Second German Television

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Infobox radio tower pictogram
Second German Television
Station logo
TV station ( public law institution )
reception Analog: Digital cable
: DVB-T2 , DVB-C , DVB-S , DVB-S2 , IPTV
Image resolution ( Entry missing )
Start of transmission April 1, 1963
Seat GermanyGermany Mainz , Germany
Intendant Thomas Bellut
List of TV channels

The Second German Television ( ZDF ) is a broadcasting company based in Mainz . Together with ARD and Deutschlandradio , ZDF forms the public broadcaster in Germany . ZDF was founded in 1963 and is one of the largest public broadcasters in Europe . In addition to the main program ZDF , the Second German Television is responsible for the television channels ZDFneo and ZDFinfo . In addition, the ZDF participates in various joint broadcasting offers.

History and Development


First ZDF logo

Even before the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949, there were already some broadcasters in existence. Konrad Adenauer viewed radio , radio and television as "political means of leadership" and tried to influence the existing broadcasting system. The goals of the federal government were an all-German and an international radio station as well as a second television program, initially under the Freie Fernsehen Gesellschaft GmbH ; which was also referred to by critics as Adenauer television due to its closeness to the state . On September 30, 1959, the Federal Cabinet passed the "Draft Law on Broadcasting". On July 25, 1960, Deutschland-Fernsehen GmbH was founded to operate the second television program. Some federal states then appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court to examine the competence of the federal and state governments to establish new broadcasting corporations.

After the Federal Constitutional Court had banned the so-called " Adenauer-Fernsehen " (the Deutschland-Fernsehen GmbH) in the 1st broadcasting judgment of February 28, 1961 and granted the federal states full broadcasting competence, the federal states decided in March 1961, independently of the previous broadcasters, to found a central non-profit television company under public law. On June 6, 1961, at the Prime Minister's Conference in Stuttgart , the Minister-Presidents signed the State Treaty on the "establishment of the public law institution of the Second German Television ". After not all states had ratified the treaty by December 1, 1961, the state treaty entered into force on that day, but only in the states that had previously deposited the ratification documents ( Baden-Württemberg , North Rhine-Westphalia , Rhineland-Palatinate ). Bavaria was the last state to deposit the ratification document on July 9, 1962. In the supervision of the ZDF, the federal states take turns in two-year periods.

There were disagreements between the prime ministers over the location of the station . Franz Meyers had initially campaigned for Essen - but after he was alone with the proposal, he was ultimately for Mainz together with the other Union Prime Ministers. The social democratic prime ministers found Mainz too provincial and suggested Frankfurt am Main . The argument against Frankfurt was that it shouldn't be a city in which a state broadcaster already existed. At the decisive conference, Franz Meyers surprisingly brought Düsseldorf into play. The first trial vote went on Frankfurt and resulted in four votes in favor ( Berlin , Bremen, Hamburg , Hesse), one abstention (Lower Saxony) and six votes against, all of which came from the Union-led states. The second trial vote went on Mainz or Düsseldorf. It resulted in five votes for Düsseldorf (Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia), one abstention (Lower Saxony) and five votes for Mainz. Georg-August Zinn then argued that he was against Mainz on the matter, but personally in favor, since Peter Altmeier had to be thanked for his years of negotiations on a second television program. The secret ballot carried out after separate deliberations resulted in five votes for Düsseldorf and six votes for Mainz.

When choosing the artistic director, party-political considerations were in the foreground. A majority of the Union parties allowed the TV Council to make a proposal from its own ranks, but the election also required votes from within the SPD. An eleven-member electoral committee made a balanced proposal: The Legation Council in the Foreign Office, Gerhard Brand, was to be the director, the SPD was to be allowed to appoint the program director, who was also the deputy director, the CDU the editor-in-chief and the FDP the administrative director. Brand refused, whereupon the committee was unable to agree on a director, there was only a majority for Bruno Heck , who, however, failed in the secret election of the television council on February 27, 1962. A new, now six-member committee then made four suggestions: Hans Bausch , Berthold Martin , Karl Holzamer and Wilhelm Vaillant , co-owners of the RIVA television studios . The SPD members of the television council considered all four candidates to be acceptable, the CDU members did not like Bausch and Vaillant and the decision was made with 16 to 13 votes between Holzamer and Martin. Holzamer was then elected by the TV Council with 44 votes out of 58, with nine votes against and four abstentions.

