What is it?
The Public Broadcasting Tax is an apartment-based tax, which has to be paid per apartment. This means, that a couple of weeks after you got your Anmeldung you will receive a letter from a governmental agency called ARD, ZDF, Deutschland Radio with an answer form, that you must fill in and send back. According to your answer, it will be determined whether you should pay the public broadcasting tax.
Many people will recommend you to not pay it. From our experience ignoring payment requests is never a good idea in Germany: in case you will not pay the Public Broadcasting Tax, they will forward your details to the local tax authorities, that will start an official payment executing process against you (meaning, come to your house and take stuff in order to pay those fees).
We do not consume any content in German, and do not have a TV at home. Do we still need to pay this tax?
Since the public broadcasting tax is an apartment-based tax and not a device or content-consumption tax, you must pay it even if you do not consume any content in German, do not speak German or do not own a TV.
Who is exempt from the public broadcasting tax?
Exemption is given only in very specific cases and is usually valid to people with certain disabilities or to people who receive social benefits. You could also get exempt if the tax for your apartment is being paid by another person.
We are living in a sublet/ have roommate. Do we still need to pay?
Since the public broadcasting tax is calculated per apartment and not per person, you could be exempt from paying if one of your roommates is paying. This sometimes also applies for people who live in sublets in which the main tenant pays the public broadcasting tax. You should of course sort this one out with your landlord or roommate.
If you wish to get exempt from paying based on the ground that the tax is being paid by another person, you will be required to give their customer number (in German: Beitragsnummer) on the answer form, which will be attached to the initial letter you will get from them.
OK, sounds good. How do we sort this out?
The first step is to register your apartment with them, either using their website, or by sending in the answer form. As a result of your registration, you will either never hear from them ever again (until moving), as long as someone else is making the tax payments for your apartment or will start getting bills from them.