Based on historical evidence and contemporary events consider whether the future of broadcasting in Germany will better be served by the State or by the market

Term Paper 2001 9 Pages

Communications - Movies and Television


Question: 4. Based on historical evidence and contemporary events consider whether the future of broadcasting in Germany will better be served by the State or by the market.

At the beginning of the new century, with the ever greater interconnectedness of people through communication technology and the shift from material resources to information as indicator of the wealth of a nation, the common cultural policy debate about the control and financing of broadcasting continues on a broad level. Fuelled by the mediated attacks on the United States the debate about whether there should be public service broadcasting and a licence fee or whether broadcasting would be better served by the market alone, fills pages in newspapers again (e.g. the three-days special in the G2 section of The Guardian about the state of British television, 19., 20. and 21.11.2001). Common accusations public television faces are that it allows itself to become increasingly commercialised and that it converges with the choice of programmes of private companies, thus violating its own programme commitments (Schatz et al., 1989, Kröger, 1991). In the following the German media landscape will be looked at to find out how broadcasting is being served in this European country and if the system ‘in some respects really has model features’ (Humphreys, 1994: 315).

The development of cable and satellite technology and ‘legal brakes on change set by key judgements of the Federal Constitutional Court’ (ibid. 193) let to the introduction of private commercial broadcasting in Germany in the mid-eighties, followed by a rise in new TV stations and hence an increase in competition for the public broadcaster. Today the TV market in Germany consists of two public stations (1. ARD – Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in Deutschland, 2. ZDF – Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen), six privately owned networks with nationwide programming (RTL, SAT.1, PRO7, RTL 2, VOX, Kabel 1), several smaller broadcasters partly owned by the big networks (N24, TM3, DSF, Super RTL, N-TV), and local stations in every major city (e.g. TV München). Furthermore, there is the pay-TV programme Premiere World and foreign programmes available via satellite dish.

The commercial broadcasters are supervised by State Broadcasting Commitees (Landesmedienanstalten) which are ‘autonomous juridical organisations endowed with independence vis-à-vis the government and financed by a portion of the licence fee’ (Hoffmann-Riem, 1995: 75, for more detail see Hoffmann-Riem, 1993). The commercial broadcasters are also bound to some public service obligations. They are ‘required to conduct conscientious investigations, demonstrate fairness, and observe general laws’ and are only ‘allowed to screen one-sided programmes, if the total programme range is varied and balanced’ (ibid. 75, for more detail see Hesse, 1990).

The public broadcaster ZDF and ARD - with its various regional channels commonly called Die Dritten (the third programmes) and niche and European cooperation channels (e.g. Phoenix, Kinderkanal and 3sat, Arte) - are ‘under obligation to provide so-called internally pluralistic integrated programming’ (ibid. 70). Also, they are ‘prohibited from giving one-sided preference to individual interests’ (ibid. 65) and are required to broadcast a diverse programme. This is ensured by the internal organisation of the public stations which is regulated in such a way that representatives of relevant societal interests – churches, sports, associations, trade unions, employer groups, cultural organisations and political parties – form internal organs (ARD – Rundfunkrat, ZDF – Fernsehrat) that influence budgeting, personnel, and certain decisions on the structure of the programming. Additionally, ‘each state (Land) makes sure that its public broadcaster observes the relevant laws’ (ibid. 71), hence attempts by one group to gain unilateral control of programming are blocked out (at least in theory).

After World War II and twelve years of National Socialist totalitarianism in Germany, the most urgent issue was how to reorganise the media on a democratic and pluralist basis. Already before the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis, German broadcasting was ‘over-centralised, state-controlled, neutered and devoid of the independence and freedom of speech’ (Tracey, 1998: 151-152; for a general history of broadcasting during the Weimar Republic see Lerg, 1980). During the Third Reich the immense power of broadcasting over the formation of public opinion became terribly obvious. Radio became quickly the most important propaganda instrument for Goebbels’ Reich Propaganda Ministry. ‘News and current affairs programmes were used as a vehicle for presenting the Führer’s pronouncements and ‘achievements’ […] and foreign coverage was filtered carefully to protect the German people from the outside world’ (Humphreys, 1994: 127).



ISBN (eBook)
File size
458 KB
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Institution / College
University of Leeds – Communication and Cultural Studies department
1 (A)
Öffentlich-Rechtliches Fernsehen Deutschland / public broadcasting television germany




Title: Based on historical evidence and contemporary events consider   whether the future of broadcasting in Germany will better be served by the State or by the market