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General information
Reception: Analog: Cable
digital: DVB-T2 , DVB-C , DVB-S , DVB-S2 , IPTV
Seat: GermanyGermany Mainz , Germany
Broadcasting company: Second German Television
Resolution: 576i ( SDTV )
720p ( HDTV ) (ZDF HD via Sat / Cable / IPTV)
1080p ( HDTV ) (ZDF HD via DVB-T2)
Intendant: Thomas Bellut
Start of broadcast: April 1, 1963
Legal form: Institute of public right
Program type: Full program
Market share: 13.0% (from 3 years)
5.6% (14–49 years) (2019)
Website: zdf.de
List of TV channels

The ZDF ( stylized proper spelling : 2DF ) 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.


From 1959, the former Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer tried 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. It started broadcasting 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 .

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 of that time, with which fonts were faded into the picture, the letters could have slightly rounded corners, Aicher avoided the problem with - strongly - rounded letters from the start.

The introduction of the corporate typeface went hand in hand with a corporate identity that 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 frame system was procured from a Swiss manufacturer, on which writing boards could be hung.

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 this point in 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 on ARD, regular operations began on August 25, 1967. In the meantime, the range had increased so that around 80 percent of the participants were covered.


ZDF broadcasts


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 sponsoring has been largely 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 , whereas it would be the lowest in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania . Overall, however, in 2013 the ZDF would be "in the favor of the audience." Records with more than 20 million viewers were achieved in the 1980s with programs such as Das Traumschiff or the Black Forest Clinic , 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. 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 audience of the main program have a relatively high average age, ZDF will Kukident transmitter called. This name is said to go back to the former RTL managing director Helmut Thoma . The ZDF reacted to the accusations, which had long since become commonplace in the media, of referring to the “ZDF with malice as a 'Kukident' or 'electric blanket transmitter'”, which hurts older viewers, “who rightly ask what It is actually so bad when a station is attractive to them. ”ZDF now sees such allegations confidently - especially because the rejuvenation of the program has long since begun. 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 offers are not enough for this. ”However, there would be“ no convulsive attempts at rejuvenation, but consistent modernization that would 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 here that were once intended for a possible third television program in the GDR .

Since the first cable pilot projects , ZDF has also been represented on cable television . The Europe-wide satellite broadcast via Astra 1C began on August 27, 1993 for the international radio exhibition in Berlin. In the same decade, digital video broadcasting 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 complete program has been offered since April 2008 via the Zattoo software . Since February 12, 2013, ZDF has finally been broadcasting its channels as a 24/7 internet live stream - if this is possible under license law. For the HLS live stream, ZDF is cooperating with the US provider Akamai . In addition to the player within the ZDF website, it can also be played using player programs such as VLC media player or apps and 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 Frontal21 and Morgenmagazin to widescreen over the course of the year . The last change 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 November 15, 2012, the program has also been distributed nationwide in South Tyrol (since June 2013 also in Trentino ).

As part of the Media Broadcast pilot project, ZDF has been broadcasting its main program in full HD resolution on the DVB-T2 HD platform in Germany since May 1, 2016 , but the picture is only upscaled from a 720p signal.

Station logos




Manipulation at ZDF 2014 on 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 also became known that in 2007 a voting result of the band Böhse Onkelz from place 1 to place 25 had been manipulated secretly and with the knowledge of the then program director Thomas Bellut .

Then ZDF entertainment director Oliver Fuchs offered to resign. In addition, the team leader responsible for the two shows in 2014 was relieved of her leadership role 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 .

Allegation of quota and loss of quality

After his retirement, Wolfgang Herles criticized ZDF's “quota fetishism” in his publication “The Pleasants”, from which nothing is further than criticism, provocation and education. 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 as part of their programs on the Greek sovereign debt crisis. 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.

Negative awards

Mainz days of television criticism


  • Twenty years of ZDF. Second German television, Mainz 1981.
  • Klaus Wehmeier: History of ZDF, Part 1: Origin and Development 1961–1966 , zugl .: Univ. Münster (Westphalia), Philos. Fak., Diss. 1979, Mainz: v. Hase & Koehler 1979, XII, 327 p .: graph. Darst. ISBN 3-7758-0978-3 .
  • Nicole Prüsse: History of ZDF, Part 2: Consolidation, Implementation and Modernization 1967–1977 , also: Univ. Münster (Westphalia), Dissertation 1995, Münster: Lit 1997, 425, [29] S .: graph. Darst. (Communication; Vol. 10).
  • Florian Kain: History of ZDF, Part 3: 1977–1982 , zugl .: Univ. Hamburg, Diss. 2006, Baden-Baden: Nomos 2007, ISBN 978-3-8329-2523-9 , 499 S .: numer. Ill.
  • Dieter Stolte: "My life with ZDF. History and stories, Nicolai Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-89479-741-6 .
  • Rainer Holbe: When the Mainzelmännchen learned to walk: 50 years of ZDF . Kösel, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-466-34583-0 .

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. Der Spiegel 1973, issue 38, ZDF: Jump into cold water
  4. The history of ZDF, Chapter 5 Start of broadcasting of the Second German Television
  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 , 25 January 2013, p. 59 .
  7. Departure of the Mainzel Men by Julia Schröder, StZ
  8. a b Special Publication of ZDF.werbung in horizon 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. Si a 3 mozioni: trasparenza, tv in Tedesco e ciclabile Trento Mattarello. Retrieved July 16, 2013 .
  12. RAS is expanding its range of programs: From November 15, ORF III will be on air. Rundfunkanstalt Südtirol, news from November 5, 2012
  13. www.stefan-niggemeier.de
  14. www.ndr.de
  15. ^ Friederike Zoe Grasshoff: Fraud at ZDF - suddenly number one. In: sueddeutsche.de. July 15, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  16. Creation of the ranking lists for the ZDF show "Deutschlands Beste!" was incorrect ( memento from August 17, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  17. Friederike Zoe Grasshoff: ZDF ranking show "Germany's Best!" In: sueddeutsche.de. July 9, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  18. "Germany's best!": ZDF admits targeted manipulation of the TV show. In: zeit.de. July 11, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  19. ^ "Germany's best": ZDF admits targeted manipulation of surveys on TV show. In: Focus Online. July 11, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  20. “Böhse Onkelz”, good ZDF: The second manipulated another show. In: tagesspiegel.de. Retrieved December 8, 2014 .
  21. ZDF draws conclusions after manipulation of "Our Best" ( Memento from July 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  22. Gudde Naaacht, ZDF! In: Spiegel Online. July 17, 2014, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  23. Wolfgang Herles: The Complacency. Against conformism in the media and populism in politics. Knaus-Verlag, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-8135-0668-6 .
  24. derstandard.at ZDF-Journalist-uebt-Medienkritik Rudolf Walther in the Standard of October 30, 2015.
  25. sueddeutsche.de Rudolf Walther in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of October 12, 2015.
  26. deutschlandfunk.de
  27. " Provoke the Greeks!" , accessed September 9, 2016
  28. Reporting on Greece in the First ( Memento of September 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on September 9, 2016
  29. ^ "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 .