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Sweden's TV licence system under review

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 22 Feb 2011, 09:47

Published: 22 Feb 2011 09:47 GMT+01:00

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"Technological developments make connecting the charge to an appliance, which is how it is done today, irrelevant" said Social Democrat Berit Högman, chair of the parliament's culture committee to official parliament newspaper, Riksdag & Departement.

Under the current system, anyone with a television receiver are required by law to pay a radio and TV charge. The fee, which for 2011 is 2,076 kronor ($320), is collected and enforced by Radiotjänst, which is part of Swedish public service broadcasting.

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

The TV licence system does not take into account when, if or how viewers use any of the channels or services which are funded by it.

Despite the fee being paid by nine of ten Swedes, it has become controversial with some questioning why they should pay for something they don't use.

The issue became a political controversy following the election of the Alliance government in 2006 when it was found that several leading members of the Moderate Party had not paid their licence fee, including the then culture minister Cecilia Stegö Chilò.

The development of web-TV services and the changing habits of viewers has further generated discussion over how the system is designed and Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, has now indicated that the issue is to be debated.

"We have to begin the process to see how we can finance public service in the future," Andreas Carlson of the Christian Democrats told the newspaper.

Story continues below…

Among the alternatives regularly touted for financing the system is to find the money from the general taxation system, but this alternative was rejected by an inquiry published in 2008.

Critics argue that a direct tax funding would undermine the independence of public service broadcasting.

Other alternatives under consideration are reported to be a separate tax levy along the lines of the burial charge collected on annual taxes.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:32 February 22, 2011 by kenny8076
In my 2 years here so for this is by far the biggest mafia styled communist backed system i have ever witnessed in person. When i tell my brother back in the States he doesnt even believe me. He asks "why would Swedish people even to pay that"...... and i have no answer.

The idea of SVT channels with no commercials is great, but to force the entire country who own a TV to pay for it is beyond belief. I just got a call from these people last month for the first time and continued to tell the lady i wasn't going to pay for this. For one i do not have a job and don't have 2000SEK for that, for 2 i can't think of a time i ever watched those channels, and 3 i do not own a radio!!

$320 a year is not chump change! especially when you have to pay so much for regular cable.
12:27 February 22, 2011 by HYBRED

I agree, Radiotjänst are just a pack of thugs.
13:19 February 22, 2011 by BroX
In a democracy it is crucial to have tv stations that are independent from big companies. Just look at the US, where it has been shown that the more people watched tv, the less well-informed they were about international politics.
13:23 February 22, 2011 by rquick
Absolutely right kenny8076. Why would I pay for TV like this. I hate it when the commercials are interrupted by a TV-show or the Superbowl.

I think we should go for a syetem with 80% commercials and 20% programme instead of the other way around. This is actually cheap for the TV-stations, because the stations only need to make one show per night, and with the commercials, they can spin it out for 3-4 hours.
13:30 February 22, 2011 by BroX
To add a reference to my earlier remark:


Then jump to p. 14 for the interesting bit "Misperceptions as a Function of Source of News"

Quote: "These data lead to the question of why so many Americans have misperceptions ... and why these misperceptions vary according to one's source of news and political attitudes."
14:56 February 22, 2011 by UScitizen
If any of you saw the videos of Sweden's biggest flashmob on youtube or the commercial done in the theatre, all about paying the TV tax, I was in those! That was my part of helping the government here squeeze a few more dollars from the taxpayers.

I didn't mind helping my adopted country and yes, I pay the tax.
15:46 February 22, 2011 by Stitched

It could be worse - they could charge a license fee for EVERY SCREEN IN THE HOUSE; including computers, like in the UK.

"You need a valid TV Licence if you use TV receiving equipment to watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV. ‘TV receiving equipment' means any equipment which is used to watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV. This includes a TV, computer, mobile phone, games console, digital box, DVD/VHS recorder or any other device."

That covers a LOT of ground. I fully expect that when they look into all the web-content that SVT produces for consumers, they will start billing people for this as well.
16:38 February 22, 2011 by SarahPalin
They tried to get me with this as well, I told them to bugger off as I dont have a TV. They then said they know I have a cable subscription, I told them I am on contract and will be cancelling that as I dont have a tv.

Then wrote an email to them telling them exactly what kind of thugs they are.
17:32 February 22, 2011 by rquick

In the UK you only pay for 1 device. The only difference is that they still have a B&W and colour license, but for the rest it's almost the same as here. I won't tell what the differences are, as that might wake-up the Radiotjänst.
17:47 February 22, 2011 by Nilspet
I do not like paying TV license fee at all because SVT, SR are not neutral.

So the argument that this funds help SVT and SR be neutral is baseless!

