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Swedish ISP hits back over TV licence fees

Published: 25 Jan 2013 17:01 GMT+01:00

"If you have a computer, why should you have to pay TV fees?" Jon Karlung, CEO of Bahnhof, the largest independent ISP company in Sweden, asked The Local.

"A computer's primary function is not to play television. People should have a choice if they as an individual want a particular service."

Karlung's indignation comes following a move announced earlier this week by Sveriges Television (SVT) to offer its full broadcast schedule online via digitally streaming service SVT Play.

But the shift to allow the broadcaster's complete line-up to be viewed online means that Swedes who own computers and tablet devices will have to start paying television licence fees.

SEE ALSO: Stockholm iPad 'magic' a surprise YouTube hit

Currently, anyone with a television receiver is required by law to pay the 2,076 kronor ($320) annual fee, which is collected and enforced by Radiotjänst, a division of Swedish public service broadcasting.

Radiotjänst collects some 7 billion kronor ($1.09 billion) per annum which is used to part-finance Sveriges Television, Sveriges Radio and Utbildningsradio (UR).

Traditionally, the fee has only been charged to television owners, and Karlung thinks it's unfair that Bahnhof's customers might be forced to pay the fee.

"People are pissed off because they feel they shouldn't be charged for something they don't want," Karlung said.

As a result, Bahnhof launched what it calls the "TV Stopper" to block SVT's digitally streamed content from people's computers.

"We filter out the traffic, then provide an official certificate specifying that the client has had no access whatsoever to SVT," Karlung explained.

SEE ALSO: Spotify launches new app for Apple's iPad

He believes many of Bahnhof's computer-owning customers will appreciate being able to avoid the annual fee, including foreign students who may not be interested in SVT and often don't have the budget to pay the licence fee.

While he admits he can't give a 100 percent guarantee that the certificate will suffice for users looking to avoid the charges, Karlung is confident it will work.

"We've tested the product in the launch and it works," he told The Local.

"Now it's just a matter of getting people's voices heard."

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

18:06 January 25, 2013 by observeronly
I can not even understand the reason for tv license fee?? Normal TV price is 3000-5000 SEK and we have to pay license fee worth 2076 per year. And as well as SVT channels are concern, why someone has to pay tv license fee if he/she does not even watch svt?
18:29 January 25, 2013 by oddsock
Kudos to Bahnhof.
18:39 January 25, 2013 by johan rebel
'cause the majority of Swedes meekly follow silly rules and stupid regulations
18:49 January 25, 2013 by rramirez
This fee may have made sense many years ago when there were few channels and anybody with a TV pretty much had to watch these channels and therefore could have been expected to fund them. Today, TV is entirely different. There are many channels or networks that generate their own money via the viewers that they gain. Evidently, SVT cannot survive by this model so they use political means to force people to pay them whether or not they are viewers. There should be a ComHem package without SVT channels that would exempt you from paying the tax. I bet it would be an extremely popular option.

In this case, SVT's CEO Eva Hamilton has completely overstretched and tried to manipulate an unfair law in an effort to squeeze money out of people who probably are not consuming her product. Instead of producing better product, they are scheming. If Jan Karlung would like to have the law voided in terms of his product I understand that. Better yet, he could try to use his platform to begin a greater conversation of the validity of this TV fee in general. I do not know his business, but he could cause SVT to cave on his issue very quickly and get a lot of free publicity at the same time. The last thing Eve Hamilton and SVT want is their business model challenged in the light of today's competitive television market.
19:37 January 25, 2013 by truthcode
the last thing I would do is look air channels on my computer ;)
19:44 January 25, 2013 by Rishonim
Bravo Bahnhof for your initiative. I have never watched SVT and I find no reason to watch it in the future. If I need to see tv I watch filmon.dot.com on my tablet
20:37 January 25, 2013 by Programmeny
Good. I don't watch SVT, I don't have a TV and I don't want a TV. I read my news online and when I want a movie, there's Netflix.

I'm not about to pay for something that I don't use. I'm not paying.
22:25 January 25, 2013 by Just_Kidding
I would be glad to be able to buy a SVT signal stopper for my TV or a TV that is unable to receive SVT and avoids paying the ridiculous 2000+/year, let alone that I get poor signal in these basic channels. I don't want to contribute to the projects of SVT or SR, I didn't need their huge team of reporters in London Olympics and as a Middle Eastern, I don't feel flattered whey I hear their "Lilla Fadji"

I use my TV for watching videos and I am considering replacing it with a projector or a smaller LCD player.

I rather pay for products of "Discovery Channel" or "Jon Stewart Show", rather than boring blabbing of Stockholm snots.
22:55 January 25, 2013 by Reason and Realism
I have often defended the rights of governments and businesses who go after The Pirate Bay and similar theft engines, so in general I support the rights of the creators and distributors of content to be compensated for their work, but the automatic SVT tax on iPads is obscene.

One could make the argument that if people bought a TV, then they are probably going to watch some of the local TV stations for news at least, but this does NOT apply to an iPad.

As others have posted, one should have the option to sign in to the SVT streaming service, where permission is only granted to registered payers of the tax, or to persons willing to pay a temporary user fee.

Time for a T (vee) party. No taxation without utilization.
11:05 January 26, 2013 by just a question
You are totally selfish.

