Welcome to the course unit about the German Media System. Germany is the most populated and probably most powerful country in the EU, located in the center of Europe. Its media system has many unique features, which we seek out to explain in the following chapters. You will also find a full transcript in the tabs next to the video, as well as additional learning material and links. Click below to view a short summary of the most important facts.

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Quick Facts about the German Media System

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The German Media System

1: Introduction

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    Chapter One: Intro


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    Who WE are

    This course unit will give you an introduction to the German media system. It is part of a series of online lectures on media systems in the Arab World and Europe. These are produced by the leading media studies institutes in the respective country brought together by AREACORE, the Arab European Association of media and communication researchers.

    This session on the German media system has been produced on behalf of the institute for media and communication studies at Freie Universität Berlin. With 9 professors and 1300 Students on undergraduate, master and doctoral studies level it is one of the biggest institutes in Germany and features the expertise to tell you more about the German media system.

    Student Questions

    Student questions: What questions do you have about the German media system?

    Q1: Is the number of audience high for TV, newspapers, radio, and online comparatively?

    Q2: I have a small question about press freedom. How is it protected and something about it?

    Q3: So I have a question about the foreign media ownership. I would assume that after the fall of the wall, are there changes in foreign media ownership in Germany. And if there is so, what are the main key players and stakeholders?

    Structure of the lesson

    We hope to answer some of those as well as your questions by our lecture.

    • First, we will give you a historical overview
    • Second we will provide more general information on German society and its current challenges
    • Third, you get an overview of the overall structure of the media system
    • Fourth, we will tell you about the political and legal framework of the media
    • Fifth, the economic context such as ownership structures are explained
    • Sixth, we will give you more information about the state of journalism                         
    • Last but not least we talk about the digital infrastructure and Internet use in Germany

    You can get more information and find lectures on other countries on our website www.areacore.org.

    But now: let's get started!

    من نحن هذه الدورة ستعطيكم مقدمة حول النظام الإعلامي في ألمانيا. وهي جزء من سلسلة محاضرات عبر الانترنت حول النظم الإعلامية في العالم العربي وفي أوروبا. ويتم انتاجها من قبل معاهد دراسات الإعلام في الدول المشتركة،

    تحت رعاية الجمعية العربية الأوروبية لباحثي الإعلام.

    المعهد لقد تم إنتاج هذا الجزء حول النظام الإعلامي الألماني من قبل معهد دراسات الإعلام والإتصال في جامعة برلين الحرة. يضم معهد دراسات الإعلام والاتصال تسعة محاضرين بدرجة بدرجة بروفيسور، وأكثر من ١٠٠٠ طالب للقب الأول، الثاني والدكتوراة،  

    ويعتبر من أكبر المعاهد في ألمانيا،

    وبالتالي لديه الخبرة الكافية لإطلاعكم على النظام الإعلامي الألماني.

    أسئلة الطلاب

    هل لديك أسئلة حول النظام الإعلامي في ألمانيا؟


    هل جمهور التلفزيون كبير مقارنة بالصحف والراديو والمواقع الالكترونية؟

    لدي سؤال قصير حول حرية الصحافة. كيف يتم حمايتها ؟

    لدي سؤال حول الملكية الأجنبية.اعتقد أنه بعد سقوط الجدار حصلت تغييرات في الملكية الأجنبية لوسائل الإعلام الألمانية.

    إذا كان هذا صحيحا، من هم اللاعبون والمالكون الأساسيون؟

    نأمل أن ننجح في الإجابة على بعض هذه الأسئلة

    وكذلك على أسئلتكم أنتم من خلال هذه المحاضرة.

    أولا، سنقدّم لمحة تاريخية

    ثانيا، سنقدّم معلومات عامة حول المجتمع الألماني والتحديات التي يواجهها حاليا

    ثالثا، سنقدم لمحة حول المبنى العام للنظام الإعلامي

    رابعا، سنطلعكم على الإطار السياسي والقانوني لوسائل الإعلام

    خامسا، السياق الاقتصادي، يشمل شرحا حول الملكية

    سادسا، سنقدّم لكم معلومات حول وضع الصحافة

    أخيرا، سنحدثكم حول البنى التحتية الرقمية واستخدام الانترنت في ألمانيا

    يمكنكم الحصول على معلومات إضافية

    ومشاهدة محاضرات حول الدول الأخرى

    على موقعنا الالكتروني www.areacore.org

    دعونا نبدأ الآن!




    2: Media History

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      Chapter Two: Media History


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      In order to understand Germany’s media system, one has to know its history.

      Many of its particularities are results of the countries moved past. Media history begins even before the German national state was constituted.

      • a first important landmark was the invention of the printing press with movable letters. Approximately around 1450 Johannes Gutenberg developed a machine that could print bibles in larger quantities, making them available for more and more people

      • In 1609 the first periodical newspaper “Aviso” was published, but it took nearly 200 years more until a serious press landscape developed in Germany. A necessary precondition was further technological progress, like the invention of the quick-printing press.

