Public Taxes To Fund Private Television Channels

Prime Minister Edi Rama has decided to finance private television channels through public funds, by raising the tax that each family and business has to pay for their digital TV receivers. The revenue will then be split among private TV channels according to their viewerships.

The tax increase is used to justify the agreement between Prime Minister Rama and representatives of private TV channels, who have repeatedly lobbied to be financed directly by public funds.

In order to keep public backlash at a minimum, the government requested in April 2018 through the Albanian National Television (RTSh), that the DTV receiver tax be increased, as a necessary measure to fund the digitalization of the public media channel RTSh.

Meanwhile, yesterday, representatives from private TV channels, in a meeting with the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), claimed that it would be fair for them to receive public funds, since their TV channels had a larger viewership than RTSh.

The Tax Increase

Currently, every family and business pays 100 lekë per month – 1200 lekë, or €8.70 per year – to fund the broadcasting of the public RTSh. This tax is included in the electricity bill of every family or business, and is collected by the energy company OShEE.

In total, RTSh receives €11 million per year, via the above tax. Additionally, RTSh also receives €6.5 million out of the national budget. Alongside various other incomes, including advertising, RTSh’s annual budget reaches €20 million.

In RTSh’s 2017 annual report to the Parliament, it is stated that “tax revenues are nearly entirely spent on digitization and transmission expenses.” Therefore, in order to secure funding for digitization and other operational expenses, RTSh requested “a gradual increase of the DTV receiver tax, that could cover a large part of digitization costs.“

In fact, RTSh proposed a 50% tax increase:

Even a 50% [tax] increase would be sufficient to cover, say, the annual Deutsche Bank payments. [To digitize, RTSh took out a Deutsche Bank loan.]

[…] A significant tax increase seems to be necessary in order to fund the normal functioning of RTSh. Aside from this, additional contributions from the national budget may be needed in the following 3-4 years, in order to afford the costs of digitalization.

Therefore, by increasing the public television annual tax from 1200 lekë to 1800 lekë, RTSh is attempting to profit an additional €5–6 million from Albanian taxpayers.