31. ARD

Revenues 2018: € 6.609 billion



The ARD (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the biggest public broadcasting media company in the world. The income from radio license fees and advertising exceed the budget of most commercial media companies in the traditional TV and radio business. However, it is the subject of dispute within the ARD whether the amalgamation of singular broadcasting institutions can be defined as company in the economic and cultural sense in the first place. The ARD is responsible for the full program ‘Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen’, which has been operating under the name ‘Das Erste’ since the mid-1990s.

General Information


Headquarters (Munich and Berlin, Germany)

Arnulfstraße 42
80335 München
Executive in charge of programming: Volker Herres
Phone: 089-5900-01
Fax: 089-5900-3249
Homepage: www.daserste.de

ARD-Generalsekretariat Berlin
Masurenallee 8-14
14057 Berlin
Telefon: 030- 8904313-10
Telefax: 030- 8904313-19
Internet: www.ard.de
Email: kontakt(at)ard-gs.de

Branches: Television, radio, online properties 
Legal form: Joint venture regulated by public law, non-capable of holding rights
Financial year: 1/1 - 12/31
Founding year: 1950 

Tab. I: Annual Budgets
Revenues (€ mio.)6.4856.3726.2846.2656.2216.2616.3316.1816.2886.2566.160



Table II: Budgets of regional ARD-subsidiares

Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne1.390,41.375,41.3291.3451.3341.3451.3531.3421.3604411
Südwestrundfunk, Stuttgart³1.1711.175,11.1381.1411.1401.1541.1511.1191.1353619
Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg1.078,41.063,81.0731.0651.0541.0641.0831.0561.0663426,5
Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich1.024,61,014,49999869739741.0069569863175
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, Leipzig681662,46586576506476496366292009
Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt4914864784734744774814644761750
Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin/Potsdam434,6411,14083993943954053954031459,5
Saarländischer Rundfunk, Saarbrücken117,5109,4110108110109109116116555
Radio Bremen, Bremen95,992,2919192939497117211,5



Executives and Directors


ARD-Chairwoman 2016:
Prof. Dr. Karola Wille, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk
Kantstraße 71-73, 04275 Leipzig
Tel.: 0341 300 9696

General Secretary (2015-2020): Dr. Susanne Pfab

Director Generals of ARD-Subsidiaries

  • WDR: Tom Buhrow
  • NDR: Lutz Marmor
  • BR: Ulrich Wilhelm
  • MDR: Prof. Dr. Karola Wille 
  • HR: Manfred Krupp
  • SWR: Peter Boudgoust
  • RBB: Patricia Schlesinger
  • SR: Thomas Kleist
  • Radio Bremen: Jan Metzger



The ARD was founded in June 1950. According to the statute, one of the working group’s goals is ‘Dealing with overlapping questions regarding the program as well as issues of a legal, technical or business-administrative nature.” The founding members of the ARD were the Bayerischer Rundfunk, Hessischer Rundfunk, Radio Bremen, Süddeutscher Rundfunk, Südwestfunk, the Nordwestdeutsche Rundfunk (subsequently split off) as well as RIAS Berlin in an advisory position. In adherence to the federal republic’s underlying structure (culture is a matter of the states), the ARD was formed as working group without legal capacities, in order to explicitly set it apart from the role of the centralised NS propaganda radio. However, the loose merger of radio stations coming in various sizes and volatile political anchorage resulted in elaborate bureaucratic procedures, new political dependencies, an institutional mentality and the appropriate weakness when it came to being responsive within the context of a liberalised media market.

The management of the ARD changes twice a year. The ARD chairman is the director of the respective executive broadcasting institution. Apart from that, the ARD possesses a central program directorate based in Munich that coordinates and plans the ‘Erste Deutsche Fernsehen’, of which the president was said to be a ‘king without a country’ for quiet some time, because for the most part, his actions were dependent on the decisions made by the directors. The ARD program director Günter Struve (1992 – 2008) succeeded in strengthening the position of the Munich office. He centralised the marketing of ‘Das Erste’ and began to influence the whole program structure. Struve orientated himself towards the quantitative success of ‘Das Erste’ while maintaining the standard of a public broadcaster. Critics accused him of watering down the informative sector of ‘Das Erste’ for the sake of entertainment. Indeed, there were only a handful of extraordinary reports and documentaries left in the program of ‘Das Erste. They more or less vanished completely from the evening primetime slot. Even the six ARD politician magazines forfeited their socio-political function to a great extent.

