ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) is Germany’s national public television broadcaster. It is run as an independent non-profit corporation under the authority of the Länder, the sixteen states that constitute the Federal Republic of Germany.
The nationwide channel ZDF has been broadcasting since 1st April 1963 and remains one of the country’s leading sources of information. Today, ZDF also operates the two thematic channels ZDFneo and ZDFinfo. In partnership with other public broadcasters, ZDF jointly operates the internet-only offer funk, the German channels PHOENIX and KiKA, and the European channels 3sat and ARTE.
The corporation has a permanent staff of 3,600 plus a similar number of freelancers. Since March 2012, ZDF has been headed by Director- General Thomas Bellut. He was elected by the 60-member governing body, the ZDF Television Council, which represents the interests of the general public. Part of its role is to establish and monitor programme standards. Responsibility for corporate guidelines and budget control lies with the 14-member ZDF Administrative Council.
ZDF is based in Mainz, but also maintains permanent bureaus in the 16 Länder capitals as well as special editorial and production facilities in Berlin. For international coverage, ZDF has foreign correspondents operating in 19 permanent bureaus worldwide.
ZDF offers full-range generalist programming with a mix of information, education, arts, entertainment and sports. Its coverage provides both a broad view on the world and a comprehensive picture of Germany.
In compliance with its public service remit, ZDF produces quality programmes for all viewers in all parts of Germany without neglecting minority interests. In this way ZDF strives to offer the highest possible public service value.
In line with German legislation on public service broadcasting, ZDF issues a bi-annual statement on programme policy, a commitment which is regularly reviewed by the independent ZDF Television Council.
What sort of environment does ZDF operate in?
Germany has a highly competitive television landscape. In contrast to most countries, even the most popular channels achieve only modest audience shares (see table below). On the one hand, there are ZDF and ARD, the two public service broadcasting networks. On the other hand, commercial television is dominated by two media groups: ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG and RTL Group (majority shareholder: Bertelsmann).
They own a large part of the country’s commercial channels, both big and small, and share between them most of the TV advertising market – the biggest in Europe with annual revenues exceeding four billion euros. The German pay-TV market is still relatively small: The two leading platform operators (Sky and Deutsche Telekom) together have less than eight million subscribers.
How ist ZDF financed?
Public service broadcasting in Germany is mainly financed by broadcasting fees, payable by private households as well as businesses and public institutions. Payments are collected by an agency specifically set up for this purpose by the public service broadcasters. Since January 2013, the broadcasting fee (Rundfunkbeitrag) is generally levied on places of residence and work. It is no longer linked to individual units of broadcast reception equipment installed at these places. The specifics of who has to pay how much are defined in the federal states’ Inter-State Treaty on Broadcasting that also regulates the process of revenue allocation to ZDF: An independent panel of experts (KEF) periodically examines the public broadcasters’ financial needs and recommends an appropriate fee level. The 16 Länder parliaments then set the fee for a period of usually four years. The income is shared between ZDF, the regional member stations of the public broadcasting association ARD and the national radio station Deutschlandradio. From the standard annual broadcasting fee of 210 euros as paid by most households (unchanged from 2009 to April 1st, 2015; then lowered from 215.76 to 210 euros), ZDF receives a share of 51.8 euros.
Advertising and sponsorship are additional sources of funding. However, special advertising regulations apply to ZDF as a public broadcaster: Commercials are legally restricted to a maximum of twenty minutes per day from Monday to Saturday, and cannot be broadcast after 8 pm or on Sundays and public holidays. In comparison, advertising rules are more liberal for our commercial competitors: They are permitted to fill up to twenty per cent of each programme hour with advertising, which can add up to more than four hours per day.
ZDF programming: diversity as a core public service value
ZDF broadcasts a broad range of programmes, from news, politics and current affairs to arts and science magazines, from music and movies to entertainment shows. Compared to other generalist channels in Germany, ZDF has the highest proportion of reporting on social, political and economic affairs as well as on arts and culture. In various genres, including documentaries, art reviews and science programmes, German TV film productions or entertainment shows, ZDF has been setting standards and regularly receives the highest quality ratings in audience surveys. ZDF’s sports reporting and children’s programming are also strong brands. The numerous German and international awards testify to ZDF’s commitment to quality content.
