17. ARD

Revenues 2010: € 6.261 billion



The “Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland”, ARD for short, is the largest public broadcasting association in the world, ahead of the BBC and the Japanese NHK (and ahead of France Télévisions, RAI and ZDF). Its revenues from broadcasting and advertising exceed the budgets of most commercial media groups in the classic television and radio business. But within the ARD conglomerate it is controversial whether the merger of individual state broadcasting corporations is even considered a business, in both an economic and cultural sense. Among other things, ARD is responsible for the German first channel “Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen”, which has been operating under the brand name "Das Erste" since April 1996.

General Information


Head offices

ARD Programme Directorate
Arnulfstraße 42
80335 München
Telephone: 0049 89 590001
Website: www.daserste.de

ARD General Secretariat Berlin
Masurenallee 8-14
14057 Berlin
Telephone: 0049 30 8904 313-11
Website: www.ard.de

Branches of trade: television, radio, online offers, merchandising
Legal form: unincorporated, public-law consortium
Financial year: 1.1. - 31.12.
Founding year: 1950

Basic Economic Data
Revenues (€ m)6,9017,1256,9076,9116,9106,4126,3346,359



Budgets of regional ARD broadcasters (€ m)

Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne1.4411.5651.5681,4381,4581,3451,3171,3854,411
Südwestrundfunk, Stuttgart³1.2881.3931.2061,2311,2401,1551,1441,1253,619
Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg1.1201.1121.1141,1601,1841,0741,0821,0793,426
Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich1.0731.0791.0771,0751,0651,0261,0241,0043,175
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, Leipzig7717787407817396916826842,009
Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt5125065085225424874824671,750
Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin/Potsdam4584614734764854284034121,460
Saarländischer Rundfunk, Saarbrücken128127120127118112108109555
Radio Bremen, Bremen11010410110197949294211

¹ In addition to revenues from the broadcasting fee, the main source of financing for the public broadcasters, the incomes include revenues from advertising and sponsoring as well as, in some cases, revenues from the ARD financial equalisation scheme (at Saarländischer Rundfunk and Radio Bremen).

² The posts indicated do not include the posts of outsourced ARD joint facilities such as ARD-aktuell or the special-interest channels Kinderkanal (Kika) and Phoenix, which are supported by ARD and ZDF. Furthermore, the figures do not include the jobs of subsidiaries of public broadcasters such as the ARD advertising companies. 

Sources: for the numbers 2011 to 2014: ard.de ARD financial statistics for the respective year; for the numbers from 2015 to 2018: own research (inquiries with the respective broadcasters)

Executives and Directors


ARD Chair 2020:
Tom Buhrow (WDR Director General)
Westdeutscher Rundfunk
Appellhofplatz 1
50667 Köln
Telephone: 0049 221 220-0
Website: www1.wdr.de/unternehmen/der-wdr

ARD Programme Director: Volker Herres (since November 2008)
ARD Secretary General: Dr. Susanne Pfab (since January 2015)

Directors of the nine ARD state broadcasting corporations:

  • WDR: Tom Buhrow (since 1.7.2013)
  • SWR: Prof. Dr. Kai Gniffke (since 1.9.2019)
  • NDR: Joachim Knuth (since 13.1.2020)
  • BR: Ulrich Wilhelm (since 1.2.2011)
  • MDR: Prof. Dr. Karola Wille (since 1.11.2011)
  • HR: Manfred Krupp (since 1.3.2016)
  • RBB: Patricia Schlesinger (since 1.7.2016)
  • SR: Prof. Thomas Kleist (since 1.7.2011)
  • Radio Bremen: Dr. Yvette Gerner (since 1.8.2019)



The ARD was founded in June 1950. The ARD's statutes mention as one of its objectives the "processing of common questions concerning the programme as well as common questions of a legal, technical and business management nature". The founding members were the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), the Hessischer Rundfunk (HR), Radio Bremen, the Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR), the Südwestfunk (SWF), the later divided Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) and, in an advisory capacity, the then RIAS Berlin. In analogy to the federal structure of the Federal Republic (culture as a matter for the Länder), the ARD chose the form of a dependant consortium also in order to clearly distinguish itself from the role of the centralized propaganda radio of the Nazi era. However, the model of a loose association of broadcasters of very different sizes and volatile political anchoring also led to complex bureaucratic procedures, new political dependencies, a mentality of authority and a corresponding lack of reaction in the liberalized media market.

