TV license fees may turn into a TV tax

How do you ensure that people who own TV sets pay their license fees? In response to frequent complaints from Czech Public Television that the fees are too low and thousands of people avoid paying them - politicians are now deciding on the best possible course of action.

At present every household which owns a TV set and radio receiver is supposed to pay 75 and 37 crowns respectively in monthly license fees. Czech TV management claims that, while 99 percent of households have both, only about 70 percent are paying their fees. Moreover Czech public TV management claims that the set rate of 75 crowns a month has not been revised for years with regard to inflation and is now woefully inadequate.

The government has proposed raising the fees to 95 and 45 crowns respectively but the opposition Civic Democrats say there's no point in raising the license fees if you can't ensure that people pay them. Their proposal is for every Czech household to pay a monthly TV and radio license fee - exempting only people with impaired eyesight and hearing and the socially weaker groups of the population. In other words -since according to the national census 99 percent of households have TV and radio receivers then the licence fee should become a sort of tax. Experts in media law say the idea is perfectly acceptable and for once the ruling coalition and the opposition are not at odds over the proposal. The only point under dispute is whether the fees should remain as they are or be increased as the government has proposed. A special commission has been set up in parliament to debate the details and find a compromise by February 11th. Both sides are happy with the outcome of the negotiations- but none is happier than the general director of Czech public television who feels that at long last his efforts to increase the company's budget have been rewarded.