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Infobox radio tower pictogram
Station logo
TV station ( public law institution )
Program type Full program
reception Analog: Cable
digital: DVB-T2 , DVB-C , DVB-S , DVB-S2 , IPTV
Image resolution 576i ( SDTV )
720p ( HDTV ) (ZDF HD via Sat / Cable / IPTV)
1080p ( HDTV ) (ZDF HD via DVB-T2)
Start of transmission April 1, 1963
Seat GermanyGermany Mainz
Broadcaster Second German Television
Intendant Thomas Bellut
Market share 13.0% (from 3 years)
5.6% (14–49 years) (2019)
List of TV channels

The ZDF ( stylized spelling : (2) DF ) is the main program of the broadcasting corporation Second German Television and the second national television program under public law in Germany . ZDF has been broadcast since 1963.


The former Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer tried from 1959 to influence the existing broadcasting regulations and planned a second, all-German television program. Unlike the ARD program Deutsches Fernsehen (today: Das Erste ), this should not be subordinate to the federal states, but to the federal government. However, the plans failed at the Federal Constitutional Court due to the 1st broadcasting judgment . Instead, the federal states founded the Second German Television in 1961, a central, non-profit television company.

For the second public television program, the Deutsche Bundespost began to set up a second broadcasting chain around 1960. This transmitted in the UHF range, which required a second antenna and a television set with an extended frequency range. For older receivers, the trade had special UHF converters that cost around DM 80  . As with the first program, optimal reception in as many parts of the GDR as possible played an important role when planning the station . In order to be able to use the broadcasting chain once and to encourage viewers to receive UHF, ARD was allowed a second program with the ARD 2 program, which broadcast daily from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Broadcasting began on May 1, 1961 in the broadcasting area of ​​the hr and one month later nationwide.

On March 21, 1963, the second theme from the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's violin concerto was chosen as the acoustic transmitter identification .

The start of broadcasting was scheduled for July 1, 1962, but this was delayed. The first test broadcast was broadcast by ZDF on the night of March 19-20, 1963, without prior notice via Feldberg . At 11:51 p.m. the text Second German Television appeared and at 0:10 a.m. random viewers were asked to send a postcard with a description of the reception quality to the institution. This was followed by a documentary about Hong Kong, which was an FFG production, two episodes from the US series Drei Gute Freunde and the Austrian production Wolken über Kaprun . The broadcast ended at 1:28 a.m. The second test broadcast ran on the night of March 26th to 27th on all channels in the chain. It also showed live images: a news program with broadcasts in the domestic studios in Hamburg and Munich.

ZDF officially began broadcasting on April 1, 1963. At that time, 61 percent of the television participants could be reached, but not all of them had a receiver for the UHF frequency range. The ARD hoped to be able to broadcast a third program after the start of the ZDF. However, due to the lack of free frequencies, this could not be achieved immediately.

The first color test broadcast on ZDF ran on July 3, 1967, as was the case with ARD, and regular operations began on August 25, 1967. In the meantime, the range had increased to such an extent that around 80 percent of the participants were covered.

With the major program reform of October 1973, the ZDF corporate typeface was introduced. To do this, Otl Aicher took the Univers font and modified it a little. Since with the technology at that time, with which fonts were faded into the picture, the letters could have slightly rounded corners, Aicher avoided the problem with letters that were strongly rounded from the start. The introduction of the house typeface went hand in hand with a corporate identity , which also came from Otl Aicher. This included the design of the on-screen clock as well as a uniform design for the studios and outside broadcast vehicles with lots of blue, but without red and black. For political broadcasts, a variable pipe rack system was procured from a Swiss manufacturer on which writing boards could be hung.


ZDF broadcasts


Mainzel men Det and Conni

Like Das Erste , ZDF is only allowed to show advertising until 8 p.m. on working days, in accordance with the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty, for a maximum of 20 minutes a day and exclusively in the main program. No advertising may be sent on Sundays or national holidays. Since the beginning of advertising on ZDF, the individual commercials have been interrupted by the Mainzelmännchen . With the amendment of the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty, the previous distinction between advertising and sponsorship has largely been abolished, which is why there has been no sponsorship on public television after 8 p.m. or on national holidays since January 2013.


Media Control calculated the highest number of viewers in the last 20 years in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse , while it was the lowest in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania . Overall, however, ZDF was “in the favor of the public in 2013”. Records with more than 20 million viewers were achieved in the 1980s with programs such as Das Traumschiff or Die Schwarzwaldklinik , in 1992 a Wetten, dass ..? - Edition 20.47 million viewers. According to media control, the market share was 65.8 percent. Due to the fragmentation of the television market, such quotas are rarely found. Most recently, such ranges were only determined for sports broadcasts such as the highest range of ZDF 2006 in the World Cup semi-final between Italy and Germany with 29.66 million viewers. The average age of ZDF viewers in mid-2012 was 61 years. The Olympic Games in 2012 and the European Football Championship in 2012 reduced it to 60 years.

