Jailed For Not Paying Her Radio Fees

A municipal court in Germany has ordered that a woman be imprisoned for failing to pay her radio license fee.

Many thanks to Oz-Rita for translating this article from the German-language service of RT:

Enforced arrest for radio licence fees — woman behind bars because of just under €280

Although the ARD itself considers the use of force in connection with broadcasting fees to be inappropriate, yet another woman landed in prison in North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday. Sylvia Schulte and her husband do not want to pay any flat-rate radio fees.

It is not the first time that a citizen in Germany has ended up behind bars for small sums he refuses to pay for an unused service. And this despite the fact that the ARD itself considers the compulsory nature in connection with the radio report to be inappropriate.

Sylvia Schulte from Wuppertal was first taken to the Wuppertal prison. However, as this is a males-only prison, she was then taken to Cologne-Ossendorf, which her husband learned about only later, as he told RT Deutsch by telephone on request.

The offence committed by the 41-year-old housewife: For about four years Schulte has refused to pay the fees to the contribution service, which collects the radio fee for ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio. According to the freshly signed arrest warrant, the sum amounted to just €277.62.

The picture above is the copy of the Haftbefehl, which translates to: “Warrant of Arrest”.

When speaking to RT Deutsch, as a reason for the refusal, her husband gives above all the flat-rate form of the contribution. In his opinion, an appropriate form for the fees would be, for example, a model similar to that of pay stations, for which the viewer pays according to use. However, he points to the low quality of the offer in his opinion and believes that the public broadcasters would then hardly generate any revenue.

Sylvia Schulte had not received any reminder notices; there was only a notice of determination. The city of Wuppertal was to take over the case, but the deadline had already expired when an employee visited. The city’s high court bailiff then intervened and eventually signed the arrest warrant issued in April.

The Schultes are not surprised. For this was not the first case of imprisonment for refusing to pay radio licence fees; they had experienced a treatment similar to that of Sieglinde Baumert. In 2016 the woman from Chemnitz had to serve 61 days in prison because she had not paid any contributions.

After the case led to a lot of public criticism, Karola Wille, then president of ARD, said that compulsory imprisonment was disproportionate. However, this decision is not made by a broadcaster, but by the relevant authorities of the respective state. According to a press spokesman of the Ministry of Justice, a prison stay costs around €130 per day.

For the Schultes one thing now remains: to raise the money as quickly as possible from somewhere, preferably by Thursday. Only then can they deal with the numerous details, such as procedural errors in the entry in the debtors’ register.

19 thoughts on “Jailed For Not Paying Her Radio Fees

  1. This article does not explain the law. Must everyone pay this fee, in effect making it a tax? Must only radio/TV owners pay this fee? How do law enforcers determine whether a person owns a radio or TV? Do covered broadcasts include broadcasts received via Internet, YouTube, etc.?

    And what’s with this “a prison stay costs around 130 euros per day”? Who pays this to whom? And if you don’t pay it, what do they do with you? Throw you in jail?

    • The fees Mrs. Schulte didn’t pay cover the whole programm via radio, TV or the Internet provided by state media. They are collected from every household in Germany (not every individual, that’s why only Mrs. Schulte goes to jail and not her husband; it’s their own choice which one of them is registered with the office collecting the fees). It doesn’t matter, whether you own a TV, a radio or a computer/another device with access to the Internet, you simply have to pay for the mere possibility that you might use the services provided by state media (until some years ago that was different, but it proved too difficult for the government to determine whether someone had a radio etc. or not). This is what enrages many people, including myself – paying for something we do not even want to use. Essentially it is like a tax, but still called a fee, working with the fiction that I, the citizen, actually am using a service. Also the fee is not about 280 Euros in four years, as the article implies, but 17,50 Euros in a month – so it adds up to quite a bit of money. The sum stated in the article probably refers to a fine for not paying 17,50 Euros per month for four years. So strictly speaking she is not send to prison for not paying the GEZ-Gebühr (that’s what these fees are called in German), but for refusing to pay a fine for not paying the fees. I suppose she was repeatedly asked to pay it, then I guess a bailiff was sent to her home to seize something of value and she refused to let him in oder didn‘t have any valuables and only now, after all that she is sent to prison. Of course I cannot know whether my guess is accurate, but that‘s the way these things usually work.
      As for the 130 Euros per day for every prisoner: It probably refers to all costs a prison amounts to (building and maintaining it, security, food and medicals services for the prisoners etc.) divided through the number of inmates. It’s payed by the state and ultimately by the tax-payer.

    • Yes, everybody must pay.

      For every Flat even if you had no TV or Radio (some years before it was everybody at a Flat must pay if he had a TV).
      Poor people don’t have to pay but must ask for it.
      Germany State TV Broadcasters are free for everybody. You don’t need a card or something.

      Funny thing.It’s NOT A TAX! And the TV stations get angry if you call it a TAX! Don’t know if they call the lawyer for it…

      Yes if you don’t pay you go into jail. First, they look at your home if you have something worth…

      • It is a tax. They get angry because they are the ones taking our money under threats, giving us – people with no TV – nothing in return.