As a rule, the ARD management changes every two years. The ARD Chairman is the Director General of the respective managing state broadcaster. In addition, the ARD has a central Program Directorate in Munich for the coordination and planning of the First German Television, whose head – the ARD Program Director – was long considered a "king without a country", because he must act largely dependent on the decisions of the director-generals. Günter Struve, the ARD Program Director in office from 1992 to 2008, was able to strengthen the position of the Munich branch with tenacious attention to detail. He centralized the marketing of the first channel (“Das Erste”: “The First”) and exerted considerable influence on the entire program structure. Struve's passion was the quantitative success of the First, while at the same time maintaining a public programming level. In the process, he was repeatedly reproached by critics for coring the information content of the First in favor of entertainment. In fact, there are now only a few conspicuous reports and documentaries on the First, and in prime time (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) they almost never appear. The six ARD political magazines have largely lost their socio-political function. In addition, a program reform for the First, which came into effect on January 1, 2006, reduced the broadcasting time of these magazines from 45 to 30 minutes.

On 26 November 2007, the nine directors of the ARD regional broadcasting corporations elected Volker Herres, born 1957, as programme director of the ARD. Herres, who had previously been TV Program Director at NDR since May 2004, succeeded Struve on November 1, 2008. In the following two years, Herres worked on a reform of the ARD evening program schedule. This reform was approved by the directors in November 2010. It became effective in August/September 2011 and meant for example a greater standardization of the starting times of ARD's "Tagesthemen", which now began at 10:15 pm on Mondays to Thursdays.

In mid-2006, the ARD created a General Secretariat as a new staff unit, which was located in Berlin and replaced the old ARD office in Frankfurt am Main (founded in 1965). This step also gave ARD a media policy presence in the capital. The General Secretariat is directly subordinate to the respective acting ARD Chairman, the management of the General Secretariat is to support the ARD Chairman in his work. According to the job definition, the management of the general secretariat is responsible for the network’s strategic positioning. At the same time, the person in charge of the general secretariat is also the deputy chairman of the ARD strategy group. He or she also has the right to attend and participate in meetings of all commissions and working groups of the broadcasting network. This also applies to subsidiaries of the ARD as well as to meetings of the Television Program Conference and the ARD politically relevant committees.

The ARD maintains other central institutions such as Degeto Film GmbH, based in Frankfurt am Main (for producing and distributing TV movies and series), the German Broadcasting Archive (DRA), based in Potsdam and Frankfurt am Main, and – together with ZDF – the ARD/ZDF Media Academy (which emerged in 2007 from the Central Advanced Training of Program Staff/ZFP). The ARD also participates in the Cologne-based 'ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice', which is responsible for the collection of fees according to the latest State Treaty on Broadcasting fees and which replaced the former Gebühreneinzugszentrale (GEZ) in January 2013. The ARD-aktuell editorial office is based at NDR in Hamburg; with around 200 employees it produces the current TV news programs ("Tagesschau", "Tagesthemen", "Nachtmagazin", "Wochenspiegel"). Otherwise, the federal principle applies at ARD. In the case of cross-station projects, individual state broadcasters have the lead in each case, for example in broadcasting major sporting events.