SVT needs your money to organize the stupid Eurovision contest to choose the candidate every year. And how are these Swedish hosts and presenters going to survive without your money? Do you want them to find a normal job with a normal salary? Please!
12:28 January 26, 2013 by darrenj
I say pay up.

You cannot have your cake and eat it! Stingy people

This is the price you pay for living a higly mobile disposable society. If you can afford these such and such then pay for the lifestyle choice.

Besides the taxes do something good, helps development of culture and adfree programming.

It may not be perfect but show me where is?
14:01 January 26, 2013 by riose
@darrenj

This is not a tax. This is a fee. Fees are not progressive. Fees are supposed to be paid when you use a service.

But a mandatory fee, to everybody, is basically a hidden and unfair tax.

I whish somebody have resources to take this to Brussels.
17:57 January 26, 2013 by Mb 65
License is a licence to receive all Tv channels including Svt
20:57 January 26, 2013 by ArneBK
@Mb 65. Its a license to own a tv. They dont care if you cant receive any channels. As long as you have a tv you have to pay.
07:20 January 27, 2013 by Marc the Texan
TV license fees. Just one of the quaint relics that Swedes still enjoy in the 21st century.
13:55 January 27, 2013 by Rishonim
@Marc the Texan. Another quaint relics on the 21st century is the monopoly of when and where you can buy booze. The funny thing is that people are happy lining up like cattle on the eve of any major holiday to buy their beverages.
14:25 January 27, 2013 by jbaggins
The argument should be about whether public service broadcast is necessary/worthwhile. That doesn't mean whether you personally would like to watch/listen to it.

The decision by the Swedish government and almost every other government in Europe is yes it is necessary/worthwhile. (No good running to Brussels)

The next question is how it should be funded.

1. A fee ( levied on all those with equipment able to receive it and charged per household).

2. A mandatory media tax on every individual over 18.

The tax seems the fairest way to me, although it would leave many households paying considerably more.

3. ?

I believe that it is valuable to have media channels that are independent of political and business influence.
16:44 January 27, 2013 by Phillynilly
I fortunately watcj UK TV via satellite. Watching paint dry is more exciting than watching metrosexual reality shows on SVT or pointless endless suicidal chat shows.....I would rather spend all day at Ikea......
22:35 January 27, 2013 by korat
I cannot understand why the Swedish went for this solution. Have always seen the

Swedish politicians have been a head before their Norwegian colleages, but not

in this case. Now there is some consideration going on to to follow Sweden in this

respect.

Personally I never watch TV, only downloading Thai TV for my wife via my PC.

I will never pay even a Norwegian krone to the Norwegian state TV, NRK.

The coming system to pay according to your income feels to me also undemocratic.

Why not code the transmitters as the private TV channels, so people may pay for

the one we want to watch? That is always turned down in the discussion.
02:07 January 28, 2013 by Marc the Texan
@Rishonim - That's the other quaint relic I had foremost in mind.

The real question about the TV license comes down to one question. Are Swedes getting value commensurate with what they are paying?
11:52 January 28, 2013 by ragdoll
No they are no getting value. They are getting screwed. Over 2000 kr per year? More than my homeowners insurance. That is a huge percent of disposable income and for what? For a few TV channels that people do not seem give a damn about? While all the dozens of other channels are self-funding?!

What do you do in this country? You can't "write to your congressman." Do you just grab your ankles and ask someone to pass the vaseline? Where is SVT headquartered so me and my posse can go make a stink?
21:13 January 28, 2013 by Peter1234
Totally wrong!

SVT has unmasked its real intentions: If it would be their interest to get paid from those people, who want to watch SVT, then there are many examples in the web, where you need to create an account, pay a fee and then are able to log in if you want to see movies, tv, etc. It could be so easy: Everybody who wants to see SVT needs to create an account, pay the licence fee and then can watch as long and as often as he wants within the paid period.

But: The true intention of SVT is simply greed - collecting as much money as possible from everyone in Sweden, independently, if somebody ever will watch SVT or not.
00:09 July 9, 2013 by local-aam
I had a better perception about Swedish laws. After facing this SVT law, I now know, Swedes (i mean Govt./Corporations) are as greedy as the other nations. No difference at all. They just need to opportunity to do so.

They could easily get the true TV watchers through.

- Tracing users/watchers IP addresses from the streaming websites

- Introducing login system for watching programs

These things are a lot more easier than calling people every now and then. These greedy SVT people called me 3 times in last 2 weeks. I am so annoyed with them.

And few Swedes are taking the side of SVT. I guess they are also part of SVT just sneaking here as a normal user; otherwise, I would also lose all respect for the average Swedes too.
22:50 September 4, 2013 by Mike77
darrenj said:

This is the price you pay for living a higly mobile disposable society. If you can afford these such and such then pay for the lifestyle choice.

It's not anymore. It's retarded and rotten like rest of the EU and it's not better than other countries *anymore*. I see that you are running out of money? Crisis hits you? $ from 2nd WW ran out? Oh that's sad. So now, to keep your socialistic rules (that is: rob mr. smith in order to give to mr. brown) you have to instoduce fees? pathetic

That IS robbery, I don't watch the TV and I still have to pay for THE TV.
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