Because the viewers of the main program have a fairly high average age, the ZDF is also called Kukident-Sender . This name is said to go back to the former RTL managing director Helmut Thoma . The ZDF reacted to the accusations that had become “commonplace” in the media that “ZDF was maliciously referring to ZDF as a 'Kukident' or 'electric blanket broadcaster'”, which hurts older viewers, “who rightly ask what It's actually so bad when a broadcaster is attractive to you. ”The ZDF now sees such allegations confidently - mainly because the rejuvenation of the program has long since been initiated. When he took office, Thomas Bellut stated: “[...] ZDF's target group is society as a whole. That is why we have to increasingly reach younger viewers with our program. The success of the digital channels and online offerings alone are not enough. ”However, there will be“ no convulsive attempts at rejuvenation, but consistent modernization that will appeal to all age groups ”.


Streaming playout center of the broadcasting center in Mainz

In the first decades of its existence, the ZDF broadcast its program exclusively on the second terrestrial broadcasting chain in the Federal Republic of Germany. Unlike the broadcasters of the first TV program of the ARD, this is operated by Media Broadcast , formerly by the Deutsche Bundespost. As with ARD, before 1990 many channels were placed in such a way that they could also be received in large areas of the GDR, where ZDF had a large number of viewers. Since December 1990 the program has also been broadcast on various stations in the new federal states. Frequencies are used that were once intended for a possible third television program in the GDR .

ZDF has also been represented on cable television since the first cable pilot projects . The Europe-wide satellite broadcast via Astra 1C began on August 27, 1993 for the international radio exhibition in Berlin. In the same decade, DVB signals began to be broadcast over cables and satellites .

Since 2002, ZDF has also been available as digital television via DVB-T in the developed regions. In the early days, the audio signal was broadcast in Dolby Digital format via DVB-T . For reasons of capacity, this service has been discontinued in the meantime.

A selection of programs is offered on the Internet via the ZDFmediathek, which has existed since 2001, via live stream or video-on-demand . In addition to the regular version, there is a special edition of the media library for mobile devices, and an app for various operating systems has also been available since mid-2011. A live stream of the entire program has been offered via the Zattoo software since April 2008 . Since February 12, 2013, ZDF has finally been broadcasting its channels as a 24/7 internet live stream, if this is legally possible. For the HLS live stream, ZDF is cooperating with the US provider Akamai . In addition to the player on the ZDF website, it can also be played using player programs such as VLC media player or apps, as well as devices that support the playback of HLS streams.

Stream address resolution Codec Web player
ZDF HLS 1280 × 720 H.264 https://www.zdf.de/live-tv

ZDF was the first broadcaster in Germany to begin broadcasting its magazine and news programs exclusively in 16: 9 format . ZDF had already broadcast the soccer world championship in 16: 9 in 2006 and gradually switched magazine programs such as Frontal or Morgenmagazin to widescreen over the course of the year . The last changeover from the previous TV format 4: 3 to 16: 9 took place on June 25, 2007 with today's news.

On February 12, 2010, the HD offshoot ZDF HD went into regular operation. Since May 1, 2016, ZDF has been broadcasting its main program in full HD resolution via the DVB-T2 HD platform in Germany as part of the Media Broadcast pilot project , but the picture is only upscaled from a 720p signal.

The RAS has also been disseminating the program in South Tyrol since 1975 .

Station logos




Manipulation at ZDF 2014 in the TV show Germany's Best!

How only in retrospect at ZDF 2014 after the TV show Germany's Best! revealed, starting with inquiries from Zapp magazine and media journalist Stefan Niggemeier , only a second Forsa survey was used to rank the “best” 50; the ZDF online and HörZu voting were not taken into account. This was justified, among other things, with the alleged influence of fan groups on the online voting. In addition, there was arbitrary manipulation by the editorial team, in which invited guests such as Claus Kleber and Franz Beckenbauer were moved to the front, while the presenter of RTL aktuell , Peter Kloeppel , was moved to a back position.

In connection with the voting scandal about the broadcast Germany's best! It was also announced that in 2007 a voting result of the band Böhse Onkelz from number 1 to 25 had been manipulated secretly and with the knowledge of the then program director Thomas Bellut .

Thereupon ZDF entertainment director Oliver Fuchs offered his resignation. In addition, the team leader responsible for the two shows in 2014 was relieved of her management function and another editor was warned. In this context, the setting of the series Deutschlands Beste! proclaimed. Fuchs' resignation was accepted by ZDF director Thomas Bellut and program director Norbert Himmler .

