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10.21 Television and radio in Germany

Public broadcasters
ARDGermany has two public broadcasting corporations. The first of these, ARD, was founded in 1954 and comprises eleven regional public television and radio stations. Each of these regional stations contributes programmes to ARD's national television channel "Das Erste" (= "the first"), and also broadcasts its own regional channel known as "das dritte Programm" (= "the third programme"), which concentrates on the culture and politics of their area.

Zweites Deutsches FernsehenAs its name suggests, ZDF (= "Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen") is the second national TV channel. It was launched in 1961, and, unlike ARD, it is structured as a single national corporation.

ORF 1The Austrian public broadcaster ORF offers two TV channels: ORF 1 and ORF 2. The Swiss national broadcasting company DRS also offers two German-speaking channels - SF1 and SF2 - alongside their French and Italian output.


Licence fees
Both ARD and ZDF are funded by public licence fees (Rundfunkgebühren). If a household has a television, or a television and a radio, a licence fee of 16 Euros and 15 cents (DM 31,58) per month must be paid to the central fees office (GEZ) of the public broadcasting corporations. Payment can be made quarterly, every six months or annually and is normally carried out by direct debit or standing order. Individuals with a low income can apply for exemption.

Das RadioUnlike in Britain, a licence fee of 5,32 (DM 10,40) per month must also be paid if you only have a radio in the house! This includes radio alarm clocks and even car radios, although a car driver who is already paying licence fees for a radio at his home address does not need a separate licence for a car registered in his/her name.

Ein FernseherAnother major distinction to Britain is that licences in Germany are not merely determined "per household" but on the principle of who has access to the television and radio in a given accommodation. Thus a child who lives with their parents but who has a personal income above a certain level has to pay "Rundfunkgebühren" for any TV sets and radios in his/her own room, as do pensioners living with their sons and daughters. Non-married couples are also treated differently in Germany. Whichever of the two partners has the TV and radio licence registered under their name can have as many radios and TV sets as they like, but the other partner must pay a licence fee for any additional sets that he/she has in their room. And students are only exempted from paying licence fees in their university accommodation if their total income (including grants) is below a certain amount! You must apply to the municipal authorities to be exempted from paying licence fees.

Swiss TV station SF2Similar licensing agreements exist in the other German-speaking countries, although the licensing situation in Switzerland is comparatively liberal. Unlike in Germany, you only need to register and pay the licence fee once if you share accommodation with your partner and you also do not need to have a separate licence for a holiday home which is not rented out commercially. Click here for more details.


Cable and satellite
Sat 1In 1981 the Federal Constitutional court recognised the right of the individual German Länder to grant broadcasting licences to private companies, and the broadcasting law of 1987 allowed the creation of private broadcasting companies to compete with public stations. The entertainment channel Sat 1 became Germany's first private television station in 1985, quickly followed by a number of other national and local private broadcasters which can be received via cable and satellite.

RTLMany of these (such as RTL, Pro7, Vox and Kabel 1 and Neun Live) are light entertainment channels, broadcasting a mixture of films, talkshows, soaps and series. Others are purely specialist broadcasters: N24 and N-TV (owned by CNN and Time Warner) are rolling news channels, Bloomberg TV concentrates on business news, the encrypted channel Premiere is a film channel, DSF is a German sports broadcaster, and both MTV Deutschland and Viva are music broadcasters.

The impact on the German media scene of the finanical collapse of the Kirch media group, which owns Sat 1, Pro Sieben, Kabel 1, N24, DSF and Neun Live, in April 2002 has yet to fully evaluated. As the pay TV wing of Kirch has broadcasting rights to German Bundesliga football, as well as to the football World Cup and Formula 1 motor racing, jobs may well be at risk in the sproting world as well as in television.

3SatPublic broadcasters have also taken the opportunities offered by cable and satellite broadcasting to create a number of new channels. 3Sat offers the best cultural and documentary programmes from the German, Swiss and Austrian public channels, Arte is a Franco-German cultural co-production, Phoenix is a German current affairs programme, whereas Ki.Ka is a channel for children.


Reception of German programmes in Britain
A satellite dishThere are currently over 30 (!) German-language channels broadcasting their programmes unencrypted via the ASTRA satellite, including ARD, ZDF and all the German "third programmes". Click here to see which channels these are and which satellite transponder they occupy.

ASTRAA large number of German radio stations also broadcast via the ASTRA satellite, although many of them are digital channels only and you will need a special digital receiver in order to listen to them. As in Britain, this may be an option worth considering, as the number of digital TV channels - such as those offered by ARD Digital - are on the rise.

A number of German TV stations allow you to view their programmes via the Internet. Some of them - such as N-TV, Phoenix and Deutsche Welle TV (the German equivalent of BBC World Service) broadcast their TV programme as a livestream. Other broadcasters allow you to watch the current edition of certain programmes as a "video on demand" option. For a full list of internet TV options, visit the "Real Video" section of our Exeter University German Media Index.


Viewing habits in Germany
Watching too much television?According to a survey of viewing habits carried out on behalf of ARD, 90.2% of Germans watch television several times a week. Only 83.6% of Germans said that they read a newspaper or listened to the radio regularly each week. The viewing figures are slightly higher for women (91.3%) than they are for men (89.1%), and in terms of age groups, the over 60's watch the most television (95.5%), whereas the 20-39 year olds watch the least (85.4%).

In 2001, German households spent an average of 333 minutes per week compared with 275 minutes in 1992. There was a pronounced regional difference: families in the former GDR spend an average of 375 minutes per week watching the box, whereas "West" Germans spent only 323 minutes doing so.

The same study showed that RTL had leapfrogged Das Erste (ARD) in 2001 to become the most popular TV channel, with the families surveyed watching it for 28 minutes per day, closely followed by Das Erste (26 mins), ZDF and the regional "third programmes" (25 mins). They are followed by channels which are broadcast only on satellite and cabel - Sat 1 (19 mins), ProSieben (15 mins) and Kabel 1 (10 mins). A regional difference is again apparent, with citizens of the former GDR spending much more time - 33 minutes per day - watching both RTL and the regional third programmes.


Web links  Web Links  Web links

Exeter University German Media Index The German Media Index compiled by the German Department of the University of Exeter provides links to the websites of German-language television and radio stations.
German TV on the Internet Watch German-language television live on the Internet!
tvtv What's on German television at the moment? Visit the online TV Guide tvtv and see how many programmes you can recognise.
Hörzu The German listings magazine Hörzu also gives full details on radio programmes.
tele.at Find the Austrian channel listings via the internet presence of the listings magazine tele.at.
Tele What's on Swiss television at the moment? Visit the Swiss TV Guide Tele.
Satellite information Visit this site to see which German-language TV and radio channels broadcast on which satellite.
Astra Satellite Many German channels are available in Britain via the Astra satellite. This site gives you information as to how you can receive them.
Rundfunkgebühren Take part in an interactive quiz on licence fees presented by Westdeutscher Rundfunk - and win a prize! Javascript required. In German only.
German viewing figures Yearly viewing figures compiled on behalf of the German national broadcaster ARD. In German only.


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