The Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ("Cooperative association of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany"), or simply ARD, is a joint organization of Germany's regional public broadcasting agencies. It was founded in West Germany in 1950 to represent the common interests of the new post-war broadcasting services – mainly the introduction of a joint television network.
Today ARD is one of the most powerful television and radio broadcasting organizations in Europe. It produces operates a national television network, Das Erste (The First), beamed directly into homes throughout Germany using its own, vast terrestrial transmitter network, and takes part in the production of cable/satellite channels Phoenix (news), KI.KA (children's), 3sat (cultural/traditional programming) and arte (European cultural programming). It also produces a digital package of three channels.
Moreover, ARD's constituent member agencies (WDR, NDR, BR, SWR, MDR, RBB, HR, SR, RB, and DeutschlandRadio, operate around fifty regional and local radio stations and networks, two nationwide radio channels, and seven regional TV networks. Associated member (Deutsche Welle) offers international radio and TV services.
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The allied victors were determined that German radio after the war would not show the same faults as the pre-war Reichsrundfunk ('Imperial Broadcast'). 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.
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 television service was the goal of the ARD from the outset, and the go-ahead for this was given at the end of 1952. The first daily news feature, the Tagesschau went on the air from Hamburg in 1956. The eight o'clock 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") continues to be the ARD's trademark, currently attracting eight 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 commercial broadcasters — only national public TV service ZDF was around yet — the ARD stations made considerable progress in becoming modern and respected broadcasters. 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 commercial broadcasters were licensed in Germany in the mid-1980s, ARD television adapted 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 Deutschland Funk 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.
ARD operates some thirty correspondents' offices in foreign cities (from Mexico City to Tokyo) – a world-wide reporters network second only to that of CNN. ARD and most of the 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; German National Broadcasting Archives (DRA),the Institute for Broadcasting Technology ,responsible for research and development; the Fee Collection Center (GEZ), and others.
The fact that ARD (and also ZDF) uses license fees to subsidize their World Wide Web sites, and also the intransparency of their license fee expenditure, is the topic of an ongoing controvery with the European Union.
- Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (Second German TV channel)