      • 19th century more and more regular and daily newspapers were established, mostly “opinion press” or “party press”: media was strongly affiliated with certain parties or political fractions, like conservative, liberal and socialist press. By that time, according to Habermas, a “bourgeois public sphere”, emerged. We would call it today polarized pluralist: each paper very biased but together expressing broad pluralism. This general tendency continued until the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

      • 1819: since the press became more vivid and important, the ruling aristocrats agreed on censoring it

      • in 1848: however, after the March revolution press freedom was implemented in several constitutions across Germany

      • in 1871: the formerly scattered German countries are united to form the “German Empire” and national media started to grow for example major publishing houses were founded since 1870 like Ullstein Verlag, Scherl, Mosse

      • 1914-1918 during WWI, press freedom was once again abolished by military censorship. However, technological development advanced quickly:

      • in 1917 the Universum Film AG (UFA), as first German film company is founded

      • in 1926: first radio broadcast was transmitted in Germany  by Deutsche Welle AG) and in 1929 the first television was broadcast as well, but dark times approached as the Nazis seized power in 1933 and started with it a dark phase of media manipulation and instrumentalization. Under the term of “Gleichschaltung” (bringing into line), all media had to adapt to the Nazi ideology. Media was centralized and media companies and publishers were expropriated. Especially the radio (“volksempfänger” or “people’s receiver) and public weekly newsreels in cinema were heavily utilized for Nazi propaganda, spreading anti-semite hate-speech and justification of the war

      • 1945: at the end of the WWII the huge task was to establish a democratic and pluralist media system, preventing abuses like during the Nazi era in the future, the allies vowed for a re-Education of the German population: newspapers had to be licensed and were subject to censorship after publication

      • 1949: Germany is officially separated: this leads to completely different media systems. In the eastern GDR a heavily state-controlled media system was implemented, including party-press and censorship alike the soviet model.
        Its main task was to serve as the “voice of the working class” and to educate citizens to “socialist personalities”

      • In western Germany, a federal public broadcasting service similar to the British bbc was introduced as well as a press System allowing only minimal interference by the state. While press products did not cross the border between the two states, East German citizens were able to receive West-German television (and vice-versa). This led to a subtle propaganda-war on both sides. However, it was West German radio and television which had a strong audience in East Germany.

      • In 1984: the dual system is introduced in Germany, meaning that for the first time private broadcasting is allowed. Technical progress like cable & later satellite TV made it possible to broadcast more channels, but in particular the pressure of market liberalization in the 1980s in Europe were the main reasons for this development.

      • In 1990 Germany was reunified: The east German media landscape was to be incorporated into the West German. State owned TV and radio channels are transformed into public broadcasters, many (regional) newspapers were sold by the reunification trust agency to West-German publishers and media companies. While the principal structure remained, there was a strong decline in east German newspaper circulation

      • Since 2000: new dynamics in press landscapes emergence. Online journalism leads to declining circulations and a downfall of the ad-sales. This development is coined as “Zeitungssterben” or “dying of the press”, but compared to the US the crisis is not as severe. However, it leads to a diversification of media formats, content and distribution and the emergence of new business models, cross-media formats, blogs and web formats.


      لكي نفهم النظام الأعلامي في ألمانيا يجب أن نتعرّف على تاريخه الكثير من مميزات هذا النظام هو نتاج تاريخ البلاد هذا التاريخ يبدأ حتى قبل تأسيس الدولة القومية في ألمانيا كان أول حدث هام هو اختراع الصحف المطبوعة من خلال الرسائل المنقولة.

      فحوالي العام ١٤٥٠ طوّر يوهانس غوتنبرغ آلة لطباعة الكتب المقدسة بكميات كبيرة، ما اتاحها للمزيد من الناس.

      في العام ١٦٠٩ تم اصدار أول صحيفة دورية أفيزو لكن استغرق الوقت حوالي مئتي عام ليتم تطوير الإصدارات الصحفية في ألمانيا.

      وكان من الضروري حصول المزيد من التطور التكنولوجي، في القرن التاسع عشر، بدأ عدد الصحف اليومية بالتزايد،

       وكانت غالبها صحف الرأيأو صحف حزبية حيث كانت غالبية وسائل الإعلام مرتبطة بأحزاب أو فصائل سياسية، 

      وتوزعت بين المحافظة، اللبرالية أو الاشتراكية وفي ذلك الوقت ظهر، وفق هابرماس، حيز عام برجوازي،

       نسميه اليوم استقطاب تعددي كل صحيفة منحازة لكن بالمجمل جميعها يعبر عن تعددية واسعة.

      هذا الوضع استمر حتى إنشاء جمهورية فاينمار في العشرينات من القرن العشرين وفي العام ١٨١٩،عندما اصبح الإعلام حيويا وهاما،

      قررت الطبقة الارستقراطية الحاكمة ممارسة الرقابة عليه ولكن في عام ١٨٤٨وبعد ثورة آذار، تم ضمان حرية الصحافة في اكثر من دستور على مستوى ألمانيا

       كاختراع آلة طباعة الصحف السريعة.