I would support the abolishment of this fee.
20:48 February 22, 2011 by MIK in Sweden
I am not watching Sveriges Television, Sveriges Radio and Utbildningsradio but I am paying fee to Radiotjänst from last almost 5 years (since I came to Sweden). If I don't want to pay this fee it seems I should become a policitian of Moderate party.
22:14 February 22, 2011 by dizzymoe33
Here in the States radio is free but if you want internet services and television you have to subscribe each month a monthly fee and mine for just cable and internet is 135.00 US dollars each month. It is a monopoly here but there really isn't a way around it.
01:24 February 23, 2011 by sparc
We should consider our selves lucky in Sweden (or UK for what I read). At least they expect you to have a receiver. In Greece this fee is incorporated into the electric bill. In other words it is the default to pay, just by having electricity! Of course not owing a TV is grounds for exemption but this is a huge bureaucratic nightmare to achieve. The worse thing is that their channels show commercials as frequently as any other private channel.
06:24 February 23, 2011 by xavidx
TV I think is ok but the fee is way to high. Lower the fee to a out a quarter of that amount.

2076kr * about 3,5 million households =

3500 = 7.2 billion kr.

06:52 February 23, 2011 by loudasthunder
Phuck Radiokanst,

Been here for 3 years, and every year that generic 'mafia' letter gets round filed - The money stays in My pocket forever, just try to collect : )

In the US there is a public telivision network, KPBS, and it's funded by generous members' donations. The quality of the programing is worth it, as there's something for everyone. Swedish television as a whole, Sucks. I only watch TV for the news and weather, otherwise the TV monitor is only for Blu-ray viewing.

It's amazing that Radiokanst still exists. There could be a better way to insure the tax is evenly charged by adding it to the cable bill every month, or adding a one time fee tax when purchasing New TV monitors...
07:36 February 23, 2011 by Daveo
I could never see any logic in paying radiotjänst for channels that we already pay for in our cable bill. And 95% of the cr@p they send on 1,2 and 4 they should be paying us to watch. Scandal !!!
08:14 February 23, 2011 by calebian22

PBS is viewer funded, but it also gets a fat donation from the US taxpayer as well. This is one reason NPR gets blasted so often for being leftist rather than being more middle of the road.

As for Sweden, well, Melodifestivalen, Eurovision and Boolibompa are worth the cost. I wish the payment method was less laborious though. Having bone doctor types knocking on your door is a waste of money, when it could be easily linked to whether you have a car radio (registration records) or a cable bill.
09:17 February 23, 2011 by Rick Methven

If you buy a TV from a shop the shop will send your details to Kiruna. as does the cable company when you take out a subscription. When I moved back to Sweden, I brought my own TV so no record of having purchased one, but within a couple of weeks of signing up with Comhem along came the bill. You do not any longer need to pay the fee if you only have a radio, so a car registered in your name would not trigger a bill


The money you pay to a cable operator stays with them and nothing goes to Radiotjänst.

SVT gets the rights to air major sporting events world cup, European cup, Olympics, Ice Hockey championships, ski cups etc,etc. which in other countries where there is no licence fee they are pay to view. if you want to watch such events on cable with a Pay to view, just see how many matches you can see for 2,076 kr.

Sweden and the UK are actually the most up front systems for paying for public broadcasting systems. In other countries it is done by stealth taxes hidden in income tax or utility bills that you pay come what may.
17:00 February 23, 2011 by calebian22

They taught us in Samhållskunskap that the tax depends on TV or radio ownership. Since cars have radios as a standard option it would make sense to link the tax to car registration as well. Unless of course radio ownership is not a trigger for the tax.
09:38 February 26, 2011 by dannywh
This is Sweden guys. They have your "number". These guys have prosecuted dead people for not paying the licence and it was upheld in the High Court. Kronofogden get you in the end. The law is - everyone pays. Blind, deaf, stupid, dead, American - whatever! If you rent a furnished apartment in "andrahand", then you have to pay the licence as well as the original "landlord". Logic and fairness are not involved here.
22:00 February 26, 2011 by kenny8076
a lot of people are missing the point ENTIRELY ..................(rquick). Like i said the concept of commercial free television is great...... The fact that EVERYONE is FORCED to accept and pay for it is insane. The government is telling you, you HAVE to use their service. Its a shady low-blow typical socialist tax move to fun mediocre healthcare and an A$& backwards university system.

In the States we also have free commercial channels as options. But it is an option and an extra per month fee. Why dont they tell you you HAVE to use a tank of gas a week if you own a car too. I'm surprised they don't tax bikes either, i told my girlfriend the other day the day will come when they do. If you do not own a car but a bike you will pay taxes on it annually......... just wait!
11:18 February 27, 2011 by Rick Methven

Your rant just confirms the need for unbiased free from sponsorship pressure TV.

Your lack of access to unbiased programming has let you be brainwashed by Fox News
16:06 July 4, 2012 by oddsock
700 million euros a year to subtitle BBC documentaries.

But I'm sure the fika at SVT is world class.
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