It’s that time of the month. Bill paying time. There are those things that just have to be paid. Like rent. Then there are the things that I choose to pay. Like parking. Then there are the things that I have decided to pay late. Like the TV-avgift.
Since moving to Sweden in June of 2007 I have never paid the mandatory fee levied by the state to watch TV. Actually, not even watch TV, you have to pay if you have anything that can pick up a TV signal. I’m paying to watch five worthless TV channels (which some people may describe as spewing government propaganda, but not me of course), listen to 45 radio stations, and access radio and TV on the internet. And I’m paying 2076 SEK to do it.
Because I am cheaper than a Tijuana hooker, I made a choice to not pay for cable here in Sweden. In fact, for a large portion of college we didn’t pay for cable TV, or use heat for that matter which was rough in an old house with single pane windows, but damned if we didn’t save at least $10 a month.
Anyway, I knew about the TV fee here in Sweden. I had seen the commercials thanking the good citizens of Karlstad, Umeå, and Ystad for paying their TV fees. They never thanked me. Probably because I never paid. I never really understood how, and I sure wasn’t going to seek out another bill to pay. Especially when I first moved to this country and was living off savings and a part time job. So I didn’t pay.
Then I made a temporary move. One night there was a knock at my door. Mormons I thought. Mormons would have been so much better. It was the TV-avgift guy wanting to collect. I was living a little under the radar, meaning that I wasn’t really on the lease at the place I was staying. The benefits of rent control and a housing shortage here in Stockholm. So I managed to fumble my way through me being an American and just visiting and not really understanding what he wanted. So I lied. First I felt bad, then I felt pretty Swedish, simply because I had avoided the TV-avgift.
Then I moved again, this time a little more legally. A letter arrived at my door all the way from Kiruna. They wanted my money. They assumed that I had a TV. The letter got lost a bit in the move and eventually surfaced a month or two late. I went to Catholic Church a couple of times with friends back when I was younger, and apparently the guilt part of the religion stayed with me. So I sent in the form saying that, yes, I did have a TV, and that, yes, I would pay the fee. Although I had a choice. I could pay the 2076 SEK in one lump sum or break it up into four easy payments of 519 SEK.
I kicked my business degree into action and remembered that if I paid in four different payments and there was no interest to be paid; technically I could make the other money work for me. So I chose four different payments. And am currently making the rest of the money work for me by purchasing large quantities of beer. Lundquist College of Business, preparing the business leaders of tomorrow, today.
Anyway, I was chatting up the old man the other day and mentioned the annoyance of paying money for state run channels that I just really don’t want to watch. And he admitted something. He had never paid the TV-avgift. Clearly, he has earned that Swedish passport. I was jealous, think of all the money he has saved over the years. Here I am, a sucker, paying to watch quality programming like Melodifestivalen. But the invoice has already come. Two of them actually, because thanks to Skatteverket, they know when I moved in and they don’t want to miss out on collecting on those few months it took me to send in my form.
Of course the due date has also come. And gone. And I haven’t paid. I’m going to pay, it’s that guilt thing. But I decided to protest a bit. Hold off until I get the reminder. Maybe even watch some SVT so I feel like I get my money’s worth.
Welcome to Sweden. And my passive protest against state run television.
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