German television and radio broadcasters are state-funded, and you, too, will have the pleasure of contributing to the system while you live here. Think of it this way: a little money out of your pocket each month ensures quality programming (at least on the public stations). German television stations show lots of documentaries, fun shows about animals and “serious” programming that might not get produced in a completely commercial broadcasting environment.
Through the GEZ, which stands for Gebühreneinzugszentrale, you will be asked to “register” your television and radio to pay for the reception of the broadcast waves. It doesn’t matter whether you listen or watch German-language programming; what matters is whether you have a device in your home or car (including satellites and cable connections, but excluding most computers) that is capable of receiving these programs. If you do – and nearly everyone does – then you must pay.
The rules for paying the broadcasting fee are complicated, but most private households pay 17.98 euros per month. The monthly fee for a radio (and more recently computers with Internet access) is 5.76 euros. How, you may ask, do the local authorities enforce these regulations? It is up to each individual to voluntarily register his or her appliances. Forms are available at your local bank or on the Internet at www.gez.de. If you don’t pay, the authorities will catch up with you – sooner or later – by paying an unannounced visit to your door.