The upcoming reform of the German “broadcast tax” system will expand the reach from television and radio to Internet usage. Starting in January 2007, businesses will need to pay fees for all computers and UMTS mobile phones because – through Internet access – they have the potential to receive radio or television programs. According to the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce, this will mean that financial insititutions will have to pay a broadcast tax for the 50,000 bank machines in Germany – because they are all connected through the Internet.
I fondly remember my student days in Bonn, when a “broadcast tax investigator” came to my door to find out whether or not I had any “illegal” radios or tv sets. Looking straight at the television in my one-room apartment, he asked me: “is this a television?” And I said, “why yes, it is indeed a television.” There are times when you have to embrace bureaucracy. But I still wonder whether he would have just walked away if I had said “no”. Maybe my broadcast tax investigator will now be promoted to head of the bank machine surveillance division.