  2. Germans should take a page from the Gilet Jaunes and refuse to pay enmasse and thereby force the state to abandon compulsory fees, or overwhelm the legal and prison system with peaceful protesters. It is very amusing that it costs far more to imprison someone for such an offence than is brought in by the fee itself. One wonders how many “new germans” pay this fee and if any have been imprisoned for not paying it.

    • I suspect the gov’t enthusiasm for fee collection from the immigrants is about as vigorous as that for the buses and trains. ‘Black Riders’ as they are known – ie. non-paying riders.

      • Yeah, I’m sure that if culture-enrichers don’t pay and bleat on about how they don’t want to pay to see pornography and so on, that probably gets ignored…

    • »One wonders how many “new germans” pay this fee «

      One important detail still missing from the explanation of the rules on paying the fee: you don’t have to pay if you live on social benefits …

  3. A better translation of what is involved here is “household broadcasting (TV and radio and Internet) fee”. “Radio licence fee” sounds harmless.

    Because readers of this article unacquainted with Germany might think: “If I don’t have a TV or radio or Internet, I need not pay the EUR 17.50 per month levied by the GEZ in Germany.” https://allaboutberlin.com/guides/gez-rundfunkbeitrag

    Wrong. Because this fee to support German state propaganda is levied per household and does not depend on whether you actually own a TV or radio or Internet access, let alone use it/them to get Diverse and Vibrant and Colourful (irony: off).

    There is a list of reasons why a household need not pay the fee but they all require proof, attached to your application for a waiver, that you are receiving government transfer payments of a social welfare type.

    Any thought by me that this is at least fair and equitable for the German disadvantaged is instantly reversed when I realise that one of the social welfare payments enabling you to get a waiver is…..wait for it….payments under the asylum seeker law, Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz.

    So culture enrichers awaiting a German state decision on their status in dar al-harb need not pay for the propagandising of the German dhimmi.

    Fiscally, this looks like a modified jizya: the Faithful with a household in Germany e.g. Turks or Bosnians from the 80s or 90s or before must pay the jizya too at present to support the TV and radio proselytising of the Infidels, whereas the freshly-arrived jihadis 2015 to date need not.

    (Irony: on) This islamophobic discrimination against the First Warriors to cross into Alemanya years ago needs remedying but it has to be done discreetly; a new government Health Levy on pork sales could be explained to the dhimmi as being for their own vegan-style healthfulness, while making the preferred meats of the Faithful cheaper by comparison (irony:off)

  4. So nice to see that the german judicial system is up and running very efficiently when it really matters . Zey should be so proud…

  5. “What are you in for?”
    “I killed someone, what about you?”
    “I don’t listen to the State broadcast.”

  6. Well, today she will not pay for the radio, tomorrow she might read some site like Politically Incorrect and after that she might even resist the hijab! Thought Crime should be suppressed at the earliest possible instance.

  7. Numbered tatoos are next for all native Germans.

    Perhaps the serial number of your radio or TV.

  8. Amazing! We in the UK may complain that the compulsory (if you own a set) TV licence fee, costing £154.50 pa, must be paid even if you don’t watch the BBC, which it subsidises, but the separate fee for radio only was abolished in 1971, when it stood at £1.75 (my memory’s not that good- I had to check).

  9. It grinds my gears that I am funding NPR, but at least the US has the … I won’t say good sense, so I’ll say sense of practicality to collect NPR funding through tax dollars. Of course not paying your taxes will get you into similar trouble as Frau Schulte is experiencing but we have no direct control over how our tax dollars are spent so resistance is futile.

    One could argue that if a person wants to change how their tax dollars are spent they can contact their representatives in the legislature, but those folks stopped representing the will of their constituents long ago. So if you’ll excuse me I have to write a letter to Dianne Feinstein expressing my support for the Second Ammendment…NOT!

    • As evil as the IRS is, they don’t put people in jail for non-payment alone, is my understanding.

      My backwards province has legislation on the books to put people in jail for non-payment of municipal taxes, but it seems to be forgotten. As with so many things in Canada, the law as written, and the law as applied are very different animals. This is a rare case where the application is better than what’s written. Usually it’s the other way around (freedom of speech guarantees come to mind, for example).

  10. It seems pretty obvious to me there are two elements:
    1) The “fee” is a tax, plain and simple. It’s like a set-aside; administratively it’s a tax, but must be used for a specified purpose;
    2) The countries involved had a state propaganda arm that disguises itself as a news organization.

    1) and 2) are logically separate: The US and Russia show that the government is perfectly capable of setting up a propaganda bureau with its current funds. However, the countries named have taken the pretense, for some reason or another, of pretending that part of the tax the citizens pay is not a tax, but a fee backed up by arrest and imprisonment. Whatever.

    The real question is, is the government spending to be more-or-less limited to vital security measures, or does the government serve as the parent to everyone. If you have an all-powerful government, it is rather had to argue the government should not set up its own propaganda arm.

Comments are closed.