      عام ١٨٧١: تم توحيد الدويلات الألمانية المختلفة ضمن امبراطورية ألمانياما أدى إلى نمو الصحافة الوطنية وبدأ عدد من دور النشر بالظهور منذ ١٨٧٠

      مثل دار النشر اولشتاين، فيرلاغ، شيرل وموسيه خلال الحرب العالمية الثانية ١٩١٤-٩١٨

      تم مرة أخرى ممارسة الرقابة العسكرية وإلغاء حرية التعبير لكن من ناحية أخرى حصلت تطورات تكنولوجية ففي العام ١٩١٧ تم تأسيس أول شركة لانتاج الأفلام في ألمانيا

      وفي العام ١٩٢٦ بدأت أول إذاعة بالبث من قبل الدويتشه فيله وفي العام ١٩٢٩ بدأ أول تلفزيون بالبث

      لكن الحقبة الظلامية وصلت عندما صعد النازيون للحكم عام ١٩٣٣

      وبدأت معهم مرحلة ظلامية من  توظيف الإعلام والتلاعب به

      تحت عنوان غلايشالتونغ” (الصف الواحد)، كان على الإعلام التأقلم مع الفكر النازي.

      خضع الإعلام للحكم المركزي وتم مصادرة شركات الإعلام والناشرين واستخدمت النازية بشكل كبير الإذاعة

       وشريط الأخبار في دور السينما لنشر البروبوغاندا، الخطاب المعادي للسامية وكذلك تبرير الحرب.


      وفي عام ١٩٤٥، بعد انتهاء الحرب العالمية الثانية كان من أهم المهام تأسيس نظام إعلامي ديمقراطي وتعددي،

      لمنع تكرار ما حصل أثناء النازية في المستقبل. إهتم الحلفاء بإعادة تعليم السكان الألمان، وكان على الصحف الحصول على ترخيص، التي خضعت أيضا للرقابة بعد النشر

      عام ١٩٤٩- تم تقسيم ألمانيا رسميا،

      وهذا أنتج نظم إعلامية مختلفة كليا.

      في شرق ألمانيا- مارست جمهورية ألمانيا الديمقراطية

      السيطرة الكاملة على وسائل الإعلام،

      من خلال الصحافة الحزبية والرقابة،

      تماما كنموذج الاتحاد السوفييتي.

      كانت مهمتها الأساسية أن تمثل "صوت الطبقة العاملة"

      وتوعية المواطنين ليكونوا شخصيات اشتراكية”.

      في غرب ألمانيا، تم طرح خدمة البث الفدرالية العامة،

      مثل البي بي سي البريطانية،

      ومنظومة صحافة تضمن أدنى مستوى من تدخل الدولة.

      في حين أن منتجات الصحافة لم تستطع العبور بين الدولتين،

       وصلت المحطات المتلفزة في كل من الدولتين

      إلى مواطني الدولة الأخرى.

      وهذا أدى إلى حرب دعاية بين الطرفين.

      لكن، كان لمحطات الإذاعة والتلفزيون في برلين الغربية

      جمهور واسع في برلين الشرقية.

      عام ١٩٨٤- بدأ العمل بالنظام المزدوج في ألمانيا، وأصبح مسموحا إنشاء بث خاص لأول مرة.

      وقد اتاح التطور التكنولوجي مثل محطات الكوابل والفضائيات أنشاء المزيد من المحطات،

      كما وكان المسبب الرئيسي لهذا التزايد هو ضغوطات تحرر السوق في أوروبا خلال الثمانينات.

      عام ١٩٩٠- تم توحيد ألمانيا:

      قد تم دمج المنظومة الإعلامية لألمانيا الشرقية

       في منظومة ألمانيا الغربية.

      تم تحويل محطات الإذاعة والتلفزيون

      التابعة للدولة إلى قنوان البث العام، وبيع عدد من الصحف المناطقية إلى ناشرين

      وشركات إعلامية في ألمانيا الغربية.

      وبينما بقي المبنى العام على ما هو،حصل انخفاض حاد في انتشار الصحف في ألمانيا الشرقية.

      عام ٢٠٠٠- بدأت بالظهور ديناميكيات جديدة في خارطة الصحافة.

      وأدى ظهور الصحافة الالكترونية إلى هبوط في بيع الإعلانات.

      وقد أطلق على هذا التطور موت الصحافة،

      لكن مقارنة بالولايات المتحدة،

      فإن الأزمة ليست بهذه الخطورة.

      ومع ذلك، فإنه يؤدي إلى تنويع أشكال وسائل الإعلام، المحتوى، التوزيع وظهور نماذج تجارية جديدة،

       وأشكال تتعدى كونها وسائل إعلام، مدونات ونماذج أخرى على شبكة الانترنت.




      3: Society & Areas of Conflict

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        Chapter Three: Society & Areas of Conflict


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        For visitors, Germany tends to seem peaceful, safe and excessively tidy. In fact, Germany has relatively low crime-rates and hasn’t experienced much inner state-violence since World War II. Autochthonous minorities like the Sorbs in the East or the Danish in the North are granted specific right to protect their culture and ensure political participation. But still there are lines of conflict in the German society: Even more than 20 years after the German reunification the division between East and West Germany remains.

