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Radio and Television in Germany
Radio and television are administered in a decentralized fashion as
prescribed in the Basic Law. The intent behind the pattern of regional
decentralization is to prevent the exploitation of the media by a strong
national government, as had happened under the Nazi dictatorship. Germany
has two public broadcasting corporations. The first, ARD, was established
in 1954 and encompasses eleven regional public television and radio stations.
ARD employs roughly 23,000 people and has an annual budget of about US$6
billion. The second, ZDF was founded in 1961 and is structured as a single
corporation, not as a consortium. A third channel broadcasts cultural
and educational programs for all Land corporations.
The Land broadcasting corporations have similar organizational
structures. Each governs itself under the direction of a broadcasting
council consisting--in most Laender--of representatives of the
major social, economic, cultural, and political groups, including political
parties, churches, unions, and business organizations. The broadcasting
corporations are financed largely through monthly fees (DM23.80 per household
as of late 1994) charged to television and radio owners. Public television
is allowed to devote no more than thirty minutes per day to commercial
advertisements. No advertisements are aired after 8:00 P.M. on weekdays
or on Sundays. Advertising provides roughly one-third of television revenues
and one-fourth of radio revenues. What distinguishes public television
from commercial television is the ability to offer greater coverage of
public service activities and cultural events.
Most eastern Germans were familiar with western German television even
before unification because broadcasts from the west could be received
in most of East Germany. According to a 1990 survey, 49 percent of western
Germans and 70 percent of eastern Germans watched a nightly news program
at least five times each week. Surveys also indicate that television is
the most important source of political information: 51 percent of Germans
rank television first, ahead of newspapers and magazines (22 percent),
conversation (16 percent), and radio (6 percent).
Private broadcasting was virtually nonexistent in West Germany until
1981, when the Federal Constitutional Court recognized the right of the
Laender to grant broadcasting licenses to private companies.
Enabling legislation took the form of a new broadcasting treaty enacted
by the Laender in 1987 that allowed the creation of private broadcasting
companies to compete with public stations. In general, private broadcasters
do not have an internal supervisory council, but the Laender
in which they broadcast can exercise supervisory rights.
Commercial broadcasters finance their operations solely with advertising
revenues. Beyond the substantial capital costs associated with starting
up a new television channel, private broadcasters have to rely on satellite
and cable transmission because the airwaves do not offer unlimited capacity.
Thus, viewers have to pay an additional fee to get access to private channels.
In 1983 the federal post office undertook a large-scale program of wiring
the country for cable television. In March 1993, of the 27 million households
in western Germany that had televisions, 70 percent had access to cable
service; of the 6.4 million households in eastern Germany, 12 percent
had access to cable. However, at that point only about 60 percent of those
eligible households had chosen to subscribe to cable.
In 1985 SAT-1 became Germany's first private satellite television station.
A group of publishing firms, including Springer, owns SAT-1; the channel
offers a program of popular entertainment and news. Other stations subsequently
sprang up, including 3-SAT, a joint production of German, Swiss, and Austrian
national television; RTL, or Radio-Television-Luxembourg; and various
European satellite stations. In early 1993, two all-news channels made
their debut: Time Warner and CNN own one, n-tv; and German publishing
giant Bertelsmann and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung are major financial
backers of Vox, the second news channel. Vox failed quickly, however,
closing its doors in April 1994. On the whole, private channels nonetheless
are prospering. The percentage of Germans watching public channels has
dropped to less than one-half since the start of private broadcasting
- Radio and Television
- Geography (lands and
- Society (population, religion,
marriage, urbanization, social structure, immigration)
- Education (elementary,
junior, senior, vocational, higher)
- Economy (the Economic
Miracle, financial system, Bundesbank, business culture)
- Politics (government,
the Chancellor, the President, parties, Bundestag)
- Mass Media (newspapers,
radio and TV)
- Armed Forces (army,
navy, air forces, police)