Furthermore, as a result of his program reform for ‘Das Erste’, valid since 2006, the broadcasting time of most magazines was reduced from 45 to 30 minutes.
On the 26th of November 2007, the nine directors of the broadcasting institutions elected Volker Herres, born in 1957, to become the new program director. Herres, who had been the TV program director at NDR since 2004, stepped into Struves shoes in 2008. In the following two years, Herres worked on a reform of the ARD programming scheme for the evening slot. The directors resolved the reform in November 2010. On the one hand, it makes provisions for an increased unification of the ARD daily news’ (Tagesthemen) starting times. On the other hand, the ARD is increasing the number of its evening talk shows from four to five. A measure that is based on the circumstance that Günther Jauch takes over the ‘Das Erste’ Sunday talk show from Anne Will – the most momentous broadcasting slot for talk featured in the ARD. The signing of RTL-Star Günther Jauch was announced by the ARD in June 2010. Jauch will continue to work for RTL and present the popular quiz show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ for the private TV broadcaster.

In mid-2006, the ARD created a secretariat-general in Berlin to serve as the new staff unit looking to replace the old ARD office in Frankfurt am Main. Through this step, the ARD underlines its media-political commitment in the capitol. Since July 2006, Verena Wiedermann (*1957), who had been the head of the ARD connection office in Brussels since 1993, heads the Berlin office. The ARD general secretary is elected by the directors and chairmen of the committee for a legislative period of five years. She is directly subordinated to the biannually changing ARD chairman and responsible for the strategic positioning and representation of ARD’s interests in the public sector. At the same time, she is the deputy chairman of the ARD strategy group. The general secretary holds the right to take part and participate in meetings of all commissions and work groups of the broadcasting network, including ARD subsidiaries, meetings of the TV program conference and other politically relevant committees. Additionally, the ARD operates further central institutions such as the Gebühreneinzugszentrale (GEZ) in Cologne, the Degeto Film GmbH (for ARD TV film productions, the respective licensing deals and production cooperation) in Frankfurt am Main, the German Rundfunkarchiv (DRA) in Potsdam and Frankfurt am Main and the ‘Zentrale Fortbildung der Programm-Mitarbeiter’ (ZFP; together with the ZDF). The editorial office of ARD-Aktuell is based at the NDR in Hamburg. Sporting approximately 200 employees, it produces up-to-date TV news programs („Tagesschau“, „Tagesthemen“, „Nachtmagazin“, „Wochenspiegel“). Otherwise, the ARD is predominated by the federal principle. The respective broadcasting institutions have the final say when it comes to cross-station projects, such as the transmission of big sport events.

The ARD’s TV and radio programs still constitute a crucial cultural and social coefficient in the history of the federal republic. Many ARD programs made an impact on a national level from the 1960ies onwards, for example political magazines such as ‘Panorama’ (Created by NDR based on the model of the BBC) or ‘Monitor’ by the WDR, made for TV films that were critical of their times by directors 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. Due to the fact that the public broadcasting sector developed into a melting pot of critical intelligentsia within the editorial offices in the 1950ies, the ARD group was considered left-wing orientated by the Adenauer administration. By the end of the 1950ies, Adenauer (CDU) attempted to break down the ARD monopoly by means of the ‘Freien Fernsehen’ (Free Television) project, a mixture of public and private TV. However, the Federal Constitutional Court stopped these plans in 1961 with the so-called ‘Fernsehurteil’ (Television Verdict). From June 1961 to March 1963, a second ARD program was broadcasted for 150 minutes per day until the Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF) started to operate as nationwide channel on the 1st April of 1963.  
The Bayerische Rundfunk started a third program focusing on educational and cultural content on the 22nd of September 1964. Step by step, all ARD broadcasting institution followed this model. NDR and Radio Bremen and in parts the SWR, as well as the Saarländische Rundfunk inaugurated a collaborative third program. During the national election campaigns in 1976, the ARD was accused of influencing the elections to the disadvantage of the union parties by the CDU/CSU (together with the ‘Mainzer Schule’ by opinion pollster Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann). Subsequently, the political pressure to which the ARD had been exposed increased evidently by means of personnel decisions. Private TV and radio enterprises were approved under chancellor Helmut Kohl and postal service minister Christian Schwarz-Schilling (both CDU) in 1984. Later years would show that these developments had a lasting affect on the self-conception of the public broadcasters. According to the ARD, they are insufficiently prepared for the new market conditions and politically, economically and media-culturally endangered, despite being generously equipped with financial means.