        During the reunification, there had been massive transformations in the former GDR that took place in a very short period of time. Many of these changes still have ramifications until today. Most obviously, there is still an income gap between the former east and the west, but there are also con siderable cultural differences. E.g. in their media usage patterns, east Germans watch in general more TV, prefer private channels over public broadcasters and read fewer nation-wide newspapers in general. Possible explanations are a higher focus on entertainment and a lack of trust in political institutions compared to west Germany. Besides this, the question of how to deal with the socialistic past and its heritage is a matter that remains subject to debate in the German media landscape.

        A development with unpredictable long-term effects is the “demographic shift”. Birth rates are quite low in Germany, so a transition to a more and more elderly society seems inevitable. This poses major challenges towards the social systems and the economy, but also has an effect on media.Traditional media such as TV, radio and print media are still dominating. Also media content caters often to the interests of the elderly.

        An undissolved area of conflict is the adequate representation of migrants and minorities in German media. The biggest migrant community in Germany are Turkish and Germans from Turkish decent. Tens of thousands were invited to come to work in (West-) Germany as so called Gastarbeiter (Guest workers) during the 1960s. Since then, there has been a constant, often paternalistic debate about the problems of integration and alleged segregation. Existing problems are often framed by German politicians and the media as being connected to Islam. Especially in the light of recent developments, like the rise of ISIS and growing refugee movements, the image of Muslims has worsened and people of Turkish or Arab descent are perceived as a threat. Islamophobia is once again on the rise and is expressed through populist mass-movements like PEGIDA but also in extremist right-wing terrorism like in the so called National-Socialist Underground.

        However, it is also a major debate in the media:

        Interview: Rana Göroglu (Mediendienst Integration)

        Unfortunately they [Germans  are represented mostly negative. But this doesn’t only concern topics revolving around Muslim and Islam but generally most of the issues because negative headlines simply sell better.And unfortunately this applies also to issues regarding Islam and Moslems.

        But I do also believe that journalists tend to reproduce stereotypes. There is a dominating negative image of Muslims and Islam in the society also partly due to this negative coverage and I think it’s hard to break this circle.

        There has been a shift in this image since 9/11. You could say “the Muslims” are the new “foreigners”. Back then there was a lot reporting about “the foreigners” and all problems like problems with integration, “retrogressively”, worse graduation results and everything connected to that. This image was more and more superimposed in the past years by “the Muslim”. When we have negative reports then mostly about “the others”.

        So the Muslims are mostly those “others” we report about.

         Interview_Göroglu.mp4 Interview with Rana Göroglu about the way Muslims are pictured in German media

        4: General Information about the Media System

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          Chapter four: General Information about the Media System


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          Television is by far the most used and widest spread media in Germany and is therefore particularly important. TV doesn’t only serve entertainment purposes; most of the Germans use it also for political education and for information. The German broadcasting is characterized by a dualistic system: a public broadcasting service on the one hand, and private broadcasters on the other hand. Until 1984, private broadcasting wasn’t allowed. Therefore the mission of the public broadcasters is to provide a full program, consisting of a mix of entertainment, information and education. The broadcasting mandate also requires to offer a “basic supply” of information and to offer a pluralistic range of views.

          Interview: Prof. Dr. Jan Tonnemacher (Professor for Media Studies at Freie Universität Berlin):

          The first or core principle of the founding fathers of the German broadcasting system was to give broadcasting freedom from government influence. The second, driven by the same experiences, was decentralization and division of powers which is normal as a basis for democracy. In both totalitarian regimes, radio and television were centralized under the power of the government and the parties.

          The solution was – for the newly funded Federal Republic of Germany – cultural sovereignty of the states, not of Germany as a total. They found this better and included responsibility for the mass media.

          Thirdly, there should be public funding for public broadcasting. But the money should not be raised by a state tax. Every household is responsible for public broadcasting by paying a monthly fee. So that gives independence as well. And the fourth principle: obligation of public broadcasting to offer a diversity of programs for all with program variety, one could say, possibly serving all needs in the best possible way.

          Q: What are advantages and disadvantages of the German public broadcasting system?

          To have an autonomous public broadcasting service. Being independent from the government and from economic powers as well. Offering quality programs which are better for information. Furthering investigative journalism, adding to form public opinion/s with education and entertainment. Plus, functioning as a controlling institution for the economic and political powers in Germany.

          But I would as well see major disadvantages: A weakness in the construction of the broadcasting councils, the regulating boards. A council consists of members of a number of different societal, social relevant groups and among others but with heavy weight – the political parties. So independence from government is rather secured but not from the political parties. There representatives are more or less dominant in many boards of the broadcasting stations.

          Secondly, the corporations ARD and ZDF partly tend to follow the run for viewer shares, the quota, in order to compete with commercial television. This results maybe in a tendency of assimilation, at least for parts of the program, mostly in the prime time. But looking for mass attractive entertainment programs is not the solution for the competition with the private commercial televisions.

          They should think of their advantages.

          Private television exists in Germany since 1984. Today, private channels hold a market share around 45%. The market is basically divided between only two companies: one is Bertelsmann and the other one is the ProSiebenSat1 AG. Since the beginning, private broadcasters are criticized for offering lower quality content and focus on (light) entertainment.

          In general, the share of informational and news programs is lower than the ones of the public broadcasters and the coverage focuses more on scandals than on political issues. However, they are obliged by law to incorporate news in their program if they wish to broadcast nationally. Furthermore, there is a growing convergence between the content of both public and private broadcasters.

