Digital Revolution as Driver for Institutional Reform in German Broadcasting Funding

11 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2014

Date Written: 2014


The digital revolution has placed public broadcasting funding in Germany under pressure, because it has led to a multiplication of technological devices for radio and television. Radio and television can not only be consumed through particular devices, but also through literally any device like mobile phones, tablet computers and many more. The funding of public broadcasting system rested on a device-dependent fee. Any person or enterprise had to pay the broadcasting fee, if devices for reception of public broadcasting were in their possession. Over time more and more people did not pay the broadcasting fee, because they abstained from public broadcasting through traditional television or radio devices. Instead more and more modern devices were used, like mobile phones, laptops, tablet computers and so on. In the long run the digital revolution would have decreased the overall public broadcasting funding, because less and less people would be paying the broadcasting fee. In response to this pressure the former device-dependent fee was replaced by a device independent, flat fee per household or work place from January 1st 2013 on. This institutional reform of public broadcasting funding provokes questions about the reasons why and how the reform succeeded. Broadcasting policy powers were decentralized in the aftermath of the Second World War, so that the powers are shared among Länder, the German states. Because of the unitary German culture and society the decentralized broadcasting powers have to be executed jointly. Hence any single actor is able to block joint decisions, because unanimity is required. The Länder broadcasting commission and the commission to assess financial needs (KEF) mirror this functional compulsory negotiation system. The concept of joint decision making doubts under this condition the potential of institutional reforms and suggests incremental change. Nevertheless an institutional reform took place in public broadcasting funding. Reasons for the reform lay in the negotiation process. Among Länder a veil of ignorance, a segmented decision-making process and a combination of positive and negative coordination resulted in the institutional reform.

Keywords: Broadcasting Policy, Joint Decision Making, Joint Decision Trap, Horizontal Coordination, Broadcasting Fee

Suggested Citation

Heinz, Dominic, Digital Revolution as Driver for Institutional Reform in German Broadcasting Funding (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Dominic Heinz (Contact Author)

Turkish German Unıversity ( email )



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