In a startling paper published in the year 1995, the minister presidents of Sachsen and Bavaria, Kurt Biedenkopf (CDU) and Edmund Stoiber (CSU) suggested the abolishment of the ‘Ersten Deutschen Fernsehen’ and a reduction of the ARD to larger, state-based stations limited to regional TV and radio programs, that is, unless the ARD would initiate a series of radical rationalisation measures. The ARD complied with the request: Only nine out of eleven broadcasting stations remained. The Südwestfunk (SWF) and Süddeutscher Rundfunk (SDR) were combined into the Südwestrundfunk (SWR) in 1998. The 1st of May 2003 saw the creation of the two-state station Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), a merger of Freies Berlin (SFB) and the Ostdeutschem Rundfunks Brandenburg (ORB). Afterward, the ARD was spared attacks on its existence and fundamental structure for quite some time. Yet, ever since the public broadcasting sector stepped up the distribution of its services through the Internet, the ARD (and the ZDF) are targeted by critics, especially on the part of publishers, who interpret this as a distortion of competition. They call for stricter boundaries to be established regarding the online ventures of stations that are financed by license fees, lest the publishers’ private economy business sector might be threatened.



The position holders within the ARD have all been assigned via internal appointments. The upheaval in the German television market during the 1980ies led to a sovereign declamation rather than an action-orientated self-reflection and the deconstruction of the ARD administration complex was tackled with a hesitant demeanour. Awareness for marketing and public relations emerged in an equally slow fashion. So far, all leading ARD positions had been appointed with regards to political colour and internal experience. 2003 was the first time that a woman moved in to grace a director’s chair with RBB-director Dagmar Reim. Since April 2007, the former WDR radio director Monika Piel is the second woman within the nine head strong leadership of the ARD. On January the 1st 2011, the WDR became the executive station of the ARD and as such, Monika Piel became the first female ARD chair(wo)man.

Ulrich Wilhelm took on the directorship at the Bayerischen Rundfunk in Munich on the 1st of February 2011. Wilhelm, a member of CSU, had been head of the governmental press and information office as well as spokesperson of chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) from November 2005 until July 2010. Only 49 years of age, Wilhelm is the youngest ARD director so far. The circumstance that the director of a public broadcasting station has been directly recruited from the periphery of a national government - as happened in the case of the BR- is a singular incident in the post-war years after 1945.

Business Fields


Television – Television formats:
The ARD’s informative news division operates the largest network of foreign correspondents in the world (approximately 90 correspondents in over 30 major cities), servicing ‘Das Erste’ and third programs. Leading brands of ARD are news magazines ‘Tagesschau’ and ‘Tagesthemen’. Furthermore, the crime drama TV series ‘Tatort’, ARD-‘Sportschau’ featuring a digest of the Bundesliga, evening series such as ‘In aller Freundschaft’ or ‘Um Himmels Willen’ and Daily Soaps such as ‘Lindenstraße’, ‘Verbotene Liebe’ or ‘Marienhof’ all belong to the most famous of ARD’s brands. In 2005, ‘Marienhof’ fell into disrepute due to a product-placement scandal at ARD subsidiary Bavaria Film. In spring 2011, ‘Marienhof’ will be cancelled due to a considerable ratings decrease.

Over the course of recent years, the ARD attempted to polish its profile through talkshows. The series ‘Anne Will’ (Sundays), ‘Beckmann’ (Mondays), ‘Menschen bei Maischberger (Tuesdays) and ‘Hart aber fair’ with presenter Frank Plasberg (Wednesday) constitute the weekly contingent. ‘Anne Will’ – which started as follow-up format of ‘Sabine Christiansen’ in September 2007 had been the most successful (Politics)talk in German television in 2010 when it comes to absolute audience numbers and market shares. On average, the broadcast is watched by 4.2 million people (2009: 3.8 million) and sports a market share of 14.5 percent (2009: 13.5 percent). The second most succesful talk show was ‘Hart aber fair’ with an average of 3.5 million viewers (13.8 percent) before ‘Maybrit Illner’ of the ZDF with 2.4 million (11.7 percent).
The fact that Fridays is reserved mostly for rom-coms, produced by ARD subsidiary Degeto, resulted in the creation of business buzzword ‘Degetoisation’ (as in Degeto) which is used to describe the trivialisation of (ARD) TV films. However, the ARD still maintains the genre of sophisticated TV films through their 8.15pm evening slot reserved for their ‘Film-Wednesday’.

The collaboration between the ARD, Pro Sieben and entertainer Stefan Raab in 2010 that was the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) was a great success for the ARD. Lena Meyer-Landhut and her ‘Satellite’ song managed to win the contest in the Norwegian capitol – for the first time since 1982. Apart from FIFA World Cup broadcasts and the European championship qualifications, the live broadcast of the ESC has been the most popular program of the year with an audience count of 14.73 million viewers (49 percent).

