Poetic licence: dead writer gets TV demand

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He may have been dead for over two centuries but that did not stop Germany's tenacious TV licence-collecting agency from sending two reminders to one of the nation's favourite poets and playwrights telling him he had failed to pay his fee.

Friedrich Schiller received a notice from the agency GEZ at an address in the town of Weigsdorf-Köblitz in the eastern state of Saxony, telling him if he did not pay the monthly €17.03 (£14) for using his radio and television sets, legal proceedings would be launched against him.

The reminder was delivered to a primary school bearing Schiller's name. Despite receiving a letter from the school's headteacher, in which he pointed out that "the addressee is no longer in a position to listen to the radio or watch television", a second reminder was sent by the GEZ, telling the poet that he would be exempt from the fee only if he could prove he owned no TV or radio sets, but that otherwise he was obliged to pay his contribution.

A spokeswoman for the agency issued an apology, admitting that the philosopher-poet, who died in 1805 and is best known for his poem Ode to Joy, which was set to music by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony, was registered with it as "Herr Friedrich Schiller", the owner of a household in possession of a radio and television set.

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