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Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
ARD logo.svg
Type Broadcast radio, television and online
Country Germany Germany
Availability National
Launch date 5 June 1950
Official Website

ARD (full name: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – "Consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany") is a joint organization of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters. It was founded in West Germany in 1950 to represent the common interests of the new, decentralized, post-war broadcasting services — in particular the introduction of a joint television network.

Today ARD maintains and operates a national television network, known since 1994 as Das Erste ("The First"), which is itself often referred to as ARD. "Das Erste" is also the parlance used by the audience, referring to ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, founded in 1963, public-service TV broadcaster), as "das Zweite" ("The Second").

The ARD network began broadcasting in 1952 under the name of Deutsches Fernsehen ("German Television"), becoming Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen ("First German Television") with the introduction of a new corporate design on October 1, 1984. The name is an indication that it is regarded as the country's primary network. ARD's programming is broadcast directly to homes throughout Germany over its own extensive digital terrestrial broadcast network. ARD also produces a digital package of three free-to-air channels (EinsFestival, EinsPlus and EinsExtra) and participates in the production of cable/satellite channels Phoenix (events, news, and documentaries), KI.KA (children's programmes), 3sat (cultural/traditional programming), and arte (Franco-German cultural programming).

ARD's constituent broadcasting institutions – BR, HR, MDR, NDR, Radio Bremen, RBB, SR, SWR, and WDR (see below for an explanation of the abbreviations), as well as international broadcaster Deutsche Welle – operate 54 regional and local radio stations and networks, two nationwide radio channels, and seven regional TV networks, some of which split further during certain parts of the day.




1940s and 1950s

The winning Allies of World War II were determined that German radio after the war would not broadcast the same propaganda as the pre-war Reichsrundfunk ('Imperial Broadcasting'). A federal structure, the renunciation of state influence and the avoidance of economic dependence were to be the key of the radio and TV institutions under public law (öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunk- und Fernsehanstalten, public broadcasting and TV organizations). In 1947 the US military governor Lucius D. Clay declared diversity of public opinion as the main aim of post-war media policy. Individuals aligned with the post-war Allied forces in their respective sectors of Germany had a local influence on local regional broadcasters. NDR cites the influence of Hugh Greene on the early years of their organization.

Penetration of West German TV reception (grey) in East Germany for channel Das Erste. Main transmitters are drawn in red. Areas with no reception (black) were jokingly referred to as “Valley of the Clueless” (Tal der Ahnungslosen), while ARD was said to stand for Außer (“except for”) Rügen & Dresden.

After the creation of individual broadcasting agencies for most German federal states these principles were further consolidated by Länder broadcasting laws, decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and state treaties between the Länder. ARD members are thus (at least nominally) free of government influence and rely for only a small part of their income on advertising (1995: ten percent). They are financed mainly from licence fees from radio and TV owners. The amount of which is determined in a complex political process. The proclaimed aim of the ARD corporations is not only to inform and to entertain, but also to encourage the integration of various parts of society and let minorities have a say in the programming.

In the 1950s the ARD radio services became the major factor of the mass media system in West Germany. As early as 1952 the ARD radio stations had ten million listeners. However, the radio stations operated on a regional level, and it was only the development of a television umbrella that helped the ARD to establish itself nationwide. The broadcasting of a countrywide TV broadcast service was the goal of the ARD from the outset and the go-ahead for this was given at the end of 1952. The same year ARD was admitted as a full active member of the European Broadcasting Union and the "German sound archive," now German Broadcasting Archive (DRA), was established as a joint facility of the ARD.

In 1955 there was a split of the founding member NWDR ("Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk", English: "North-West German Broadcasting") into today's NDR and WDR. The year before (1954) the smaller SFB was split off. The first daily news feature, the Tagesschau, went on the air from Hamburg in 1952. The famous 8:00 PM chime and announcement of the Tagesschau newsreader Hier ist das Erste Deutsche Fernsehen mit der Tagesschau ("This is the first German television channel with the Daily Review") still is ARD's trademark, currently attracting 8 million viewers every day.