On the other hand, late night talk show host Harald Schmidt announced his plans to leave the ARD and return to his former employer, private TV broadcaster SAT.1 in September 2010. Once again, he will be featured on Sat1 with his ‘Harald Schmidt Show’, which ran on the channel from 1995 to 2003. 2010 also saw the departure of show master Jörg Pilawa and topical stand-up comedian Frank-Markus Barwasser. They both found a new home in public broadcasting competitor ZDF.

Television – Football program:
In a surprising turn, the ARD managed to win back the rights of first coverage of the football Bundesliga for their ‘Sportschau’ in 2003/2004, after the rights had been in the hands of private competitors for years. For the first three years (2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06), the ARD paid approx. 60 million Euro per season. The high popularity and acceptance on part of the viewers of the Bundesliga ‘Sportschau’ on Saturday Night (6.45pm to 7.55pm) only encouraged the ARD to continue their strategy. By the end of 2005, ARD managed to purchase the Bundesliga TV rights for the next three seasons as well. The price for this package was 95 Million per season.

Furthermore, the ARD retained the free-TV rights of match-up summaries in the Saturday ‘Sportschau’ in November 2008. For the first time, the contract will run over a period of four years instead of three. On top of that, the ARD landed the recapitulatory coverage of the first two ‘Erste Liga’ matches on Sunday, an unexpected change, for these rights were formerly held by the ‘Deutsche Sportfernsehen’ (DSF, Sport1 by now) until the end of the 2008/09 season. The whole Bundesliga-rights package costs the ARD approximately 100 million Euro per season – only insubstantially more than before. Now, the ARD can cover the two Sunday games from 9.45pm. A summary of the Bundesliga matches on Sunday is shown in the ‘Tagesthemen’ and in an extra broadcast by the third programs.

However, when it comes to the Bundesliga TV-rights in their current incarnation, the ARD also benfited from regulative circumstances in the broadcasting sector. Initially, the ‘Deutsche Fussball-Liga’ (DFL) awarded Leo Kirch with the rights covering 2009 to 2013. Yet, the Federal Cartel Office disapproved the marketing concept that had been planned by DFL and Kirch’s company Sirius Sport Media in a sensational decision in July 2008. DFL and Sirius sought to forbade coverage of the ‘Erste Liga’ Saturday matches in free-TV prior to 10pm, which was deemed too late by the Federal Cartel Office. The competition authorities made clear that such a ‘highlight-coverage’ must be concluded by 8pm in free-TV, which resulted in the ‘billion-contract’ between DFL and Sirius ending up without a foundation. By the end of September, DFL cancelled the contract that included a guaranteed sum of 500 million Euros per season from the licensing rights for the next six years from mid 2009 onwards – a total sum of 3 billion Euros. 

Regional programs:
During the 1980ies, the so called 'third' programs had successively been developed into full programs, the majority of which are distributed via cable and satellite on a national basis. By now, the third programs have almost completely peeled off their original character as experimental fields and formal educational institutions. In turn, they identified regional focus to be where their actual strength lies - a strength that ensures exceptional ratings. To some extent but far less frequent, the third programs are still being used as experimental canvasses for new formats, which might shift into ‘Das Erste’ should they prove to be successful.

Digital channels:
ARD and ZDF consider Niche television an essential part of the complete bouquet in the digital age, if only to maintain their ability to compete. As such, the ARD have been operating three niche channels since August 1997, which are digitally distributed via cable and satellite: Eins Extra (Info channel, In Charge: NDR), Eins Plus (Advice and service channel, SWR) and Eins Festival (Focus culture, WDR). A broader audience will be able to consume the digital (extra-) range once the terrestrial infrastructure (DVB-T) or other digital means of reception have been expanded. So far, about 35 percent of German TV households are capable of using these digital services.

The nine ARD broadcast institutions operate more than 50 radio programs. As of today, the radio waves of all ARD stations are defined through their ‘target’ audience ‘musical colouring’ (Youth Wave, Culture radio, Mainstream-Program, Spoken Word, News channels). Two so-called integration programs have been a peculiarity within the range of stations for quite some time: Radio Multikuli (RBB) and Funkhaus Europa (WDR with Radio Bremen), two stations with which the sender attempted to follow the calling of a public broadcaster in a literal manner. Yet, towards the end of 2008 and despite numerous protests against it, Radio MultiKulti went off air: The RBB was forced to cancel the program due to economic reasons. The WDR, the largest station at ARD operates six radio waves alone. The successful youth program Eins Live avoids mentioning the mother station altogether. The WDR image i considered unfavourable when it comes to the youthful target audience. Instead of Radio MultiKulti that was founded in 1994, the Berlin service area is now supplied with the WDR program Funkhaus Europa instead.


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