          The Press

          Germany is characterized by its wide-spread regional press. People from Berlin tend to read papers from Berlin, people from Munich tend to read papers from Munich and so on. Even national newspapers specific regional parts in order to be more attractive to readers. Altogether, regional dailies reach nearly 50% of the population. However, due to advancing press concentration, in over half of the administration districts only one regional newspaper is available – which is problematic in terms of diversity.

          The most widely spread daily newspaper is the tabloid “BILD” owned by Axel Springer publishing house. Due to its enormous reach of over 12 Mio readers, BILD is regarded as a political actor itself. It has been involved in the rise and fall of several politicians including president Christian Wulff. Like other tabloids, BILD has often been criticized for neglecting journalistic ethics. Politically, BILD is rather conservative. In its guidelines it demands from its journalists to hold solidarity with Israel, support the transatlantic alliance with the US and to defend the social market economy.

          National high quality dailies do not have such a high reach in terms of sold copies, but nevertheless they have a high political influence and are seen as opinion leaders.Several newspapers differ in their political tendencies.

          The most important ones are the Munich based “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, which is more liberal, and the Frankfurt-based “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” which is more conservative. Each of them sells about 400.000 copies per day.

          The Berlin-based “taz” is a leftist daily which is owned by a cooperative – unique in the German media landscape.

          The “Handelsblatt”, based in Düsseldorf, which is the biggest newspaper with a focus on the economy is also important.

          Also weekly political magazines like “Der Spiegel”, “die Zeit” and “der Stern” are very influential in the German public sphere. They formed the liberal “Hamburg-Cartel” of post war Germany.

          In times of declining newspaper circulation, weeklies gather more popularity since they offer in-depths analyses that are rarely to be found in online journalism.

          Online journalism

          Online journalism is still far behind the traditional sources of information, but is getting more and more important. In 2013, 60% of the Germans used the internet as a source for political information. The most visited news sites are “Bild.de”, “Focus Online” and “Spiegel online” and “Zeit online”.

          It is noticeable that these are the online versions of traditional newspapers. Despite having often separate editorial departments, the online versions still rely heavily on print journalism in terms of content and financing. However, websites like “Huffington Post” and “and “Vice” which produce primarily online content and are quite successful with it.

          Axel Springer recently reorganized its prestigious press title “Die Welt” into an online pay-to-read news platform, which only secondarily releases a print version. Advancing digitalization and different forms of financing make it seem likely that the internet will overtake traditional print journalism one day as a major news source.


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          Statistics_Most visited news sites.pdf

          Statistics_Market Share of Regional Dailies.pdf


          5: Media Use

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            Chapter five: Media Use


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            Despite the spreading of the internet, television remains the most widely used medium in Germany. In fact, the average use further increased until last year. In 2014, the average German watched around 4 hours of TV per day. Second most used is radio broadcasting, slowly losing importance but still remaining an essential part of the media menu of the Germans.

            In particular in the morning hours, Germans listen to the radio. Newspapers are used less extensively; in 2014 on the average people spend only 23 min per day reading newspapers. However, it is still important considering newspapers are mostly used for informational purposes and not for entertainment.

            The internet usage is steadily increasing. Compared to other Western countries, Germans seem to be more reluctant – more than 20 % don’t use the internet at all or only rarely although there is almost complete internet infrastructure coverage.

            Interestingly and due to media convergence and mobile media use, overall media usage significantly increased – the average German spends more than 10 hours per day consuming content from any type of media.

            Interview: Prof. Dr. Martin Emmer (Professor for Media Studies at Freie Universität Berlin):

            Q: But where do we get such detailed data about the German media usage from?

            Basically, there are two types of research: First is more case study orientated dealing with small groups of people, exploratory research.This is something that is done for example by companies which try to develop new formats for example for TV shows. They usually do kinds like that; focus groups for example, qualitative interviews or things like that.

            Then there is that highly standardized research, which usually is used for evaluating market shares of media. That’s necessary for developing the “currency” for selling advertisements and refunding production. And then third is scientific research. That is something that we are doing at university.

            We use a lot of methods, often a mix of methods in order to answer specific research questions.

            6: Media Politics & Press Freedom

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              Chapter six: Media Politics


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              According to the world press freedom index 2015 of the NGO “reporting without boarders”, Germany is among the freest countries for journalist in the world, coming in at rank 12. Freedom of speech, as well as press freedom, is established as a fundamental right in article 5 of the German Grundgesetz – which is our constitution. Drawing from the experience of the instrumentalization of media during World War II, the constitution prevents the state from owning mass media or interfering into them.

              Concerning newspapers and other print media, there is no need to obtain a license to publish. Every person can simply decide to publish a newspaper and do it. The journalistic profession itself does not require any sort of certificate or qualification – basically anybody can call him- or herself a journalist.

              But the boundaries of press freedom are not unlimited. Article 5 also protects individual rights or the well-being of the youth according to civil or criminal laws. Wherever individual interests conflict with fundamental rights, each case has to be settled in court individually. German courts tend to uphold press freedom, in particular when it comes to satire and expressions of opinion.