The TV and radio programmes of the ARD were and are an essential cultural and social factor in the history of the Federal Republic. Starting in the 1960s, political magazines such as "Panorama", created by NDR following the BBC model, or "Monitor" by WDR, time-critical TV drama by directors such as Egon Monk, Peter Beauvais, Eberhard Fechner or Heinrich Breloer, the "Stuttgart School" of documentary television, and entertainment programs with Hans-Joachim Kulenkampff and Rudi Carrell had a national impact. As public broadcasting had developed into a meeting place for critical intelligence in many editorial offices in the 1950s, the ARD network was already considered suspect and leftist by the Adenauer administration at the time. At the end of the 1950s, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (CDU) tried to break the ARD "monopoly" with the project of a "free television", a mixture of state and commercial TV. In 1961, the Federal Constitutional Court stopped the Adenauer plans with the so-called "television ruling". From June 1961 to the end of March 1963, a second ARD program was broadcast daily for about 150 minutes, until the Second German Television (ZDF) in Mainz began broadcasting as an additional nationwide station on April 1, 1963. On 22 September 1964, Bayerischer Rundfunk launched an education and culture-oriented third television programme. This model was gradually followed by all ARD corporations. A joint Third Program was organized by NDR and Radio Bremen, and to some extent by SWR and Saarland Radio. Today, the Third Programmes are predominantly regional and hardly educationally oriented. In January 1998, Bayerischer Rundfunk launched the educational TV channel BR-alpha, which was renamed ARD-alpha at the end of June 2014.

In the course of the 1976 federal campaign, ARD television was accused by the CDU/CSU (in conjunction with the journalistic "Mainz School" of the opinion pollster Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann) of having influenced the elections to the detriment of the Union parties. Thereafter, the political pressure on the ARD, clearly visible in its influence on important personnel decisions, increased steadily. Under the aegis of Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the then Post Minister Christian Schwarz-Schilling (both CDU), private television and radio broadcasts were also permitted from 1984 onwards. As it turned out, this development had a lasting effect on the self-image of public broadcasting. Despite generous funding, the ARD management saw itself as insufficiently prepared for the new market conditions and threatened politically, economically and media-culturally.

In January 1995, the Prime Ministers of Saxony and Bavaria, Kurt Biedenkopf (CDU) and Edmund Stoiber (CSU), proposed in a quite spectacular paper the abolition of the First German Television and a reduction of the ARD to only regional TV and radio channels, if the ARD did not introduce far-reaching rationalisation measures. The ARD complied with the demands. The eleven state broadcasting corporations became nine. In 1998, Südwestfunk (SWF) and Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR) were merged to form Südwestrundfunk (SWR); on May 1, 2003, the merger of Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) and Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg (ORB) created the new two-state institution Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB).

Since the public broadcaster has increasingly made its offerings accessible via the Internet as of 2006/07, the ARD (as well as the ZDF) has been the focus of fierce criticism, especially from newspaper publishers, who fear a distortion of competition. They demand that clear limits be set on fee-financed broadcasting for its online activities, as otherwise the existence of the private sector business of the publishers would be threatened.

After lengthy consultations, the Prime Ministers of the German states signed a broadcasting amendment at the end of 2008: The 12th Amendment to the Broadcasting Treaty introduced new regulations for the Internet and digital involvement of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio on the basis of the so-called State Aid Compromise between Germany and the European Commission. The amendment came into effect on June 1, 2009. The state treaty created numerous restrictions for the broadcasters in the online sector (telemedia). This was to protect publishers from excessive competition. For example, public service providers on the internet may generally only make their television and radio programmes accessible for up to seven days after the broadcast. After the seven-day period, they must remove their content from the network. This created a completely new field of work for the public broadcasting sector: depublication – a "journalistic" practice of coercion, as it were, which one would actually rather locate in autocratic states. Another restrictive regulation for the public broadcasters: They are only allowed to operate broadcast-related services on the Internet, non-broadcasting related contributions are not allowed.

In addition, the new Broadcasting Treaty stipulated so-called three-step tests as a central element. With these complex test procedures, all existing online offers of the public broadcasters had to be checked by the end of August 2010. The ARD then had to complete around 35 three-step tests. This was done under the responsibility of the broadcasting councils of the state broadcasting corporations, whereby the committees largely awarded test assignments to external experts for a fee. With the exception of one procedure at NDR, which was completed somewhat later, all procedures were completed by July 2010. One result was that the ARD had to delete over 100,000 individual documents from the Internet, according to its own statements; but in the end, all existing online offers were approved relatively easily. Although critics described this as a modest result of an almost megalomaniacal bureaucratic procedure, the telemedia activities of the public broadcasters have been on legally secure ground ever since.



