Whenever I tell my American friends about how the BBC is funded, especially the part about TV licence enforcement vans driving around the country "smoking out" illegal TV watching, my words are met with utter disbelief. Simply put, if you own a TV and if you ever switch it on, you must pay a TV licence fee, regardless of what you watch or do not watch.
Well, the system in Germany is even worse.
Not only are the fees substantially higher -- to the tune of US$ 21 per month -- but they also fund two separate networks, ARD and ZDF, whereby ARD consists of at least 10 smaller networks. Not surprisingly, all the bosses are political appointees.
Naturally, this entire endeavour is no more and no less than a government sanctioned programme for robbing people of their hard earned cash, especially in a country where there are dozens of private and free TV channels, which seem to do very well without ever seeing a penny of the TV licence fee.
It is hardly surprising then that ARD and ZDF have decided to send major delegations of "journalists" to the WTO Minsiterial in Hong Kong. After all, Christmas shopping for the boys in Hong Kong at licence payer expense is more than a tempting proposition. However, even a cynical observer might have been surprised to witness the extent of these people's delusions of grandeur in Hong Kong. While Reuters, AP and CNN can apparently make do with one or two office containers, ARD and ZDF require four.
Of course, given the setting, it is somewhat ironic that the Germans should put the effects of state interventionism on display so persuasively. As a German saying goes: No point saving costs when it is others who are paying.