              The German Press is self-controlled through the “Presserat”, an institution where the public can complain about press coverage. However, this institution has very little power as it has almost no possibilities to sanction anyone – it is more an upholder of ethical standards. The quality of the press itself shall be regulated by the market and competition, which poses the threat that the press tends to follow market interests.

              Broadcasting is a slightly different matter. As it requires huge capital and effort to start a broadcasting channel and frequencies are limited, privately owned broadcasters have to obtain a license from the “Landesmedienanstalt” – a public-corporatist body in each federal state in Germany. These bodies shall ensure a certain “inner pluralism” in each channel’s content. Private channels are obliged to present a diversity of opinions and to respect the “human dignity”. Full programs have to devote a certain amount of their program time to news.

              If they do not comply with the conditions, their license might not be renewed.

              Licenses for new channels can also be denied if the company behind the new channel has already a combined market share of more than 30% or its cross-media ownership in both the print and broadcasting market would give the company a dominant position in the German media sphere. For example, in 2005, Springer publishing house was denied to take over the second biggest private broadcasting company ProSiebenSat1 AG.

              This press-friendly legal framework doesn’t mean everything is perfect for German journalists. Reporters without borders criticize various problems in Germany, e.g. state surveillance and bureaucratic hurdles to obtain official information.





              7: Media System & Public Broadcasting

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                Chapter seven: Media System & Public Broadcasting


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                Germany is the 4th biggest economy in the world with a per Capita GDP more than 45.000 USD per year. With such a high purchasing power in mind, it seems only natural that most of the privately owned media is financed through ad-sales. Television and daily newspapers generate the most income in advertising media. This has different implications: privately owned TV-channels rely almost exclusively on ad-sales, therefore above all depend on good ratings. This causes constant discussions about quality and ethics of private TV-programming.

                Newspapers generate on average 40% through ad-sales and around 60% through subscription and copy sales. The dependency on ad-sales is less than compared to private broadcasting, but since the press’ normative claim of spreading political information to the public, this relationship can still be  problematic. As revenues increase with a higher circulation, but production costs remain nearly the same, the ad-financed system favors press-concentration and monopolization.

                Another relating problem is the possible influence of ad-clients on newspaper content. Through increasing financial pressure, many journalists are tempted to blur the borders between advertisements and articles or sometimes articles are only published because they synergize with an ad in order to please the client.

                To avoid this problem for public broadcasters, they are financed by a fee every German household has to pay. From approx. 18€ per household per month, all the different public service broadcasters like ARD, Deutschlandradio or arte are financed. The KEF (Kommission zur Ermittlung des Finanzbedarfs der Rundfunkanstalten = Commission for defining the financial need of public broadcasters), a commission whose members are appointed from the prime ministers of each federal state calculate this fee, which is constantly disputed and subject to court proceedings. However, up to now, the fee which makes up most of the budget of the 9.1 billion Euro (and is the highest budget of a non-commercial media company world-wide) the public service broadcaster has been secured. Public service broadcasters are only allowed to include advertisement or product placement for certain events like football games or during specific time frames of the day.

                Circulations of the traditional print-products are decreasing and so do the ad-revenues. For this reason many think that the future lies in different financing models. Today, there is another big question to be answered: How to finance Online-Media? Online offers of Germany’s newspapers have been traditionally free of charge for users, but the ad-sales do not generate nearly as much as their print-counterparts. The reason for this is that online-ads are much cheaper, but the editorial effort remains the same. Through the creation of online news-portals, many publishers created competitors for their own traditional press-titles. 

                Interview: Prof. Dr. Klaus Beck (Professor for Media Economics at Freie Universität Berlin):

                Q: Online-Journalism is getting more and more popular. Why is it so difficult financing it?

                First thing to say is: Maybe there are successful because they are free. So people are not willing to pay for them. That’s a great problem for professional journalism financing. And the appropriate way to finance quality journalism for a long time was advertising. But advertising isn’t working very well in the online sphere because advertising is very, very cheap and the reason for that is that everybody knows that advertising has only limited effects. That’s true for television and broadcasting media and print papers as well. But now we have the opportunity to measure that. We know exactly that it’s not working very well. That’s why the prices are so low. And that’s the problem to get enough advertising money for that.

                Q: What about different financing models like crowdfunding?

                I think the crowdfunding platforms have to face one problem, because they very much depend on the success of a specific news or article or contribution. And so if they would like to get more money, they have to select the pieces which are selling very well. And for the journalistic side, it’s a problem because it means a kind of marketing effect. So I have to write in a way, in a manner, that is good for selling this article and maybe it’s still independent but that’s not so clear. So you very much depend on the concrete payment.

                Q: Especially Axel Springer is pushing forward a paid-content-model. Will it be successful?

                Probably yes. Because I think even though advertising is not the real way to finance quality journalism, all the users have to learn that they have to pay for journalistic content as they did some years, some hundred years before since the foundation of the printed press. And paid content probably would be the model of success for the future.

