Letter to Mme Judith Stelmach (ORF)

ID: 199810160928

Mme Judith Stelmach
Audience Research Department
Würzburggasse 30
A - 1136 - WIEN

Antwerp (Belgium), 1998-10-16

Dear Judith,

Please find hereby the Annual Report of the Flemish Licence Fee organisation (Dienst Kijk- en Luistergeld).

MERS is the external consultant for licence fee collection in Flanders, the Flemish speaking community of federalised Belgium.

On April 1st 1997 the service gained autonomy. Before that date the licence fee organisation was a part of Belgacom, the telecom operator of Belgium, privatised for some years now.
CIPAL, a service company in the informatic field and owned by a large number of cities in Flanders, took over the job (computer technology, organisation and management, etcetera). The Flemish government is the final responsable for and beneficiant of the tax collection. The public broadcast company (VRT) gets a dotation from the Flemish government but one can not say that there is an direct link between the taxes collected and the funding of the public broadcaster. This stays a political decision on a yearly basis. In some respect this situation makes the communication with the public rather difficult ("why you should pay licence fee"). Yet the collected licence fees are considered by the large majority as the main financial source for the VRT.

Note also that taxes are collected per household for TV-sets and per car for car radio.

As of April 1997 CIPAL undertook a number of successfull and speedy actions to improve the organisation of the service: new software, upgrading and training of personnel, large media campaign against tax evasion, etc.
All these efforts resulted in a dramatic rise of the registration rate in Flanders (see the tables in the annual report).
The situation in Flanders is somewhat special because of the very high penetration of cable (teledistribution). This makes it possible to match the databases of cable companies and the licence fee organisation on a nominative basis. This matching proces was made possible by law.
Great efforts go to the improvement of the matching methods because this is one of the keys for evasion rate reduction. The maps at the end of the annual report gives an insight in the evasion rate per province/city/village in Flanders (308 in total). The maps indicate where TV and car radio tax evasion is prominent and this information is to be considered as a management tool for specific and punctual action in the field.

It is my firm belief that international cooperation and data interchange can improve our business. Permanent improvement in tax collection can only evolve when brains work together and ideas flow around the globe.

Kind regards,

Managing Director MERS