The job holders at ARD receive their positions almost exclusively through house calls. The upheaval in the German television market in the 1980s led to sovereign declamations and Wagenburg mentalities rather than to action-oriented self-reflection. The dismantling of the bloated ARD administrative apparatus was tackled only hesitantly. Just as slowly an awareness of marketing and public relations began to take hold. Until now, ARD management positions have generally been awarded according to political colour and internal probation. In 2003, RBB Director General Dagmar Reim was the first woman to move into the directorships. After Reim's retirement, she was succeeded by Patricia Schlesinger in July 2016 as RBB Director General. With Karola Wille, MDR has an artistic director who was also chairman of ARD in 2016 and 2017. Monika Piel was Director General of WDR from 2007 to 2013; in 2010 and 2011 she was the first woman ever to chair ARD. Since August 2019, Yvette Gerner, who previously worked as a journalist for ZDF (Gerner is a member of the SPD), has been Director General of Radio Bremen, the smallest station of the ARD.

The election of Ulrich Wilhelm as Director-General of Bayerischer Rundfunk at the beginning of 2011 was an example of the intertwining of politics and public broadcasting. Wilhelm, a member of the CSU, was Head of the Federal Government's Press and Information Office and spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) from November 2005 to July 2010. The fact that, as happened at BR in Munich, the director-general of a public broadcaster was recruited directly from the environment of a federal government was an unprecedented constellation in German broadcasting after 1945. Wilhelm was also press spokesman for the then Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber (CSU) and the Bavarian government from 1999 to 2003.

Business Units


Television, television formats
For its information reporting, the ARD has the largest foreign correspondent network in the world (around 90 correspondents in over 30 metropolitan areas), who provide the First and also the Third channels for its information programmes. Leading brands of the ARD are the news programs "Tagesschau" and "Tagesthemen". In addition, the crime series "Tatort", the ARD "Sportschau" with summaries from the German Soccer League, evening series such as "In aller Freundschaft" or "Um Himmels Willen" are among the well-known brands of the First.

The ARD has recently reduced its offer of soap operas. Instead, for some time now, it has been focusing increasingly on quiz formats (access prime time) and crime formats. ARD discontinued one of its best-known series on 29 March 2020: On that day, the 1758th and last episode of "Lindenstraße", which was first broadcast on December 8, 1985, was shown. The ARD cited the reasons for the cancellation as the series' reduced viewer numbers and excessively high production costs.

More than any other broadcaster, ARD had tried to make its mark with talk shows in recent years. After five evening talk shows – which was often criticized as oversupply – there are now only three left: "Anne Will" on Sunday, "Hart aber fair" with Frank Plasberg on Monday and "Maischberger. Die Woche" (formerly "Maischberger" and "Menschen bei Maischberger") on Tuesday.

From the 2003/04 season onwards, ARD surprisingly could regain the attractive initial coverage of the Bundesliga in free TV. Several years before, commercial competitors like RTL and Sat 1 haf owned the rights. In June 2016, ARD also secured the Bundesliga rights for "Sportschau" for the next allocation period (seasons 2017/18 to 2020/21). For this TV rights package, ARD pays a license fee of 119 million euros (plus VAT) per season to the German Football League (DFL).

Regional programmes
In the 1980s, the so-called third channels were successively expanded into general-interest channels, most of which are broadcast via cable and satellite and, in the meantime, also nationwide via the Internet. By now, they have almost completely lost their original character as experimental fields and formal educational institutions. In recent years the third channels discovered the regional as their real strength, which guarantees them excellent viewing figures. In some cases, the Third Programmes are also used as a testing ground for new formats, which then switch to the First Programme if they are successful.