In order to be able to participate in the international program exchange, ZDF had to become a member of the European Broadcasting Union . The state broadcasters initially assumed that ZDF would become a member of ARD. However, this was strictly rejected at ZDF, since it saw its independence in jeopardy, and at a first meeting with ARD on September 12, 1962 in Stuttgart, an umbrella organization was proposed to which ARD and ZDF should belong. This did not please the ARD representatives. On May 2, 1962, the ZDF director applied for a separate membership for the ZDF, but this had to be rejected because only stations that had already started broadcasting were allowed to be included. Because the positions between ARD and ZDF remained immovable, ZDF decided not to exchange programs before broadcasting and then applied for renewed membership. The Administrative Council of the European Broadcasting Union approved the motion at its meeting from May 17 to 20, 1963, whereupon ARD and ZDF became equal members.

Sender identification and start of transmission

The station name Second German Television was included in the State Treaty without any major discussion. Since some employees saw something inferior in the designation second , alternative suggestions were made:

  • New German television
  • Germany television
  • Television of German countries
  • German national television

A representative survey in autumn 1962 showed the highest approval rate for Second German Television , followed by New German Television and German State Television . However, the legal situation did not allow a new name without changing the State Treaty, so the acronym ZDF plus one of the proposals was considered. However, the Board of Directors considered the consent of the Prime Minister to be necessary, whereupon the discussion was postponed and finally stopped by the Intendant.

A competition among "ten recognized graphic artists" was announced for the ZDF identification mark and the decision was made in January 1963 for the design by Woldemar Hörnig (born March 19, 1914 in Chemnitz). It showed two antenna masts and two stylized eyes, where people like to talk about muddy eyes on the transmitter.

The first test broadcast was broadcast by ZDF on the night of March 19-20, 1963. ZDF officially began broadcasting on April 1, 1963.

Eschborn and Wiesbaden

ZDF's broadcasting operations began in those provisional studios in Eschborn that had been taken over by the Freie Fernsehen Gesellschaft . It was a farm and some former labor camp buildings, an area often referred to as Telesibirsk . It housed two studios with 230 and 160 square meters and three cameras each, as well as a dubbing studio with two additional cameras so that it could also be used for announcements. The following were also available: a magnetic imaging system, three film scanners for 16 and 35 millimeters, a 16 mm recording system and a 16 mm development.

The ZDF board of directors found an expansion in Eschborn to be too expensive, whereupon a move to the provisional studio complex of Taunusfilm in Wiesbaden , Unter den Eichen, took place. There one started broadcasting on April 1, 1964. The broadcasting line, current service and technology were housed on the premises of Taunus-Film GmbH, while the cutting rooms, copier, photo laboratory and editor-in-chief were located on the adjacent property. In addition, the ZDF had rented up to 30 rooms in the greater Mainz / Wiesbaden area, in which, for example, the central archive or the synchronization were located.


Broadcasting facility in Mainz (2020)
Coat of arms of Mainz-Lerchenberg :
Heraldic lower left in blue the silver first transmitter logo

Coordinates: 49 ° 57 '52 "  N , 8 ° 12' 29"  O Planning saw from the outset a central location for all departments before. For this purpose, ZDF bought a 1.04 km²plot of landin the Mainz district of Lerchenberg on June 25, 1964. In the first phase of construction, a building for the OB vans could be moved into at the beginning of 1967; the second section, the 14-storey editorial and administration building in the spring of 1974.

On September 15, 1977, the earthworks began for the 3rd construction phase of the broadcasting operations building, a circular building designed by the Stieldorf planning group with the largest diameter of 166 meters. After six years of construction, the new ZDF broadcasting center (the largest in Europe at the time) finally went into operation on December 6, 1984 .

The connection between the Lerchenberg district and ZDF is also reflected in the coat of arms.

On July 17, 2009, a new television studio went into operation. It is used for the current news broadcasts and is a virtual studio . In the station's jargon it is called the “Green Hell” because the walls are completely green so that the backgrounds and 3D graphics can be digitally projected into them. According to media reports, the studio cost around 30 million euros.

Until August 2, 2015, production was still in SD, although most of the studio technology was already available for HD. There were problems rendering the virtual set in HD under real-time conditions. In January 2016, the technology for the clips also changed, and the studio has been fully HD-capable since then.

More broadcast studios

Today the station has 16 domestic studios, one in each state capital. In Berlin, the capital studio in Zollernhof, Unter den Linden, has also been in operation since February 2000. 18 foreign studios are responsible for reporting from abroad, two of them in the United States ( New York and Washington, DC ).