                8: Ownership structure

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                  Chapter eight: Ownership structure


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                  One aspect that might endanger press diversity is concentration and one that might endanger the informational function of media is instrumentalization by media owners. Therefore, a critical review of who owns the media in Germany and which share of the media seems to be necessary. Besides the public service broadcaster and a few local civic broadcasters, all media in Germany are in the hands of private companies. Most of them are also international players. However and in contrast to other Western countries, most of them limit their investments to media and do not engage in other sectors of the industry.

                  Bertelsmann is the biggest media company in Germany with a turnover of over 16 billion Euros a year and thus the 9 biggest media company in the world. It operates internationally and owns TV-channels (RTL Group), the publishing house Penguin Randomhouse, such press titles as STERN and BRIGITTE, the music rights management group BMG and even the customer service provider Arvato. In Germany, Bertelsmann owns the RTL-Group, a group of private TV-channels that have a market share of over 25%. It also owns the Gruner + Jahr GmbH, Europe’s second biggest publishing house. Famous titles are the weekly “Stern” and the women’s magazine “Brigitte”. Gruner + Jahr owns also 25% of the influential weekly “Der Spiegel”. Originally been a family enterprise, the Mohn family is still strongly connected to the company.

                  The family still owns 19.1 % in stocks. Christoph Mohn, now representing the sixth generation since the company was founded in 1835, is chairman of the supervisory board. His mother Liz Mohn is also member of the supervisory board, as well as board director of the Bertelsmann foundation which owns another 77.6 % of stocks.

                  The highly dynamic media company Axel Springer aspires to be a multinational, cross-media operating corporation. Traditionally focused on press, Springer’s press titles have the reputation to follow a more conservative and US-friendly line, which caused controversy in the past. Famous titles are Germany’s biggest tabloid “Die Bild” and the national broadsheet “Die Welt”. Recently Springer invests more and more into digital media and is one of the driving forces for new business models in online journalism.

                  S: Influential People behind Axel Springer

                  Friede Springer: the widow of the company’s founder is probably the most important actor behind the company. Indirectly, she owns 51.35 % of the company and is also the associate chairman of the supervisory board. She influenced the development of the company heavily during the 90s and appointed current CEO Mathias Döpfner in 2002

                  Mathias Döpfner: The former editor in chief of Springer press title “Die Welt” is responsible for major strategy changes which finally led the company out of its crisis. He often appears in talkshows and comments in newspapers and openly presents his political views.

                  Having experienced many changes in ownership structure in the past years, the ProSiebenSat1 AG is the second biggest Television Company in Europe. It has a market share of nearly 20% in German television and focuses mainly on Free-to-air TV channels like “ProSieben” and “Sat 1” and relies heavily on entertainment.

                  The main focus of the Funke Mediengruppe is the regional press which is in Germany traditionally very strong. It owns 27 regional dailies and a number of magazines and other publications. Recently, Funke has got under economical pressure and was forced to shut down an entire editorial department of the regional daily “Westfälische Rundschau”. The title is still published, but the content is produced by editorial departments of other newspapers of the company.

                  Similarly,  the Hubert-Burda Media group, the Georg-von-Holtzbrinck-Group or the M. Dumont-Schauberg Group are all leading German cross-media groups that are characterized by a strong leading figure and shape the media landscape in Germany.

                  However, there are also other models of owning and financing media outlets beyond the typical capitalist model.

                  Interview: Konny Gellenbeck (national daily taz) about its cooperative financing model

                  We have until today 15,000 cooperative members. Each member gives us 500 Euros. He or she can pay it in 20 parts but the very special thing is that every person who becomes a cooperative member has only one vote and it doesn’t matter how many money you gave us. The special thing is that we have to sorts of cooperative members: the workers (they are here) and the membership from outside (they only give the money). That is a big difference in how to become independent from persons who give the money. The persons from outside, who became cooperative members, have no special rights concerning the content of the newspaper.


                  Media concentration

                  Regarding concentration, however, one can see that the biggest companies also dominate the market. As mentioned before, the TV market is divided between the public service broadcasters and a duopoly of RTL and ProSiebenSAT1.In the print market we can also observe concentration. In the regional daily market, which has the highest share in Germany, 10 companies own 60 % of the market. This is especially problematic because in 44 % of the districts only one regional daily is available. Companies hold regional monopolies.

                  The tabloid market is almost solely dominated by Axel Springer AG. Its market share is 79%.


                  9: Journalism & how to become a Journalist

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                    Chapter Nine: Journalism


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                    Journalism is not a protected profession in Germany and free of access. Anybody can call him- or herself a journalist. There are some associations like the German Journalists’ Union who are allowed to issue individual press cards to those who proof that they are contracted by media. However, besides the advantage of getting easier access to press conferences, there is no legal status connected to that.

                    A study has come up with a description of the typical German journalists according to the statistical average: „the typical German journalist is a 41 year old, middle-class man, holding an academic degree, working in press, living in a committed relationship and earning around 2300€ a month. In fact, journalism is still dominated by men. Whereas more younger journalist are women than men, the percentage of male journalist gets higher with age. Leading positions are mostly held by men. Women earn significantly less than men.

                    This is partly due to “glass ceiling” effects and underrepresentation in leading positions, but women receive also less money for the same work as their male counterparts. The average age of German journalist is on the increase, most of them are between 36-45 years old and only one third is younger than 36. It seems that because of the media crisis fewer people are getting into journalism.