After starting with a schedule of a mere two-hours per night, television became more and more widespread during the 1960s. Color broadcasts were introduced in 1967. Without competition from private broadcasters (other than the francophone Europe 1), the ARD stations made considerable progress in becoming modern and respected broadcasters. ZDF, a second public television broadcaster, began its programming in 1963, but ARD would encounter no private competition in German until 1984. They have also been a significant force in German politics: Investigative news magazines (for example Monitor, Panorama) still reach millions of viewers every week. The environmental movement of the 1980s increased in popularity not least as a result of the disclosures made by the ARD.

When private German-language broadcasters were licensed in Germany in the mid-1980s, ARD television made subtle changes, adapting somewhat by producing more accessible programming for their national networks and shifting cultural and news programs to the regional networks and newly-created niche channels.

Information programs on television and the orientation of Deutschlandfunk programs towards the GDR were of crucial importance to the eventual collapse of the GDR. Established in 1974, the ARD bureau in East Berlin made ARD television the most important source of information for GDR citizens (eighty per cent of them could watch what they referred to as Westfernsehen). Notwithstanding obstruction on the part of GDR authorities and the repeated expulsion of their correspondents, the ARD-Tagesschau and Deutschland-Funk broadcast reports about the Leipzig Monday demonstrations as early as September 1989.


After unification and the closure of the GDR television service, two new regional broadcasters were established in the East, becoming ARD members in 1992. These were originally the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR, English: "Central German Broadcasting"), and Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg (ORB, English: "East German Broadcasting Brandenburg"). The existing NDR service expanded into the north-east, where it also covers Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The ORB service has since merged with the former Sender Freies Berlin (SFB, English "Radio Free Berlin") to become Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB, English: "Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting").

Another merger took place between two member organizations of the ARD in 1998. The former Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR, English: "Southern German Broadcasting") and Südwestfunk (SWF, English: "Southwestcast") became Südwestrundfunk (SWR, English: "Southwest Broadcasting") on 1 October 1998.

ARD programming


Today, ARD member stations usually regulate their own radio programming. Some ARD member stations usually collaborate for common radio services (an example being Nordwestradio, a culture-oriented radio station co-produced by Radio Bremen and NDR). Most ARD stations, however, will have at least a news-oriented radio station, a classical-music station, a youth-oriented station, and a cultural station. At night some stations will relay common night programming produced on a rota system by the ARD stations themselves. There are three common night programming services: Nachtexpress/Radiowecker (light music), Nachtkonzert (classical music), and Popnacht (pop music). Most services are on the FM broadcast band, though some services are also available on DAB.

A similar network intended for national coverage is called Deutschlandradio, however Deutschlandradio is not an ARD member - instead Deutschlandradio is controlled by both ARD and ZDF. Deutschlandradio provides two radio services: Deutschlandfunk (DLF), a news-oriented service, and Deutschlandradio Kultur, a music-oriented service.

ARD's best known radio station outside Germany is Deutsche Welle, which broadcasts its radio services around the world in many languages, mostly on analogue shortwave radio (but also by satellite, cable, Internet and Digital Radio Mondiale).


The main television channels of the ARD are the nationwide Das Erste and seven regional channels operated by the different regional broadcasting institutions. These channels were available on the analogue terrestrial transmitters until the shutdown of the analogue transmitters started in 2003. Das Erste and the third programmes, like the radio stations, are principally funded by licence fees, with a very limited amount of on-air advertising.

Das Erste broadcasts nationwide 24 hours a day, although the schedule does include four and a half hours of joint programming with ZDF each weekday, in the form of the news programmes Morgenmagazin (on air 5.30–9.00) and Mittagsmagazin (13.00–14.00), which the two organizations take weekly turns to produce. Audience share (March 2008):12.5%, from 14–49 years 6.9%.

The regional members of ARD all, jointly or separately, operate their own regional channels, known collectively as die Dritten ("the Third Programmes"). These are:

The schedules of these regional channels also include sub-regional opt-outs at certain times, in particular for local news.

