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Germany has a peculiar mix of different TV channels as a result of its history after World War Two. After the downfall of Nazi Germany, it was up to the Allies to regulate the German media at the time. Public radio stations were formed, often one station per state, before The Bonn Republic was founded. These stations then formed the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland" ("Consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany"), or ARD for short. Some TV channels are made by ARD member stations, others by public or private competitors.

Public TV channels

  • Channels from before cable TV:
    • "Das Erste" ("The First") - or just ARD - started broadcasting in 1952. Each part of the programme is made by one of the member stations (who form a so-called gremium (or "elder council") to democratically decide the programme between the Bundesländer), and then broadcasted by all member stations.
    • ZDF ("Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen", "Second German Television") started broadcasting in 1963. In contrast to ARD, ZDF is a single public-law station on the federal level.
    • "Die Dritten" ("The Thirds") are channels by the ARD member stations, and original limited to their areas. With the coming of cable TV, now some of them can be received nationwide.
  • New public channels (supported with content from both ARD and ZDF):
    • 3sat, a German-language channel made in cooperation by the public TV stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
    • arte, a German- and French-language made in cooperation by the public TV stations in Germany and France. Foreign content is either dubbed by translators or subtitled.
    • "Kika" ("Kinderkanal", "Children's channel") is a channel mostly for children up to 13, and has programming from 6 am to 9 pm.
    • "Phoenix" the C-Span equivalent for uncut parliament footage and more in-depth discussion rounds.
      • It should be noted that the German parliament has its own TV channel broadcasting all parliament footage live, but (nearly?) no TV provider carries it, though it is available on the internet.
  • Even newer (and experimental) digital channels (forked from ARD or ZDF):
    • Einsfestival, Eins Extra, Eins Plus
    • ZDF info, ZDF.kultur, ZDF neo

Commercial TV channels

Originally there were a lot of different channels, and every owner was limited to one "full program" channel, but behind the scenes today's landscape formed, dominated by two groups:

  • The RTL group, with RTL, RTL II, Super RTL and VOX. (RTL originally meant "Radio Tele Luxembourg" and it originally operated from there but still has their HQ there).
  • The Sat1/Pro7 group, with SAT 1, PRO 7 and Kabel 1, based in Munich.