Do We Still Need Arte? Or License Fees?

Holger Kreitling in Die Welt has an amusing article (g) on Arte, the joint French-German public television channel. Arte is conceived as highbrow television, broadcasting classical concerts, operas, political debates, and documentaries on everything from Claude Sautet to Heidegger to the Thirty Years' war to Bolivian street artists to (as Kreitling puts it) obscure Slovenian bread-making techniques. It is financed by compulsory TV fees (administered by a company called the GEZ in German), yet never attracts more than a tiny fraction of highbrow viewers. As Kreitling notes, a member of the German or French urban haute bourgeoisie is required to announce his social position by declaring either that he has no television, or if he does, that all he watches is Arte. But even for all its failings and occasional pretentiousness, Kreitling still likes it.

And so do I. The only problem is the political programming, which is tiresomely left-wing. There's nothing more superfluous than holding a "theme evening" on Trump's first 100 days on Arte. Every person watching Arte already despises Trump, so all of the Trump-critical documentaries and interviews will have no effect. That's true of all the debate and political programming as well. I am not happy to pay mandatory licensing fees to sponsor the same old debates by the same aging hippies about "the future of ecological Europe" or what have you ("Red Danny" seems to be on every second time I switch to Arte), but I think there's a good case to be made for challenging music and arts programming. I don't have kids but I'm happy to pay taxes for schools because that's part of a healthy and thriving society. People who find classical music and museums boring should still pay taxes to keep them going for the same reason.

But the money should come from general taxes, not the outdated TV licensing fees that so many countries, including Germany, still use as a funding model. There is already a growing revolt against these fees (currently € 17.50 a month), which even includes prison martyrs (g) -- people who refuse to pay the fees on principle and who are eventually sent to jail to serve time as a result. Technically, you don't have to pay the fee if you don't own a TV or radio or any comparable device, but the regulations on this point are baffling to most mortals.

There is endless online debate (g) about how far the government can go to determine whether you are receiving any form of broadcast programming which would trigger the fees. If Agents of GEZ™ knock at your door, which they are wont to do, do you have to let them in? The GEZ itself is a massive and expensive government bureaucracy as are all the myriad public television stations which it finances. This is the point where GEZ-defenders will step in and say "but it's not technically a government agency!" They're right, the GEZ is more of a Quango, but nobody really cares about this distinction. The bottom line is if they determine you have to pay the fees, and they don't, they will sic a team of lawyers on you, and you might well end up in prison.

All this money and bureaucracy might be OK if you got a BBC from it, but Germans definitely don't. The quality of the public television programming in Germany is the target of near-universal scorn. Everyone hates something about public TV: The urban haute bourgeoisie hates the folk-music and Schlager festivals and the exploitative shows made to compete with private-TV soap operas and scandal-fests. Conservatives hate what they see as the stifling one-sided political correctness of news coverage and talk shows. Everyone (including me) considers the vast bulk of German TV drama or comedy shows unwatchable.

It should come as no surprise 70% of Germans oppose the TV license fees (g). Seventy percent. That's a pretty high number in a democracy. Granted, when entrenched bureaucratic and governmental interests favor a policy -- and they most certain favor a continuation of fee-based public TV -- that policy can go on forever in Germany. Just think of the Euro, which was introduced over the opposition of 3/4 of the German population. Currently only the right-wing AfD party has staked out a clear position (g) in favor of abolishing the TV fee. Once again, the German "opinion cartel" funnels voters to the right wing: If you are one of the 70 percent of Germans who opposes the TV fee, the AfD is the only party which openly shares your view.

Fee TV is a zombie policy. You can either wait until it falls apart, or you can drive a stake through it now. Knowing Germany, they'll probably opt for the former. It'll be a pretty ugly process.


New From Klaus Johann Grobe: Spagat der Liebe

From das neue album Spagat der Liebe:

Aquarium Drunkard sez:

Krautpop. Speaking of Trouble In Mind Records, earlier this month the Chicago label released Spagat der Liebe, the Zürich based Klaus Johann Grobe’s second LP. Comprised of Sevi Landolt (organ/synths/vocals) and Daniel Bachmann (drums/vocals), the pair continue down the path set out on their initial self-produced singles and 2014’s Im Sinne der Zeit – a groove laden Autobahn equally rooted in their German krautrock forebears, ’90s Stereolab explorations and lo-fi jazz/funk.


AMA with a Syrian Refugee in Germany

A Syrian refugee living in Germany did an AMA recently, and the result was fascinating. He's a young man who ran a successful Internet cafe and left because of threatened conscription. He's gotten asylum and has been in Germany 9 months, learning German.

I've pasted a few of the exchanges I found the most interesting. Reformatted them hastily, since I find reddit's format a bit hard to follow.

First, my favorite exchange of all: 

thegingerduck: How did you learn English? Did you learn while in Syria?

StraightOuttaSyria: Movies, TV-shows, books, music, youtube, internet in general.

thegingerduck: Are you doing the same for german?

StraightOuttaSyria: Yup, the radio and tv are always on, discovered some great German bands and singers, can't read books now but will asap.

OgGorrilaKing: It's Rammstein isn't it? You've been listening to Rammstein.

StraightOuttaSyria: I've been listening to them even before coming to Germany :D

Arntown: Yeah, and for advanced learning try Herbert Grönemeyer. If you can understand him, you're better than 50% of the Germans :D

Asked what the biggest culture shocks were:

  • Public drinking
  • Relationships ( female - male )
  • General acceptance for LGBT
  • Sex-Ed in school? Good luck with that
  • Shared Showers

What does he think of Western airstrikes against ISIS? "It's awesome, like really it's the best thing that happened since the start of the revolution and civil war in Syria."

What it's like to live in ISIS-run areas:

Great question.

They have very strict rules you need to follow, but generally they try to keep the population under their control "comfortable", because they wouldn't be able to fight an inside war and expand their "Caliphate" too, actually, the regions under ISIS control are the regions with the most access to water and electricity in Syria.

so yeah, so many rules, very strict rules, but if you follow you'll live ok.

Another question has to do with the image of Europe:

There are rumors about refugees being fed obvious lies about the welfare system in Germany: Things like getting top notch housing, a car and a well paid job upon arrival. What do you think of it?

Answer: SO MUCH LIES. they all think of Europe as a paradise on Earth, these lies are fed very much through the smugglers who try to convince you to go to Europe, as I suggested in another comment, I think the Europe should build a website putting every decision and news related to the refugees in it so they can get an authentic source of news and know who it is in Europe.

Good Syrian dishes: 

In the years to come I expect we will see Syrian restaurants and take-aways appear in the EU. What are good / unique dishes we can look forward to? Any good vegetarian dishes?

Answer: Look for "Fatte" "فتة", it's great

On how the EU should manage the crisis: 

What are your thoughts About how the EU should manage the refugee crisis? Glad you made it welcome to germany.

StraightOuttaSyria: Obviously I'm happy many people can get a chance for a better life. But the way it happens now is wrong, mass numbers will hurt the people before the host countries, and eventually will lead to more troubles. There are many way they can help the people and get everything under control, as I've said couple of times, get them legal status in Turkey, then sort the people who need to get to Europe, and pick them from the camps. These are some of the simplest ways.

And on ISIS infiltrators:

Do you believe that ISIS terrorists are disguising themselves as refugees to get into Europe and the US?

StraightOuttaSyria: It's a quite big possibility, but hopefully the authorities run a good background check before granting anyone asylum.

redditor401: No offence to you, but judging by the way you got in, I don't think that's really happening, lol.