In November 1993, the ARD gave up its cultural channel Eins plus, which had been launched in 1986, and instead took a 30 % share in the joint project 3sat, the international German-language cultural TV channel run by ZDF, ORF (Austria) and SRG (Switzerland). Since 1992, the ARD has also held a 25% stake in the Strasbourg-based Franco-German cultural channel Arte (ZDF: also 25%, Arte France: 50%). In 1997, the two public sector television channels Phoenix and KIKA were launched. Phoenix is a so-called event and documentary channel and is based in Bonn. KIKA is the children's channel under the direction of MDR in Erfurt. ARD and ZDF each have a 50% share in these two channels.

Special-interest channels
In the digital age, ARD and ZDF consider special-interest television to be a necessary part of the overall bouquet in order to maintain competitiveness on the market as a whole. From August 1997, ARD had three special interest channels distributed digitally by cable and satellite: Eins Plus (advice and service channel, with a programme for young people in the evening; SWR), Eins Festival (focusing on culture; WDR) and Tagesschau24 (NDR; until April 2012 this channel was called Eins Extra). With the 19th Amendment to the Treaty on Broadcasting, which came into effect on 1 October 2016, policymakers stipulated to shut down Eins Plus. This leaves ARD with two special interest channels: Tagesschau24 and One (this new name was given to Eins Festival in September 2016).

The nine ARD regional broadcasting corporations operate over 60 radio programmes. Today, the radio waves of all ARD stations are defined by the "target group" and the "music colour" (youth wave, culture radio, mainstream programme, word radio, news channel). All ARD stations now also offer some of their radio programs via Internet. Some radio programmes are produced especially for the Internet (such as 1Live diggi from WDR). Furthermore, some of the ARD radio stations can be received via the digital technology DAB plus.

After lengthy negotiations, in October 2015 the prime ministers of the federal states gave the go-ahead for a completely new public online youth service, which ARD is organizing together with ZDF. The new offer, which is aimed at the target group of 14 to 29-year-olds, was launched under the name "Funk" on October 1, 2016. The contributions produced for Funk can be accessed via the broadcaster's own website (www.funk.net), but are also distributed on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. Funk is financed two thirds by ARD and one third by ZDF. SWR is responsible for radio, the editorial office for the offering is located in Mainz. Funk is the first public broadcasting service in Germany to be distributed exclusively via Internet. Under media law, the online radio offering was made possible by the 19th Amendment to the Treaty on Broadcasting, which came into force on October 1, 2016. In order to finance all this, the special interest TV channels Eins Plus (ARD) and ZDFkultur were discontinued as of September 30, 2016. The budget for the new youth offering is limited to a maximum of 45 million euros per year.

Current Developments


In spring 2018, the largest ARD channel WDR was affected by "#MeToo" allegations, i.e. accusations of sexual harassment. WDR director-general Tom Buhrow then commissioned former EU Commissioner and Chairwoman of the Public Services, Transport and Traffic Union (ÖTV) Monika Wulf-Mathies as an external auditor to investigate the matter. On 12 September 2018, Wulf-Mathies presented her final report at a press conference in Bonn (title: "More than #MeToo - The responsibility of WDR as an employer").

The report came to the following conclusion: "In the course of the investigation, it has become clear [...] that the topic of sexual harassment at WDR is only the tip of the iceberg, behind which lies abuse of power and manifold experiences of discrimination, but also a general dissatisfaction with the working atmosphere. Therefore, if WDR wants to position itself properly in the future, it must actively protect its employees from sexual harassment and abuse of power, create a non-discriminatory and respectful working climate and adapt its personnel and management structures accordingly.” Wulf-Mathies demanded from WDR with a view to the future "the effort for a real cultural change" in the channel.