ARD has started three additional channels as part of their ARD Digital package:

ARD is also involved in several joint venture channels:

  • 3sat, a cultural channel with ZDF, ORF and SRG
  • KI.KA, a children's channel with ZDF
  • Arte, a Franco-German cultural channel
  • Phoenix with ZDF

The international broadcaster Deutsche Welle also produces television services; however these services are mostly available via satellite.

Institutions and member organizations

ARD member broadcaster map.
Regional broadcaster (translation) Abbreviation Main office location(s) Income 2004 (Millions of Euro) Year of establishment Region of coverage
Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting) BR Munich 806 1949 Bavaria
Deutsche Welle ("German Wave") DW Bonn Financed through taxes 1953 International
Hessischer Rundfunk (Hessian Broadcasting) HR Frankfurt 383 1948 Hesse
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Central German Broadcasting) MDR Leipzig 561 1991 Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia
Norddeutscher Rundfunk (North German Broadcasting) NDR Hamburg 892 1956 Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein since 1955; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 1991.
Radio Bremen RB Bremen 41 1945 Bremen
Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting) RBB Berlin, Potsdam 340 2003 Berlin, Brandenburg
Saarländischer Rundfunk (Saarlandic Broadcasting) SR Saarbrücken 64 1957 Saarland
Südwestrundfunk (Southwest Broadcasting) SWR Stuttgart, Mainz, Baden-Baden 922 1998 Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate
Westdeutscher Rundfunk (West German Broadcasting) WDR Cologne 1067 1956 North Rhine-Westphalia

Over the history of broadcasting in Germany since World War II, there were other members of ARD, which are now defunct, through splits or mergers. These include Sender Freies Berlin (SFB; Station Free Berlin) and Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg (ORB; East German Broadcasting Brandenburg) which merged to become RBB. There were also Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR, Southern German Broadcasting) and Südwestfunk (SWF, Southwest Radio) which merged to become SWR. Until the 1950s, there was also Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR; Northwest German Broadcasting), which split into the present NDR and WDR.

ARD operates many correspondents' offices in foreign cities, second only to BBC News. ARD and its regional broadcasters are also represented on the World Wide Web.

ARD operates several other companies and institutions, sometimes jointly with ZDF: Degeto Film, a television rights trader and production company; the German Broadcasting Archive (DRA - Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv); the Institute for Broadcasting Technology (IRT - Institut für Rundfunktechnik), responsible for research and development; the Fee Collection Center (GEZ), and others.

ARD is a supporter of the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) innitiative (a consortium of broadcasting and Internet industry companies including SES Astra, OpenTV and Institut für Rundfunktechnik) that is promoting and establishing an open European standard for hybrid set-top boxes for the reception of broadcast TV and broadband multimedia applications with a single user interface.

Current controversy

The fact that ARD (and also ZDF) uses license fees to subsidize their World Wide Web sites, and also the non-transparency of their license fee expenditure, is the topic of an ongoing controversy with the European Union. The ARD has mounted a Public Relations campaign to counter current controversies, comparing themselves favorably to the BBC, and stating publicly that they hope to avoid the marginalization that they feel has befallen PBS.


  • ARD: ARD Jahrbuch 2005. Hans-Bredow-Institut, 2005 ISBN 3-8329-1730-6 (Online Excerpts, in German)

External links


The Tagesschau, produced by the ARD on a nightly basis, is available on the ARD website as a podcast (available as audio-only or as audio and video). Other audio programs from the ARD's members (e.g., BR, MDR) and Deutsche Welle are available as podcasts, through their respective websites.

See also

Simple English

ARD is a public broadcaster in Germany. The name is an abbreviation. It stands for Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. This can be translated as "Consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany". The company is made of different regional broadcasters. It provides one of the two (publicly-funded) television programmes in Germany, amongst other programmes. The other publicly funded TV program is called Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF, in short).

It was founded in West Germany in 1950. It was made for common interests of the new, de-centralized post-war broadcasting services - in particular, the introduction of a joint television network.

ARD is made of the following regional broadcasters: BR, HR, MDR, NDR, Radio Bremen, RBB, SR, SWR, and WDR, as well as international broadcaster Deutsche Welle

They make a total of 54 regional and local radio stations and networks, two nationwide radio channels, and seven regional TV networks. During certain parts of the day some of these split even further.


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