Organization and finance

The ZDF headquarters (administration building) in Mainz-Lerchenberg. The broadcasting center with the television garden is hidden behind it.
Company car of a ZDF camera team in Quedlinburg , with slogan and logo

The tasks, organization and financing of the ZDF are regulated in the ZDF State Treaty. The contracting parties are the 16 German federal states.

TV Council and Board of Directors

The television council monitors the program, approves the budget approved by the board of directors and elects the artistic director who represents the ZDF externally and is responsible for the business and programming of the television company. Marlehn Thieme has been chairman of the television council since July 2016 .

The ZDF board of directors decides on the budget and monitors the activities of the artistic director, particularly with regard to budget issues. It consists of 12 members, including four representatives from the federal states. The other eight members are elected by the TV Council and may not belong to any government or legislative body.

In addition to the chairman Malu Dreyer and the Prime Minister Stanislaw Tillich, there are currently two places to be filled by representatives of the federal states, after Horst Seehofer and Olaf Scholz left the federal government. Due to the " Causa Brender " in 2009, the influence of the parties on the board of directors is highly controversial.

Judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court 2014

The First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) ruled on March 25, 2014 that several provisions of the ZDF State Treaty are incompatible with the Basic Law . The composition of the "Television Council" and the "Administrative Council" in its current form violates the freedom of broadcasting . The proportion of politicians and “people close to the state” had to be reduced from more than 40 percent to a third. In addition, politicians are no longer allowed to exercise “any decisive influence” in the selection of members of the television council sent from social groups. The ZDF "must not become a state radio", said the court in its statement by Vice President Ferdinand Kirchhof . Social opinions are “to be mirrored in many ways”.

The lawyer Andreas Paulus , who was proposed as constitutional judge by the FDP in 2010, formulated a different opinion in the judgment: The judgment does not do justice to its own standard of reflecting the opinions of society in the broadcasting council. In his opinion, the participation of members of the executive branch is fundamentally harmful, a third quota too high. “If the supervisory bodies of radio and television are controlled by those whose control they are supposed to enable, among other things, their function is impaired. Through the possibility of sending executive representatives, the judgment redefines the state power from a threat to diversity to an element of precisely this guarantee of diversity. " Bodies.

The federal states had until June 30, 2015 to revise the ZDF State Treaty. The plaintiffs before the Federal Constitutional Court were the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg . Topics of the negotiation were, among other things, the unofficial, political “circles of friends” in which the television council meetings are prepared and whose influence is undisputed, the composition of the committees and R groups. On June 12, 2014, the Prime Minister's Conference decided to take the first steps to implement the judgment. The new version, according to which a maximum of one third of the members of the Board of Directors may be “persons affiliated with the state”, came into force on January 1, 2016.


As of December 31, 2016, ZDF had around 3,400 permanent employees and around 4,500 freelance workers in Germany and abroad, the latter corresponding to around 1,900 full-time equivalents.


Thomas Bellut

The director is at the top of the station's hierarchy, represents ZDF externally and manages the business. He is also responsible for the program and proposes the editor-in-chief , who is elected by the board of directors. The director is elected by the television council.

On July 2, 2021, Tina Hassel and Norbert Himmler competed against each other at the television council. After there was no majority after the second ballot, Tina Hassel voluntarily withdrew from the application.

The previous incumbents were:

  1. 1962–1977: Karl Holzamer
  2. 1977–1982: Karl-Günther von Hase
  3. 1982–2002: Dieter Stolte
  4. 2002–2012: Markus Schächter
  5. since 2012: Thomas Bellut
  6. expected from 2022: Norbert Himmler

The salaries of the artistic director and the directors are published in accordance with the ZDF State Treaty . In 2017, including remuneration in kind for the artistic director, they were 352,722.00 euros; In addition, there is a monthly allowance of 766.94 euros. A further EUR 41,135.48 was paid for activities at ZDF subsidiaries and affiliates. Provisions in the amount of € 1,015,166 were made in 2017 for the retirement benefits of the director (present value € 5,515,466) that were promised after the regular retirement. In 2018, the artistic director's basic salary including remuneration in kind was 368,957.15 euros, the other components of the remuneration were unchanged.


