A Manual for Germany > Everyday Life  > Media  > TV and Radio

TV and Radio

There are two public broadcasters in Germany: "ARD" ("Allgemeine Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlands") and "ZDF" ("Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen"). The "ARD" is often referred to as "Das Erste" (the first) because "ARD" was the first television channel in Germany. The "ARD" comprises the "Das Erste" national channel and a number of regional channels and 3Sat. These regional channels, collectively known as "die Dritten Programme" (the Third Channels), mainly focus on regional issues in the corresponding federal state (for instance "WDR" in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia). These regional channels are available all over Germany on cable or satellite. The public radio stations of the individual German states are also under the control of the "ARD". The radio station "DLF" ("Deutschlandfunk"), the TV station "Phoenix", the children’s’ television channel "Kinderkanal" ("KiKa") and the Franco-German TV channel "arte" are also state-sponsored broadcasters.

There are a number of private broadcasters ("Privatsender") that finance their programming though advertising, such as RTL, Pro Sieben and Sat1. There are also a number of channels that only report on one topic, be it politics, sport or business.

Anyone that owns a radio or television is obliged by law to pay licensing fees to the "Gebühren-Einzugs-Zentrale" or "GEZ" for short. Registration forms for the GEZ can be found in many Sparkassen and banks.

There are three ways of receiving radio and television signals: terrestrial, cable and satellite. The television receives a signal directly through the built-in antenna. This form of reception is limited to a small number of channels. However, a new system of digital television has recently been introduced in Germany whereby a special digital receiver enables most channels to be picked up. "Cable" and "satellite": Many apartments already have cable TV. If this is not the case, cable can be ordered (for instance in a specialist TV shop). Cable TV has a monthly fee in addition to the "GEZ" licensing costs but offers more than 30 different TV channels and many radio stations. Most TV and radio stations, including foreign stations, also broadcast their programming via satellite. Satellite dishes are sold in specialist stores. The landlord should be consulted before putting a satellite dish on the apartment or block of flats.