Das ARD Hauptstadtstudio an der Spree

What the hell is Rundfunkbeitrag?

If you recently moved to Germany and had your place of residence registered, you surely will have received a letter about the so-called ‘Rundfunkbeitrag’. This means ‘license fee’. But what kind of license should you pay for?


by Wendy Sexton

In Germany we have various public broadcasting services which are financed by the public. The idea behind this principle is, that these media are especially independent, for they are neither based on economic interests nor are they controlled by the state. They are meant to be mostly free of political and economic interests. These tv and radio channels are freely accessible for everyone.


To enable this high-quality media service every household has to pay a monthly fee of 17,50 euro. It’s basically quite similar to a Netflix subscription, but you are actually not free to decide whether you want it or not. Everyone registered in a place in Germany has to pay it. It doesn’t matter if you are a German citizen or come from elsewhere in the world.

Are there any reductions or exemptions?

People receiving certain social security benefits from the state can apply for an exemption of the license fee. This also includes students who receive the financial study assistance called BAföG. Also, people receiving unemployment benefits, don’t have to pay. People having severe disabilities or physical limitations can also apply for an exemption or a reduction of the fee.

Do I have to pay if I live in a halls of residence or a shared flat?

The price is set per household. If you have a room in a halls of residence connected to a general corridor, you have to pay the full price.
It’s different if you live in a shared flat. You only have to pay the fee once for the whole flat, so you can split the fee between the flatmates. If one of your flatmates already pays the license fee, you only have to send their costumer ID. If one of your flatmates receives BAföG, they don’t have to pay the license fee. Unfortunately, you still have to pay it.

Can I answer the letter online?

You can choose how to answer the letter you received. Either you fill in the form an send it back via post or you use the web link provided in the document. The website is available in different languages, such as English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

What is broadcasted on public broadcast?

The subjects are spread over different genres such as information, entertainment, sports, culture and an extra programme especially for kids. The different channels are active on one or more media like television, radio and online services like youtube, podcasts and their own websites (so-called “Mediatheken”). The most common ones are ARD, ZDF, Arte, RBB (for Berlin and Brandenburg) on TV and Funk on Youtube.


It seems a bit annoying that you have to pay the license fee, whether you use public broadcasting or not. On the other hand, the fee is based on solidarity which means that people who can’t pay the fee, still have access to the media. Also, it’s really important to have independent media channels to enable a free opinion making for everyone.

#Ankommen in Berlin  #Good to Know – Tipps für den Studi-Alltag