Four directors are subordinate to the artistic director, who lead the directorates of the television company. These are currently:


Financing the ZDF proved to be very difficult in the first few years. Of the 5  DM radio and television fees, 1.35 DM or 27% went to the post office for the broadcasting network and the collection of fees, 70% of the remainder went to ARD and 30% to ZDF, which amounted to 1.095 DM - it did not come until 1972 to an increase in license fees. During the ARD-2 era, half of the income had to be passed on to ARD, after which the Bavarian Broadcasting Company caused difficulties with its position that the State Treaty violated the Basic Law and the Bavarian state constitution, whereupon the payments ended on September 1, 1963 and only after a judgment of the Federal Administrative Court of November 5, 1965 flowed again. Advertising income also fell short of expectations in the first few years.

The contribution service from ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio (until 2012: GEZ) currently collects 17.50 euros per apartment per month, of which around 4.32 euros go to ZDF. The budget in 2005 was around 1.6 billion euros (adjusted for purchasing power today: around 1.96 billion euros). Four years later, ZDF exceeded the two billion mark for the first time with an estimate of 2.048 billion euros. In 2012, the ZDF recorded a turnover of 2.028 billion euros. Between 2013 and 2016, an average of 243 million euros was spent on sports rights.

ZDF's contribution income from the broadcasting fee was as follows:

year Premium income source
2013 € 1,783,571,740
2014 € 1,937,983,369
2015 € 1,916,494,019
2016 1,884,769,888 €
2017 1,894,904,569 €
2018 € 1,903,032,525

subsidiary company

Program family and holdings

Broadcasting center 2 of the ZDF (former Sat.1 headquarters)

ZDF, together with ARD and all 16 German states, supports the public corporation Deutschlandradio (DLR) with the three national radio programs Deutschlandfunk Kultur , Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandfunk Nova . Together with the Italian broadcaster Rai and the French broadcaster France Télévisions , ZDF is involved in the European Alliance co-production group.

The ZDF also participates in the following television programs in cooperation with other radio and television companies:

  • 3sat (participation: 32.5 percent)
  • Phoenix (stake: 50 percent)
  • Arte (stake: 50 percent in Arte Germany, 25 percent in Arte GEIE)
  • KiKA (participation: 50 percent)

In his digital package (DVB) ZDFvision are also free to receive:

Former programs from ZDFvision:

Former ZDF programs:

  • ZDF Musikkanal , as an independent program on the air from January 1, 1984 to December 31, 1988. Thereafter, the station was switched from January 1989 to the end of November 1993 as a program window under the same name of the 3sat program and was completely absorbed in December 1993.
  • ZDF 2 , on the air from January 1, 1984 to November 30, 1984. The station was replaced on December 1, 1984 by 3sat.


ZDF operates several websites with different editorial teams :

The website is the responsibility of the "main editorial office for new media", since 2008 under the direction of Eckart Gaddum .
  • a news website. The "Redaktion ZDFheute" has been under the direction of Frederic Huwendiek since August 2018 .
  • a sports portal - the responsibility of the "main sports editorial team", which has been under the management of Thomas Fuhrmann since February 2017 .
  • Corporate communications website - under the responsibility of the "Communication Department", since October 2002 under the direction of Alexander Stock .
  • Press website that publishes changes and information on ZDF.
  • Website with weather from the ZDFheute editorial team
  • Website for booking tickets, guided tours in Mainz and Berlin, contact with editorial offices
  • Website for ordering fan articles, such as the Mainzelmännchen


Allegation of "embedded journalism"

Ulrich Tilgner let his contract with ZDF expire in 2010. The reason was his dissatisfaction with the working conditions (interference with freedom of the press and alliance considerations) in Germany. Tilgner criticized, among other things, that, in his opinion, there was a lack of independence on ZDF and, since Gerhard Schröder, a tendency towards " embedded journalism ". Tilgner finds many programs on boulevard-esque and pious to the government. A closed cycle was created, "in which journalists are the addressees of symbolic politics and the truth falls by the wayside".

Party dominance and spy system

In a 2010 interview with Spiegel magazine, editor-in-chief Nikolaus Brender criticized the dominance of party politics in public broadcasting and the parties' “proportionality thinking”. He continued to speak of a "spy system that lives from the fact that editors report internal broadcasts to the parties" and described them as " unofficial employees " of the parties who are "really comparable to the GDR's IM ". There is a “fine-grained network of dependencies”. He himself tried to “at least keep such spies away from posts with real responsibility”. In particular, there would be a "dark, shadowy realm in the Union that has established itself in the administrative board and is now trying to dominate it". The Federal Constitutional Court is "the only institution that can secure public broadcasting from the state, form and thus future".

The party dominance also became clear in 2001 and 2002 in the search for a successor to director Dieter Stolte . Markus Schächter was only elected as the new artistic director in March 2002 after five ballots .


