Let’s look at the most ridiculous idea the Danish government has ever come up with. As you might suspect, the Danish government has it’s own TV station. Not just 1 TV channel but 6! Along with those 6 TV channels there are 11 radio stations. Add those to the failed TV and radio stations the entity called Denmark’s Radio – even though it is mainly focused on broadcasting TV – has had no less than 8 TV stations, 2 of which have failed and been closed, and 36 radio stations, where no less than 25 radio stations have been utter failures!
In a free market such grandiose failure would not last, but Denmark’s Radio does not operate on free market terms. It doesn’t even operate on any market terms. It is funded by a Medialicense which every household in Denmark must pay if they choose to own any kind of electronic device that is in any way capable of receiving the signals sent into the ether by Denmark’s Radio.
You may not be getting this so let me simplify it for you. This is hard to wrap one’s head around and any confusion on your part is quite understandable. Here you go:
In order for any member of a Danish household to own an electronic device that has the capability of receiving a signal from Denmark’s Radio, the household must pay a Media License. If you own a TV, a radio, a cellphone with internet access or a computer you have to pay this license fee on a bi-annual basis.
I, personally, am exempt from this medialicense because I have chosen not to own a TV or radio, and my cellphone and computer belongs to my company. I actually don’t personally own any device capable of receiving Denmark’s Radio’s signals and don’t have to pay.
Which, of course, is a source of confusion to the License Office. I guess most Danes own an electronic device and they have a hard time understanding why I don’t. They pay me a visit every six months or so to ask why I haven’t signed up for the Media License and on more than one occasion they have actually signed me up to pay this Media License and every time I have received a bill from them I have complained. Ten years ago I decided enough was enough with the bi-annual complaining and decided to ignore them.
Which was a bad idea. Instead the bills, which I wasn’t required to pay since I have never signed any agreement with the License Office and don’t own any device specified under the Media License, grew in size and eventually they sent the bills to SKAT, the danish IRS, which translates directly into TAX and in case you’re wondering; yes, it is spelled with all capital letters.
I received a formal letter from TAX informing me that my paycheck from my then-job as a journalist for a men’s magazine would be docked the full amount the License Office claimed I owed them. I naturally called TAX and informed them that I did in fact not owe the License Office anything and that I refused to let them garnish anything from my paycheck.
To understand just how TAX can garnish any paycheck you first need to understand that all companies must register with TAX and send their payments to the employee through TAX. Which means any and all lawful wages in Denmark goes from Employer, through TAX – who takes what they want from the wages – and then to the bank account of the employee. There is no getting around this – well, there is, but that is another story for another time – and failing to do so is in fact highly illegal and is punished with a flat fee of 60% of the amount not filed with TAX.
Now, back to the story about the license fee.
I was informed by TAX that I would have to take my complaint to the License Office. The not-so-friendly voice on the phone – you can’t visit any TAX-office, only communicate with them by phone – told me in no uncertain terms that they just did what the License Office had ordered them to do and therefore would continue the garnishing of my paycheck as long as no other order had come from the License Office.
The License Office does indeed have that power.
I called the License Office and was informed that no changes would be made unless I could prove to them that I had not had any electronic device in the past 5 years. They agree, grudgingly, to abstain from keeping me on record in the future, but they had no evidence that I hadn’t had any electronic devices in my own name for the past five years and therefore would continue the garnishing of my paycheck via TAX.
I had to prove to them that I hadn’t owned any devices capable of receiving TV, radio or internet signals for the past five years or they would just assume I had and take money they felt I owed them!
Of course, I called the police, who informed me that conflicts with the government was not their jurisdiction unless it was the government entity who needed me arrested for something. I had already assumed this and wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Now, you might think such a Media License would be pretty cheap. They can’t really charge that much for such a thing, can they? Of course they can. The license fee comes to 363$ annually and I had to pay 5 times that because I had ignored the License office for 5 years. And here comes the kicker; the garnishing was taken after my taxes were paid!
Needless to say, November and December 2013 – including Christmas and New Years, were extremely hard for me because when the government decides to leave you with their state-mandated ‘minimum’ you cannot pay your rent, buy food or anything else and need to make loans from friends and family just to survive in the country where everything is ‘free’. At least, that’s what the government thinks happened.
You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I am perfectly capable of circumventing the government and making money. In fact, I made more money during that period by working ‘Black Jobs’ (yeah, that’s the direct translation of Sort Arbejde, which means jobs you are not registering with TAX) than I did from my regular job as a journalist and movie producer.
I have only been able to find the stats for Denmark’s Radio in 2012, but they are ghastly if you believe in a free market. The license fee brought in 3.569.900.00 danish kroner, which was, at the time, 519,200,000 US dollars!
The 529 million dollars is solely collected through Media License, nothing else! They have other income but the half billion dollars comes from a forced license to own an electronic device, which is capable of receiving their signal!
As I have proved by my own personal story about how the government agencies use of force to collect money for their ventures – and trust me, this story is not singular – there is something rotten in the state of Denmark.
I realize that a media license will never come to pass in any country that doesn’t have it yet – it was designed in 1928, long before the wellfare state, in order to fund the first radio station in Denmark – because it is absolutely ridiculous. But it does give you a sneak peek into the mind of the nanny state; force is easy if you apply it consistently.
And it is a political giant as well. The board members are elected for a four year term. 3 members are elected by the Ministry of Culture (yes, there is such a thing), 6 members are elected by Folketinget (the Danish parliament) and 2 are elected among the 2,229 employees of this media giant.
Needless to say that the entire institution is under constant scrutiny for political bias and more than once it has been found that leading employees have had strong political ties and deeply held political beliefs. This was the case when the Danish police was investigating claims against the 40 top employees and found many of them to have strong ties to communist organizations in eastern Europe during the mid-50s. Nothing was done about it, however, due to the General Secretary claimed these people to be ‘trustworthy’.
Do the Danes complain about the Media License? Oh, yes, we complain a lot. Do we take action against it? No, not really. Danes are apathetic towards the government in the same way a child resigns to the power of their babysitter. We bitch and moan about it, but we never take action.
I fear I will repeat myself when I say: don’t go towards the socialist state by looking to countries such as Denmark. In fifty years time, when your children are grown and have made grandparents out of you, you will all be as apathetic about your freedom as the Danes are. History has a tendency to repeat itself and I am warning you about the dangers of the ‘lap of luxury’, which is the perfect honeytrap for power-mongering politicians.