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The federal state of Saxony-Anhalt had blocked the increase in funding for Germany's public broadcasters, but the top court said the move was unconstitutional.
Germany's federal constitutional court ruled on Thursday that the monthly fee for publicly funded media may increase. The decision upheld a previous court ruling on the matter.
Public broadcasters ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio had filed a complaint at the court in Karlsruhe after the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt sought to block the funding increase.
The monthly fee is the main source of income for public broadcasters, and it is now set to increase from €17.50 ($20) to €18.63.
An independent commission that evaluates the financial needs of public broadcasters had recommended the increase, which all 16 federal states needed to approve for it to take effect.
But the Christian Democratic (CDU) premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff, withdrew his state's support — even as coalition partners the Greens and the social democrats (SPD) agreed with the fee increase.
Haseloff and his conservative party rejected the funding increase and instead promoted structural reforms to public broadcasting, including a reduction in programming at the various stations.
A court in Berlin ruled against Saxony-Anhalt in July 20, arguing that the funding of public broadcasting could not be jeopardized, especially in times of "increasingly complex information on the one hand, and of one-sided representations, filter bubbles, fake news and deep fakes on the other hand."
The judges at Karslruhe upheld the Berlin court decision, concluding that reforming the public broadcasting system was a separate matter and should not be tied to funding. Blocking the economic foundation of public broadcasters goes against the freedom of broadcasting, which is enshrined in Germany's constitution, the court ruled.
The chairman of broadcasters ARD and WDR, Tom Buhrow, welcomed the decision as "continuity," saying it was in line with the way the law has been interpreted.
Burrow said the decision "enables us to continue to provide the best possible programming" for the German people, adding that the broadcasting fee should be an apolitical matter.
Germany's far-right AfD party said on Thursday that the ruling was "profoundly undemocratic." Party chairman Tino Chrupalla said federal states should maintain their right to agree or object to the broadcasting fee amount.
jcg/aw (EPD, dpa, Reuters)