At the moment, the German Documentary Filmmakers’ Association (A.G. Dok) probably doesn’t count many European football fans in its midst. The A.G. Dok membership is still seething over the amount of money that German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are willing to pay for the broadcast rights to the 2002 and 2006 football world championships – DM104,000 (US$47,000) per minute for the 2002 game and DM200,000 (US$90,500) per minute for 2006. Rather than fume quietly, A.G. Dok filed a formal complaint to EU commissioner for Education and Culture Viviane Reding, effectively going over the pubcasters’ heads, at the end of March.
Thomas Frickel, head of A.G. Dok’s board, says, ‘Last December we had direct negotiations with ARD and ZDF, but until now there have been no concrete results of this discussion – about special fees for the repetition of our programs, rights, and so on. So, for us, this is one way to remind public t.v. in Germany that they have a special responsibility for the sector we’re covering.’
The gist of the complaint to the EU is that while the football broadcasting rights fees are high compared to the amount paid for almost any other type of programming, they are particularly unconscionable compared to the fees the pubcasters offer documentaries. A.G. Dok alleges that the disparity between the fees paid for documentary film rights and those paid for football broadcast rights consititutes improper use of standing charges (state aid).
Philipp Baum, head of communications for ZDF, rebuts: ‘The money we will pay for the soccer games in 2002 is included in our financial budgets for sports between 2001 and 2004… No mark we will pay for the soccer games will be taken from the budgets for fiction and documentary programs. We will cut other programs for sports because we bought soccer. Forty-five percent of the daily programs and 45% of the primetime programs are information, documentaries and magazine shows. It is just a joke to say they cut the documentaries because they buy soccer.’