Accusation of quota and loss of quality

After his retirement, Wolfgang Herles criticized ZDF's “quota fetishism” in his publication “The Pleasers”, from which nothing is further than criticism, provocation and enlightenment. The media and politicians followed the “power of the market”, which led to a flat, homogeneous entertainment program and a drop in standards. The fee broadcasters would "dramatically miss" the task of being the fourth estate. Herles therefore advocates radical program reform, the abolition of pay-TV and financing from tax revenues.

Accusation of one-sided reporting on the sovereign debt crisis in Greece

A scientific study by the Otto Brenner Foundation accuses both ZDF and ARD of having reported one-sided and unbalanced reports on the Greek sovereign debt crisis as part of their programs. Journalists' personal opinions and objective facts could not be clearly separated from each other vis-à-vis the audience, general topics and the reform efforts of the Greek government were superficially reflected, the Greek government was also able to speak less than the German, the titles were often striking. The study reached its conclusions over a period of several months. A few hours after its publication, the ARD fully criticized the study.

Discussion about the use of gender-equitable language

The increased use of gender-sensitive language on ZDF led to controversy. In August 2021, various media criticized the fact that the station spoke of "Islamists" in the Afghan Taliban , although transgender people were not known to the Taliban and almost excluded.

Negative awards

Mainz days of television criticism


(in chronological order)

Web links

Wiktionary: ZDF  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : ZDF  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. RTL was the biggest winner in 2019, Kabel Eins overtook RTLzwei . In: DWDL.de . January 1, 2020. Accessed February 22, 2020.
  2. ^ ZDF yearbook 1962/64, page 275
  3. The history of ZDF, Chapter 5 Start of broadcasting of the Second German Television
  4. ^ ZDF: Jump into the water . In: The mirror . August 12, 1973, ISSN  2195-1349 ( spiegel.de [accessed October 31, 2021]).
  5. Numbers, please: quotas from 50 years ZDF , dwdl.de from March 30, 2013
  6. Hans-Peter Siebenhaar : Financial top performances . In: Handelsblatt . No. 18 , January 25, 2013, p. 59 .
  7. Departure of the Mainzel Men by Julia Schröder, StZ
  8. a b Special publication by ZDF advertising in Horizont 37/2012, 23 September 2012
  9. ZDF presents media library for the younger generation , Netzwelt, accessed on August 8, 2011
  10. dpa: ZDF starts live stream around the clock. In: handelsblatt.com. February 12, 2013, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  11. The history of the RAS . Rundfunkanstalt Südtirol, accessed on November 2, 2021
  12. www.stefan-niggemeier.de
  13. www.ndr.de
  14. Friederike Zoe Grasshoff: Fraud at ZDF - Suddenly number one. In: sueddeutsche.de. July 15, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  15. Creation of the ranking lists for the ZDF show "Deutschlands Beste!" was incorrect ( memento from August 17, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Friederike Zoe Grasshoff: ZDF ranking show "Germany's Best!" In: sueddeutsche.de. July 9, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  17. "Germany's best!": ZDF admits targeted manipulation of the TV show. In: zeit.de. July 11, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  18. "Germany's best": ZDF admits targeted manipulation of surveys on TV show. In: Focus Online. July 11, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  19. ^ "Böhse Onkelz", good ZDF: The second manipulated another show. In: tagesspiegel.de. Retrieved December 8, 2014 .
  20. ZDF draws conclusions after manipulation of "Our Best" ( Memento from July 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  21. Gudde Naaacht, ZDF! In: Spiegel Online. July 17, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  22. Wolfgang Herles: The Complacency. Against conformism in the media and populism in politics. Knaus-Verlag, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-8135-0668-6 .
  23. derstandard.at ZDF-Journalist-uebt-Medienkritik Rudolf Walther in the Standard of October 30, 2015.
  24. sueddeutsche.de Rudolf Walther in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of October 12, 2015.
  25. deutschlandfunk.de
  26. " Provoke the Greeks!" , accessed September 9, 2016
  27. ^ Reporting on Greece in the First ( Memento from September 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on September 9, 2016
  28. https://www.tagesspiegel.de/gesellschaft/medien/nach-kritik-an-zdf-moderatorin-pareigis-gendern-ist-ein-menschenrecht-das-auszuueben-jedem-und-jeder-freisteht/27475680.html
  29. https://www.sueddeutsche.de/medien/gendern-oeffnahm-rechtliche-gerster-kle-gendert-sprechpause-innen-ard-zdf-br-sprache-1.5383641
  30. https://www.fr.de/panorama/zdf-bericht-ueber-taliban-machternahmung-afghanistan-entfach-gender-shitstorm-zyx-zr-90930808.html
  31. ^ "German too wooden": ZDF is Sprachpanscher of the year. (No longer available online.) German Language Association, August 26, 2016, archived from the original on August 27, 2016 ; accessed on August 27, 2016 .