                    Those who do however, vary greatly in their way of education. Only a minority of German journalists went to an academic school or studied journalism. But the majority holds an academic degree and did an internship or traineeship.

                    Interview with Rudolf Porsch (Deputy Director of the Axel-Springer-Academy)

                    Q: What are the advantages of a journalism school like the Axel Springer-Academy?

                    Porsch: We are very mass market orientated. We are not academic orientated. If you are interested in an academic approach than you have to attend a university. But if you are interested in practical journalism that is mass market, audience orientated, we offer really a cross-media education, cross-media journalism. And a cross media journalism that has already proven its concept. That means, we do not work “l’art pour l’art”, only for school or for training purposes, we really work for the market. And we prove our quality day by day, minute by minute on the market, on the internet and on the market place out there.


                    There are tons of privately funded journalism schools, among them a few renowned journalism schools like the Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg, the German Journalism School in Munich or the Axel-Springer-Akademie in Berlin.

                    Most German journalists work in newspapers. One third works in television and radio broadcasting. Another quarter write for magazines, the rest is distributed among online media, news agencies and advertising papers. Over the years, the general workload for journalists increased. Economical pressure and advancing digitalization require a broader set of skills and take up more time for additional tasks. Another strong tendency is that more and more freelancer are employed instead of regular employees.

                    Rudolf Porsch (Deputy Director of the Axel-Springer-Academy)


                    Q: What skills does modern journalism require?

                    Porsch: The answer seems to be very easy. The skills you need are the techniques of video, audio and internet. But to be honest, it’s not that easy. Because it means: First, you need these techniques. Within a couple of weeks you can learn that. That’s easy.

                    But then you need an understanding for your audience. What makes the difference? Not the difference between videos but the difference between a video shown on a screen, on a station screen, on a computer or a video shown on a mobile device on a small screen.

                    That’s a big, big difference. Both are videos but it’s a big, big difference first in the techniques and second in the expectations of your audience.

                    That means to your question: what skills? It means first of all, learn the techniques, second learn about your audience. Get a feeling for what your audience wants to have, what your audience needs to get.

                    And the third thing is: And then, be a journalist, still be a journalist, because the main job of a journalist is to provide the people out there with the information, with the reliable and modern and current information they need.

                    That hasn’t changed. That is still the same since hundreds of years. Or in other words as Gertrude Stein once said: A rose is a rose is a rose.

                    I say: A story is a story is a story. That hasn’t changed since Shakespeare. But the way you tell a story that has changed.


                    The term Civic journalism characterizes a trend to publish content aside from the professional work in a journalistic institution. Often, it is seen as a way to circumvent political restrictions in the media. In Germany, the field of media watch has become more prominent. Several journalists or public intellectuals have made use of blogs to comment on mainstream media discourse or discuss ethical problems. One of the most popular examples is probably BILD-Blog – a watchblog which reveals false news coverage of major German print and online news publications. But aside from a few watchblogs there hasn’t developed a huge blogosphere in Germany yet.

                    Statistics_Demographic Information on Journalists.pdf



                    10: Social Media

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                      Chapter Ten: Social Media


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                      Q: What kind of social media do you use?

                      A1: I don’t use a lot of social media. I use Facebook.

                      A2: As a typical one like Facebook. And I guess that’s it. Because I do not use Twitter or something like that.

                      In terms of using social media, Germans are not as enthusiastic as other societies. The by far biggest network used is Facebook, over 50% of the internet users use also actively Facebook. Compared with other European countries, this is below average. The main motivation for using social media is to stay in touch with friends rather than for getting information. Twitter plays also only a minor role and is not widely used.

                       Q: What is an aspect of social media that bothers you?

                      A1: That Facebook is collecting so much data from us. And that’s quite hard.

                      A2: That people don’t talk so much anymore. They just chat and chat instead of getting together.

                      A3: How your personal information is in the Internet and anyone can see it and it will stay there forever and you don’t know what will happen.

                      What is special in Germany is a general skepticism towards social media. According to a poll, 58 % of the Germans don’t trust social media. Reasons are data security and concerns about the protection of privacy. Not only Facebook’s notoriously data-hungry policies, but also the fear that private information can be leaked and has negative effects on their career or private life, concerns people.

                      In fact, the biggest reason according to a study from 2013 is a general conservatism in their media usage: 74% of the people not using Facebook don’t see any sense in using it.

                      A1: I do not use actually any Social Media because I think that’s time waste. And also probably that I am not sure what or who is there behind the Facebook side in my computer.

                      11: Outro

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                        Chapter Eleven: Outro


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                        We hope that our film helped you to learn more about the German media system. Of course, there is lots more to explore and to learn about. You are invited to check the literature references which are provided to you on our digital platform to deepen your knowledge. And you may want to test your knowledge in one of the quizzes provided.

                        We also suggest to take a look at the other units about media systems in Iraq or Lebanon or the other countries featured on our digital learning platform to get a comparative perspective on the world’s media systems. We are also interested in your feedback and open to suggestions. So do not hesitate to contact us!

                        Good bye, ma al-Salama und Auf Wiedersehen!


                        English & Arabic Script (pdf)





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