What is the Rundfunkbeitrag and why do you have to pay it?

In the following article, you can find out more about why you have to pay the broadcasting fee, how high the amount is exactly, which broadcasters are supported by it and much more. The bad news first: everyone in Germany has to pay for it. The good news: the offer is very broad and of high quality (but mainly in German – but hey! this way you can also improve your German language skills)

What is the Rundfunkbeitrag?

The Rundfunkbeitrag is a broadcasting licence fee, which finances the public broadcasting media channels (radio, television, online) in Germany. The fee is mandatory for everyone above 18 years of age, companies and institutions as well as public interest bodies in Germany – regardless of their actual media use. In this way, everyone can benefit from the variety and quality of the freely available public broadcasting services. The objective is to ensure the highest possible level of fairness in the financing of these channels and their independent reporting.

What media content do I have access to?

You can enjoy content on all public broadcast channels, including ARD (with 9 channels), ZDF, ARTE, Phoenix, 3sat, KiKA, ONE. The content broadcasted on these TV channels is also available online via their respective portals – ARD Mediathek and ZDF online. Here you can watch on-demand news, documentaries, series and movies, as well as sporting events or other international competitions (e.g. Olympics 2021, Eurovision contests, etc.). The broadcast channels also have active social media accounts (e.g. on Instagram and Twitter) where you can get the latest news or other interesting information. In addition, you also have access to the German public nationwide radio station – Deutschlandfunk, as well as multiple local radio stations.

Do I need to pay as an international student?

Unfortunately, there are no special rules for foreign students, not even for scholarship holders or students in exchange programs (e.g., Erasmus). If you reside in Germany even temporarily – you still have to pay this fee. However, those who receive BAföG and do not live with their parents can apply for exemption from the broadcasting fee. The exemption also applies to spouses or registered partners, but not to other co-habitants. Disabled persons whose degree of disability is not only temporarily at least 80 and who are permanently unable to participate in public events due to their condition and who have been granted the characteristic sign RF can also be exempted from the broadcasting fee.

How much do I need to pay?

The fee is not charged per person but per household: one household pays one fee. Since January 2013, a flat-rate contribution of €18,36 per month is charged to every single household (e.g. house, apartment, dorm room) in Germany, irrespective of whether any devices in the household are available and/or used. The fee can be paid monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or annually.

How do I pay the Rundfunkbeitrag?

You can either wait for the broadcasting service (Beitragsservice) to contact you by mail (shortly after you register your address at the city hall) or you can contact their offices at “ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice” directly. The registration form you need is available here. Please note that the fee is due starting from the first month you are registered in Germany. It does not matter if you report to them yourself or wait for a letter from their office.

Should I pay if I live in a shared apartment (WG), a dorm or with a host family?

We have some great news if you live in a shared apartment (WG) – you can share the Rundfunkbeitrag with your roommates. This means that one person can be registered as the main tenant of the apartment (you can decide who that person is) and can transfer the fee. However, everyone who lives there should be contributing equally every month (e.g. if you and 2 other people share one apartment – each of you would be paying only €6,12 per month).

In case you live in a student dormitory and have a private room, you still need to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag, even if you do not have a fully functional apartment with a private bathroom or kitchen.

If you live together with a host family – you do not need to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag fee as your host family is already doing that.

Finally, if you are registered in multiple addresses (flats) you might have to pay the fee several times, as the contribution is paid per apartment and not per person.

What happens if I do not pay?

We strongly advise you against ignoring the letters you would receive from the Beitragsservice. If you don’t pay, it will only get more expensive for you. They will not leave you alone. It is very likely that they will send a collection agency or will contact us and request that the amount is directly taken out of your blocked account with the additional fees for late payment. In addition, if you don’t pay it can also negatively affect your Schufa score, which is your credit score in Germany.

How does the broadcasting service know who to contact?

The broadcasting service (Beitragsservice) receives information about all tenants through the city registration authorities, who provide a list of all registered residents above 18 years of age. The data includes names, date of birth, marital status, current, and last address, and the day you move into the apartment. In addition, the apartment owners (landlords) have the access and duty to notify the relevant national broadcasters.

Leaving Germany?

If you leave Germany, you need to inform the Beitragsservice. You will not get any more GEZ/Rundfunkbeitrag letters. You can de-register by filling this form.

Where can I get more information?

Directly from the ARD ZDF German Broadcast Contribution Services (ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice) either via their website – Der Rundfunkbeitrag or their paid hotline at 01806999 55510 or 01806999 55522, available on weekdays from 7:00 to 19:00.

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Last update: November 16, 2021

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