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Broadcast Fees in Germany
A major difference between public media and commercial broadcasting in Germany is the way the various stations are financed. State-funded media are mostly financed by license fees whereas commercial broadcasters rely on advertising revenues. This does not mean that there are no ads on public broadcasting stations at all, but there are significantly fewer of them. Popular game shows and full-length feature films broadcast on public channels usually do not have any commercial breaks.
Payments for license fees are collected from every household. until the end of 2012, Every family with access to a television set, radio, or the Internet had to pay either EUR 5.76 or EUR 17.98 per month. Starting in the beginning of 2013, the fee is EUR 17.98 per apartment or house, irrespective of the number of inhabitants or TV or radio sets. It does not matter if you do not watch public television channels or if you only listen to commercial radio stations: The charge simply refers to the means to receive public broadcasting.
Forms for registering your radio and/or TV can be obtained at most post offices and savings banks (Sparkassen). If you do not sign up with the GEZ (the German TV Licensing Office), you will probably receive a reminder letter a few weeks after registering your residence at the local town hall. If you do not pay any licensing fee, you may get a visit from a GEZ inspector without previous notice at prime time. If they discover that you did not register your television, you may have to pay a fine. Remember to de-register again before you leave the country.
Television Standards in Germany
When bringing a television set from Eastern Europe, France, the Americas, or overseas, you should be aware that it may not work properly in Germany. Western Europe, with the exception of France, uses the PAL standard, which is not compatible with any other system (NTSC, SECAM). VCRs do not work either if the TV uses a different standard. Adapters are available, though. Moreover, most DVD players in Germany only play Region 2 DVDs from Europe (except for Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), the Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, French overseas territories, and Greenland.
There are different ways of getting television reception in Germany, although the amount of channels and the quality of the reception varies. Unless you live in a mountainous region, terrestrial broadcasting is available throughout the country. You can receive most public stations and a few commercial channels. With cable or satellite TV, your choice of channels increases dramatically, and via satellite, you can watch foreign-language channels too. (Cable TV usually includes only a few selected foreign channels such CNN, CNBC or TV5).
In Germany, you can connect to satellites ASTRA1 (German stations), ASTRA2 (Great Britain), Eutelsat-Hotbird (various European channels), or Türksat 1C (Turkish-language stations). If you prefer satellite TV and your landlord does not provide a satellite dish for the entire building, you may need his or her permission for setting up a dish on your own. Since analogue satellite TV is slowly going out of fashion, you should invest in a digital receiver. Moreover, if you want to watch encoded channels such as Sky PayTV, you need a special receiver for this purpose. You can only receive HDTV by cable or satellite.
Generally speaking, if information from your home country is more important to you than sports coverage or a movie on a widescreen TV, a good Internet connection with enough bandwidth might be sufficient.
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