Television license as tax?

A discussion popped up this morning on one of the major Danish newspaper’ website (in Danish): Should the television license paid in Denmark be a part of the tax, instead of as it is now, paid separately? The idea was aired jointly by the culture spokespersons of both the largest government party, Venstre, as well as the largest opposition party, Socialdemokraterne, in a rare display of complete agreement on a previously controversial subject by the two parties.

However, it quickly turned out it wasn’t actually an agreement. The political leadership of Venstre quickly issued a statement that the views of the culture spokesperson were not the official views of the party, and that the idea had not been discussed in the party leadership. Bummer. At least the idea got some airtime, and hopefully started some discussions.

The television license in Denmark is in fact known as the media license, since it no longer covers just television and radio, but also computers capable of playing online media content, or mobile phones with such capabilities. It is estimated that 99% or more of all Danish households should pay the license fee, yet only around 93% do. The fee is currently set at 2190 kr/year, and is in effect a regressive tax, in that practically everyone is liable to pay it, but for a low-income individual the percentage of income paid is higher than for high-income individuals – for a student on government allowance, the license fee sums up to 3.6% of his or her income.

I’m fully in favour of changing the current system, and I’m sure most of the population are as well. The main beneficiary of the license fee however, Danmarks Radio, is not. One reason may be that all the current license fee collectors would be made redundant, which is of course a concern. More likely is it that they fear too much government involvement, should their money have to come from the taxes rather than from direct collection. While I sympathise with such fears, the system works for many other organisations without evidence of government involvement, and the board of Danmarks Radio are politically appointed, 2/3 by the parliament and 1/3 by the minister of culture.

In all, I hope this brave outspokenness of the culture spokespersons pays off, and that we get a renewed debate in this country about the social imbalance of the current system. Or, if not in this country, then on this blog. 😉

1 thought on “Television license as tax?

  1. Mikkel

    It definitely makes more sense to have a media tax instead of the current system and it’s nice to hear that someone with some actual influence has the same idea.

    I would also like fewer silly shows on public service TV, but that’s much less realistic 🙂

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