Am I a broadcaster?

Broadcasting licences for live streaming

Many people who disseminate video streams via the Internet have been asking themselves this question recently. Despite – or indeed because of – the great media attention paid to several prominent cases, there is uncertainty and nervousness among even smaller streamers. "Am I actually allowed to stream 'just like that'?" This is also due to the fact that many incorrect figures such as costs and fines are circulating online.

Can't the broadcasting licence just be abolished for the Internet?

The legal basis valid in this context is set out in the Broadcasting and Electronic Media Treaty (the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty or "RStV"). The provisions defined in this treaty are binding for all federal states. An amendment to the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty can only be made unanimously by the respective parliamentary bodies of all the federal states.

Therefore, the state media authorities cannot themselves amend the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty and the regulations for live streaming. However, for several years the state media authorities have been pointing out to legislators that the provisions set forth in the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty are no longer up-to-date. The federal states have not yet been able to agree on an amendment which would have meant a considerable relief for live streamers.

What content requires a broadcasting licence?

Not every (live) stream is broadcasting subject to licensing. The Interstate Broadcasting Treaty defines four underlying significant criteria for the assessment:

Live streaming (linear distribution)

More than 500 potential viewers at the same time

Editorial design

Existence of a broadcasting schedule or regular repeats

How much does a broadcasting licence cost?

The cost of a broadcasting licence vary widely. Among other factors, they are based on the economic success of the content. The potential costs are between € 100 and € 10,000. Contrary to popular reporting, these costs only have to be paid once. There is not a regular fee.

What is the position of the media authorities with regard to broadcasting licensing for live streaming?

The media authorities have repeatedly pointed out that the public licence fee should be adjusted to reflect media trends. For example, our recommendation would suggest implementing a "qualified reporting requirement" in place of the "approval requirement". This system is already in place for Internet radio (see § 20b RStV) and would make prior approval unnecessary to disseminate live streams on the Internet. Furthermore, the scope of the report could be restricted to several material aspects, in particular the personal data of the provider. The legislators must ultimately decide whether this kind of qualified reporting requirement would suffice as a contemporary response. In the meantime, the media authorities are obliged to apply the valid law.