At the press conference in Bonn, WDR Director-General Buhrow declared that the tasks that Monika Wulf-Mathies' report presents to WDR will be taken very seriously and that the proposals made there will be implemented. Buhrow said that there had been accusations of sexual harassment against "about a dozen employees" of WDR, some of which were very long ago. Already in mid-2018 – before the Wulf-Mathies Report – WDR had dismissed a leading member of the TV film department and suspended a foreign correspondent from his duties on the grounds of sexual harassment allegations.

In February 2019 a so-called framing paper of the ARD came to public attention. In the 89-page paper entitled "Framing-Manual - Our Free Broadcaster ARD" proposals were made on how the advantages of public broadcasting could be expressed in a language "that has a powerful effect on the minds of fellow citizens and convinces them of the necessity of a free public ARD". The framing paper was prepared by the linguist Elisabeth Wehling. She had already presented the "Framing Manual" in 2017 and had been commissioned by MDR.

The framing paper was published in full on 17 February 2019 by the internet platform netzpolitik.org. The ARD stated that the paper was an internal document not intended for publication, which served as a basis for discussion for participants of ARD education events. The ARD had the "Framing Manual" produced not least because public broadcasting had come under increased pressure to legitimize itself in a period of economic tension. In her paper, Wehling suggested that when communicating with the outside formulations such as "Our free ARD broadcasting service" should be used to argue morally and factually. Such framing should make the tasks and goals of the ARD comprehensible to citizens.

The framing paper triggered a public debate in which ARD came under pressure, being accused of using the paper to give employees instructions on how to manipulate debates on public broadcasting. The ARD was engaged in "deliberately influencing public opinion", according to the newspaper "Welt", the whole thing was "semantic brainwashing", the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. Ulrich Wilhelm (BR Director General) countered that the excitement about the paper was "completely exaggerated". He stressed that it was only destined for workshops. 

In November 2018, the ARD decided to discontinue the series "Lindenstraße” in March 2020 due to unsatisfactory ratings. "Lindenstraße” had been running on Sundays since December 1985 and was a special feature of fictional German television due to its constant picking up of socially relevant topics. This led to a change in the programming schedule for Sunday evening programming between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. After the discontinuation of "Lindenstraße", ARD extended the Sunday "Sportschau" by 20 minutes (6.30 to 7.20 p.m.) and the political magazine "Bericht aus Berlin" by five minutes (6.05 to 6.30 p.m.). ARD also introduced an edition of its tabloid magazine "Brisant" on Sundays (5:00 to 5:30 p.m.).

Originally, the ARD also wanted to relocate the magazine "Weltspiegel", which was broadcast on Sunday at 7:20 pm, to an earlier and therefore considered inferior slot. This was only prevented by the fact that 100 foreign correspondents from ARD radio and television protested against their own station management in a letter addressed to all nine directors and to ARD Program Director Volker Herres, which was launched to the public. The protest was supported by other high-ranking former and current ARD personalities such as former WDR director Fritz Pleitgen or "Hart-aber-fair" presenter Frank Plasberg.

In the past three to four years, ARD has also attracted attention for introducing more quiz shows during access prime time (some of which were also broadcast on Saturday evenings in a very long version) and even more crime formats set in tourist destinations like "The Athens Crime Story", "The Amsterdam Crime Story", "The Barcelona Crime Story", "The Prague Crime Story", "The Tel Aviv Crime Story" or "The Zurich Crime Story", to name but a few.

Concerning premium series, which – triggered by Netflix – have been experiencing a boom for five years, ARD has so far remained little conspicuous. In this sector, ARD has been present in particular with the East-German family saga „Weissensee“ (four series, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2018), the historical hospital series "Charité" (two seasons so far; 2017, 2019) and with the 1920s crime series "Babylon Berlin", produced in cooperation with Sky (pay TV), which was granted the right to premiere the three seasons one year ahead.

Only on Monday evenings there is an ARD slot for longer non-fiction programmes: "The Story in the First" (10.45 to 11.30 p.m.) and "History in the First" (11.30 to 0.15 p.m.). 90-minute documentaries have become a rarity in the First Programme.  They are now only shown six to eight times each year, evenings during summer, when the talk shows are off.