ZDF thematic channels and funk
In addition to its main channel – simply known as ZDF – the broadcaster ZDF operates two thematic channels. They were first launched on digital satellite in 1997 and have since become increasingly prominent as more and more viewers have gained access to digital television. Following major changes in the respective channel profiles between 2009 and 2012, they have become promising assets in our corporate strategy and in audience response. Most recently, ARD and ZDF have set up their non-linear service funk.
ZDFneo is the more successful of the two. The channel’s schedule includes mainly German and international TV series (both reruns and original broadcasts) but also feature films, as well as some of the best and most innovative ZDF documentaries, comedy and talk shows. Like its thematic sister channel, ZDFneo has a much younger average audience than the main ZDF channel.
ZDFinfo has the latest heute newscasts throughout the day and presents a wide range of factual programmes in the fields of politics, global and European affairs, current history, social issues, economics and consumer advice. Many of its programmes offer interactive viewer participation, stimulate the debating of political issues and integrate information across different media.
Since October 1st, 2016, ARD and ZDF jointly have provided their younger audiences according to their viewing habits with programmes exclusively available on the internet via YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and similar services or on the dedicated site funk.net and its own app. The content network, which is not confined to a linear TV channel, is designed to inform, orientate and entertain the 14- to 29-year-olds with innovative programmes such as internationally appreciated series and over 40 other online formats. Open to users’ comments and suggestions, funk’s offers will be continually enhanced.
What are ZDF’s technical means of distribution and online services?
The ZDF channels reach their audiences via satellite, cable, broadband internet (IPTV) and antenna (DVB-T). About 80 per cent of German TV households have so far upgraded from analogue to digital reception. Analogue distribution is now limited to the remaining cable networks. All ZDF channels are distributed in both standard and high definition versions. The HD format used is 720p at 50 Hz.
ZDF offers a seven-day catch-up service and a growing number of archived items for on-demand viewing via ZDFmediathek. This is an integrated video streaming platform, which also includes RSS feeds and Podcast services. Since February 2013, all three ZDF television channels can also be watched as 24-hour live streams on the internet throughout Germany – a slightly limited offer can be accessed worldwide. All of these services are available at no extra charge.
ZDF programmes are complimented by dedicated websites: heute.de is the up-to-the-minute ZDF news service; ZDF.de offers background information on ZDF programmes and their protagonists; tivi.de is the ZDF website for children. There is also a website in English for basic corporate information about ZDF at zdf.com, while much greater detail is available in German at unternehmen.zdf.de. Customised apps facilitate online access to ZDF content from smartphones and other mobile devices. ZDF is present on the operating mobile broadcasting platforms in Germany and also plans to be present on all future distribution platforms.
ZDF partner channels: cooperation with other public broadcasters
KiKA is the joint children’s channel of ZDF and ARD, offering quality programmes for the youngest viewers that are free of violence or advertising. Another ZDF-ARD project is PHOENIX, the public affairs and documentary channel. It specialises in in-depth analysis and live coverage of political debates and public events. ZDF and ARD also share responsibilities for the three national public radio stations run by Deutschlandradio: Deutschlandfunk, Deutschlandradio Kultur, and internet-only DRadio Wissen. The European cultural channel ARTE is a German-French cooperation with international partners. Its programmes are broadcast in several languages and watched all over Europe. 3sat is a European satellite television project that brings together the Germanlanguage public broadcasters of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. With the channel’s operational centre based at ZDF in Mainz, 3sat has a strong focus on arts and cultural programming. Several regular ZDF programmes are rebroadcast each week on DW-TV, the worldwide channel of Germany’s public international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.
ZDF international relations: strong links around the world
On the global level, ZDF cooperates with partners on every continent. The coverage of international events by ZDF reporters and foreign correspondents benefits from agreements with other major TV corporations. Furthermore, membership of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is important to ZDF for co-productions, news and programme exchange, broadcast rights acquisitions, new technologies and media political initiatives. ZDF also maintains close ties with other regional broadcasting unions and international organisations and is active in media support programmes to assist public broadcasters in developing countries. ZDF interests in the field of media policy at the European level are looked after by a permanent representation in Brussels. All of these activities are coordinated by the ZDF International Affairs department, which also serves as the first contact point for requests and approaches to ZDF from outside Germany.
Worldwide programme distribution and acquisitions, international co-productions, online rights marketing, merchandising of ZDF programme brands, sales of ZDF archive footage and other commercial activities are all managed by ZDF Enterprises GmbH, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary.
ZDF German Television
ZDF German Television
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ZDF Represantation at the Europaen Instuitutions
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