  • 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. Fac., 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), Diss. 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

Commons : ZDF  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. The Federal Chancellor was fed up with it , of March 26, 2013, accessed on December 7, 2018
  2. ^ Founding of the ZDF - An insight into the founding phase. (PDF; 61 kB) In: Federal Agency for Civic Education. Retrieved February 8, 2018 .
  3. The History of ZDF, Chapter 3.2 Signing the State Treaty on Second German Television
  4. The history of ZDF, Chapter 4.5 Election of the artistic director
  5. The history of ZDF, chapter 4.8 ZDF membership in the Eurovision
  6. The history of ZDF, Chapter 4.9 Institution name and sender identification
  7. ^ ZDF press release from January 16, 1963
  8. Der Spiegel 1967, Issue 16, Audience hurts
  9. Heike Lattka: First “TODAY” broadcast - news from Telesibirsk ; of April 12, 2012, accessed on December 7, 2018
  10. Video today plus: When moderators wear green (October 27, 2011, 7:20 pm, 0:59 min.)  In the ZDFmediathek , accessed on April 1, 2013.
  11. For example, The Green Hell is opened from September 22, 2009
  12. ZDF messages are delayed in HD . In: . August 3, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  13. ZDF State Treaty of August 31, 1991, in the version of the twenty-first State Treaty amending State Treaty on Broadcasting (Twenty-first State Treaty Amendment Act) in force since May 25, 2018. (PDF; 105 kB) Retrieved January 2, 2020 .
  14. Marlehn Thieme is the new head of the ZDF television council. Spiegel Online , July 8, 2016, accessed October 14, 2018 .
  15. ^ Members of the ZDF board of directors
  16. The dispute over ZDF editor-in-chief Brender escalates. In: November 26, 2009, accessed December 8, 2014 .
  17. ^ Judgment text on the court's website , accessed on June 11, 2014
  18. See Federal Constitutional Court (BverfG): 1 BvF 1/11 of March 25, 2014, paragraph no. 41
  19. ^ Judgment in Karlsruhe: Politics must limit influence on ZDF. Der Spiegel , March 25, 2014, accessed on March 25, 2014 .
  20. Press release of the State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg , June 12, 2014, accessed on June 12, 2014
  21. ^ The ZDF board of directors
  22. Employees and locations. Accessed January 2, 2020 .
  23. Remuneration of the management / tariff structures. Retrieved August 4, 2019 .
  24. Remuneration of the management / tariff structures. Retrieved January 8, 2021 .
  25. Rules and Finances. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on July 1, 2013 ; Retrieved July 16, 2013 .
  26. a b IfM - ZDF. Retrieved July 16, 2013 .
  27. Markus Brauck, Hauke ​​Goos, Isabell Hülsen , Alexander Kühn: image disturbance . In: Der Spiegel . No. 41 , 2017, p. 10–16 ( online - October 7, 2017 ).
  28. a b 2014 annual financial statements: income statement. (PDF; 1.2 MB) Retrieved February 27, 2019 .
  29. a b 2016 annual financial statements: Income statement. Retrieved February 27, 2019 .
  30. Annual financial statements 2017: Income statement. Retrieved August 4, 2019 .
  31. Annual financial statements 2018: Income statement. Retrieved January 8, 2021 .
  32. 3sat at a glance . 3 sat. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  33. a b c Participations of ZDF ( Memento from June 28, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) [13. September 2011]
  35. Imprint. In: Retrieved June 30, 2017 .
  36. Biography of Dr. Eckart Gaddum. In: ZDF press portal. Retrieved June 30, 2017 .
  37. Biography of Frederic Huwendiek. In: ZDF press portal. Retrieved May 10, 2021 .
  38. Thomas Fuhrmann's biography. In: ZDF press portal. Retrieved June 30, 2017 .
  39. Biography of Alexander Stock. In: ZDF press portal. Retrieved June 30, 2017 .
  40. Hans Leyendecker , Christopher Keil: Ulrich Tilgner in conflict with the ZDF. Sore . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . January 30, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  41. ^ Crisis reports from the Arab world , Stuttgarter Zeitung on March 26, 2011
  42. Brender denounces the "spy system" in public law. In: Spiegel Online. February 20, 2010.
  43. ^ ZDF: The Intendanten-Stadl. Der Spiegel, November 5, 2001, accessed November 15, 2016 .
  44. Miracle from Lerchenberg. Tagesspiegel , March 11, 2002, accessed November 15, 2016 .