaurant.
Like the head of the bowling alley, restaurateurs and hoteliers throughout Germany do. Although they have to close due to the crown, the rate service charges money for television and radio: 17.50 euros per month per commercial establishment – in hotels 5.99 euros for each room. At the hotel “Elbresidenz” in Bad Schandau, for example, that earns around 1200 euros a month with more than 200 rooms, as reported by the “Sächsische Zeitung”. Temporary payment exemptions are regulated in the State Broadcasting Fee Treaty, but only under certain conditions. Therefore, in paragraph 5 it says: “A radio license fee can be requested […] You will not be paid as the owner proves credible and can prove upon request that the business facilities have been temporarily closed for more than three consecutive full calendar months. “
In Stephan Reichelt’s case, it was ten weeks in the spring and now, for the moment, another month. That is not enough for a fee waiver; most other restaurateurs should feel the same way. At the request of the “Freie Presse”, the rate service confirms: An exemption from the transmission rate obligation can only be requested if the business premises have been closed for at least three consecutive full calendar months. Regardless of this, companies that are experiencing payment difficulties due to the crown crisis could agree to facilitate payments such as installment payments or deferral of outstanding contributions with the contribution service.
This is absurd for the restorer from Wechselburg. Especially since Gema, who, as the administrator of music use rights, charges performance fees and background music from business owners, reacted complacently. “Gem came to us,” reports Stephan Reichelt. You don’t have to pay closing time there.
The problem with the radio license fee is known to the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga). “I don’t think that’s good either,” says Axel Klein, general manager of Dehoga Sachsen. In the spring, the association had already advocated accommodating radio broadcasts as a sign of goodwill towards restaurateurs in need. The response of the highest representatives of the contribution service was: For reasons of equal treatment towards other industries, no exceptions can be made to the strict legal requirements.
It would be difficult to change the State Treaty on Broadcasting Rights. The 16 federal states would have to reach an agreement. In addition, the nine state broadcasters, as well as ZDF and Deutschlandradio, would have to participate. Compared to total spending on restaurants and hotels, radio contributions appear modest. And with the federal government’s generous reimbursement regulation (the current aid package provides for the hotel industry with up to 50 employees 75 percent of sales as of November 2019), the issue should be put into perspective a bit. For the bowling alley operator in Wechselburg, however, it is a matter of principle. He finds: “You cannot demand payment for a service that was not possible to consume.”