"First of all I would like to welcome two channels that are carrying Sprockets
for the first time: LODR, Leipzig Oster-Deutsch Rundfunk; and FKMS, Fernsehen Karl-Marx-Stadt. Welcome to the Sprockets
Germany has a peculiar mix of different TV channels as a result of its history after World War II
. After the downfall of Nazi Germany
, it was up to the Allies to regulate the German media at the time. Public radio stations were formed, often one station per state, before The Bonn Republic
was founded. These stations then formed the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland" ("Consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany"), or ARD for short. Some TV channels are made by ARD member stations, others by public or private competitors.
To European eyes, the German television system can seem rather weird. Rather than have a single national public broadcaster, there are multiple regional public broadcasters, which all produce their own content and then send it to other regions. While to some degree this is a recognition of the federal structure
of Germany, it is also an attempt by the Allies to ensure that a national Propaganda Machine
like that used by the Nazis could never again take hold in Germany: if one regional broadcaster started pumping out extremist propaganda, the other broadcasters could simply refuse to transmit it and program their own material instead. This system, rather interestingly to historians of broadcasting, inspired the system used by PBS
in the United States, albeit with the bulk of funding coming from direct viewer contributions rather than a television license fee (which is how ARD is funded) and with a far finer division of the country (with multiple markets per state and multiple stations per market, as opposed to the occasional fusion of regional broadcasters in the ARD).
However, as the Bonn Republic matured, it became increasingly clear that these protections were not really necessary. This is how ZDF
—a single unified national broadcaster—was formed (albeit leaving Das Erste
—the original ARD structure—firmly intact).
Public TV channels
Commercial TV channels
- Channels from before cable TV:
- Das Erste (The First) - or just ARD - started broadcasting in 1952. Each part of the programme is made by one of the member stations (who form a so-called gremium (or "elder council") to democratically decide the programme between the Bundesländer), and then broadcasted by all member stations. Not every state has its own ARD broadcaster, as some states operate them jointly.
- ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, "Second German Television") started broadcasting in 1963. In contrast to ARD, ZDF is a single public-law station on the federal level. They also provide co-production assistance for a good deal of shows outside Germany.
- Die Dritten (The Thirds) are channels by the ARD member stations, and original limited to their areas. With the coming of cable TV, now some of them can be received nationwide. They are:
- BR (Bayerischer Rundfunk, Bavarian Broadcasting): Bavaria's state broadcaster.
- HR (Hessischer Rundfunk, Hessian Broadcasting): Hesse's state broadcaster.
- MDR (Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, Central German Bradcasting): The unified state broadcaster for three states of former East Germany (and thus a target of a lot of German Humour); Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt.
- NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Northern German Broadcasting): The unified state broadcaster of Germany's most northern states; Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
- RB (Radio Bremen): Bremen's state broadcaster. The oldest among the Thirds, having begun broadcasting right after the war in 1945.
- RBB (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin - Brandenburg Broadcasting): The unified state broadcaster for both Brandenburg and it's capital city enclave, Berlin. The youngest of the Thirds, having been opened only in 2003. Formed by the merger of SFB (Sender Freies Berlin, Channel Free Berlin) and ORB (Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg, East German Broadcasting Brandenburg)
- SR (Saarländischer Rundfunk, Saarland Broadcasting): The state broadcaster for Saarland.
- SWR (Südwestrundfunk, Southwest Broadcasting): The unified state broadcaster for Germany's Southern states, sans Bavaria; Baden-Württenberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
- WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk, West German Broadcasting): North Rhine-Westphalia's state broadcaster.
- DW (Deutsche Welle, German Wave): The German broadcasting connection to the rest of the world.
- New public channels (supported with content from both ARD and ZDF):
- 3sat, a German-language channel made in cooperation by the public TV stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
- arte, a German- and French-language made in cooperation by the public TV stations in Germany and France. Foreign content is either dubbed by translators or subtitled.
- "Kika" ("Kinderkanal", "Children's channel") is a channel mostly for children up to 13, and has programming from 6 am to 9 pm.
- "Phoenix" the C-Span equivalent for uncut parliament footage and more in-depth discussion rounds.
- It should be noted that the German parliament has its own TV channel broadcasting all parliament footage live, but (nearly?) no TV provider carries it, though it is available on the internet.
- Even newer (and experimental) digital channels (forked from ARD or ZDF):
- Einsfestival, tagesschau24 (formerly known as Eins Extra, broadcasts the news magazine of the ARD Tagesschau ("Daily show" or "Show of the day") from 9 am to 6 pm on business days and 12 pm to 6 pm on the weekend), Eins Plus
- ZDF info, ZDF.kultur, zdf_neo
Originally there were a lot of different channels, and every owner was limited to one "full program" channel, but behind the scenes today's landscape formed, dominated by two groups:
- The RTL group, with RTL, RTL II, Super RTL and VOX. (RTL originally meant "Radio Tele Luxembourg" and it originally operated from there but still has their HQ there).
- The Sat.1/Pro 7 group, with Sat.1, ProSieben (Pro 7) and Kabel 1, based in Munich.