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The Second German Television (ZDF) is one of the largest public broadcasters in Europe with its headquarters in Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate. Together with the state broadcasting stations combined in ARD and Deutschlandradio, ZDF forms the public broadcasting network in Germany. ZDF currently employs around 3600 permanent staff.

History and Development

Even before the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, a number of broadcasting corporations already existed. Konrad Adenauer regarded radio, radio and television as “political means of leadership” and tried to influence the existing broadcasting order. The goals of the federation were an all-German and an international radio station as well as a second television program, first under the free television society GmbH; which was called also due to its state proximity by critics Adenauer television. On 30 September 1959, the Federal Cabinet passed the “Draft Law on Broadcasting”. On 25 July 1960, Deutschland-Fernsehen GmbH was founded to operate the second television programme. Some federal states then appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court to have the competence of the federal and state governments to establish new broadcasting corporations reviewed.

After the Federal Constitutional Court had prohibited the so-called “Adenauer-Fernsehen” (the “Deutschland-Fernsehen GmbH”) in the 1st Broadcasting Judgment of 28 February 1961 and awarded full broadcasting competence to the Länder, the Länder decided in March 1961, independently of the previous broadcasters, to establish a central non-profit television station under public law. On June 6, 1961, at the Minister-President Conference in Stuttgart, the Minister-Presidents signed the State Treaty on the “Establishment of the Public Law Institution Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen”. After not all Länder had ratified the Treaty by 1 December 1961, the State Treaty entered into force on that day, but only in those Länder which had deposited the instruments of ratification (Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate). Bavaria was the last state to deposit its instrument of ratification on 9 July 1962. In the supervision of the ZDF, the Länder alternate in two-year periods.

Around 1960, the Deutsche Bundespost began setting up a second chain of channels for the second public television programme. This chain transmitted in the UHF range, which required a second antenna and a television set with an extended frequency range. For older receivers, retailers had special UHF converters costing around DM 80. As with the first programme, optimum reception in as many parts of the GDR as possible played an important role in station planning. In order to be able to use the channel chain once before and to encourage viewers to receive UHF, ARD was allowed a temporary second channel, ARD 2, which broadcast daily from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.. The programme started on 1 May 1961 in the hr broadcasting area and one month later nationwide.

There were differences of opinion between the prime ministers regarding the station’s location. Franz Meyers had initially advocated Essen, but after standing alone with the proposal, he and the other Union prime ministers were for Mainz. The Social Democratic prime ministers found Mainz too provincial and proposed Frankfurt am Main. The argument against Frankfurt was that it should not be a city in which a state broadcasting corporation already existed. At the decisive conference, Franz Meyers surprisingly brought Düsseldorf into play. The first test vote went via Frankfurt and resulted in four votes in favour (Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen), one abstention (Lower Saxony) and six votes against, all of which came from the Union-led states. The second rehearsal went via 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 in this matter, but that he was in favour of it because Peter Altmeier had to be thanked for his years of negotiations on a second television programme. The secret ballot, held after separate deliberations, resulted in five votes for Düsseldorf and six votes for Mainz.

Party political considerations were at the forefront of the election of the artistic director. 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 SPD circles. For example, an eleven-member election committee proposed a balanced composition: the Legation Council in the Federal Foreign Office was to become Gerhard Brand, the SPD was to be allowed to appoint the programme director, who was also deputy artistic director, the CDU the editor-in-chief and the FDP the administrative director. There was only a majority for Bruno Heck, who failed in the secret election of the television council on 27 February 1962. A new committee, now made up of six members, then made four proposals: 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 they decided with 16 to 13 votes between Holzamer and Martin. Holzamer was then elected with 44 of 58 votes from the television council, with nine dissenting votes and four abstentions.

In order to participate in the international programme exchange, ZDF had to become a member of the European Broadcasting Union. The regional broadcasters initially assumed that ZDF would become a member of ARD. However, this was strictly rejected by ZDF, as it saw its independence in danger, and at a first meeting with ARD on 12 September 1962 in Stuttgart, it proposed an umbrella association to which ARD and ZDF should belong. But this did not please the ARD representatives. On 2 May 1962, the ZDF director applied for ZDF’s own membership, but it 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 unchanged, ZDF decided not to exchange programmes before the start of broadcasting and then applied for renewed membership. At its meeting from 17 to 20 May 1963, the Administrative Council of the European Broadcasting Union approved the application, whereupon ARD and ZDF became equal members.

Channel identification

The station name Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen was included in the State Treaty without much discussion. Since some employees saw something inferior in the name “Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen”, alternative proposals were made:

New German Television
Germany Television
Television of the German Länder
German national television

A representative survey carried out in the autumn of 1962 showed that Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen received the highest approval, followed by Neues Deutsches Fernsehen and Deutsches Länderfernsehen. However, the legal situation did not permit a new name without an amendment to the State Treaty, so that the abbreviation ZDF plus one of the proposals was considered. However, the Administrative Council considered the approval of the Prime Ministers to be necessary, whereupon the discussion was postponed and finally stopped by the Director General.

A competition among “ten recognized graphic artists” was held for the ZDF badge and in January 1963 G. Woldemar Hörnig’s design was chosen. He showed two antenna masts and two stylized eyes, whereby the station liked to talk about mud eyes.

On 21 March 1963, the second theme from the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was chosen as the acoustic station identifier.

With the great program reform of October 1973, the ZDF-Hausschrift was introduced. For this Otl Aicher took the font Univers and modified it slightly. Since the technique used at the time to fade in fonts into the picture meant that the letters could have slightly rounded corners, Aicher avoided the problem by using letters that were rounded – strongly – from the outset.

The introduction of the house writing accompanied with a Corporate Identity, which came likewise from Otl Aicher. This included the design of the screen clock as well as a uniform design of the studios and OB vans with lots of blue, but without red and black. For political broadcasts, a variable tubular frame system was procured from a Swiss manufacturer on which lettering panels could be hung.

Start of broadcasting

The broadcast was scheduled to begin on 1 July 1962, but was delayed. The first experimental broadcast was broadcast by ZDF in the night from 19 to 20 March 1963 without announcement on Feldberg. At 11.51 p.m. the inscription Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen appeared and at 0.10 a.m. random viewers were asked to send a postcard describing the reception quality to the broadcaster. 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. At 1.28 a.m. the broadcast ended. The second trial broadcast ran in the night from 26 to 27 March on all stations of the chain. It also showed live pictures: a news programme with broadcasts to the domestic studios in Hamburg and Munich.

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

ZDF’s first colour trial broadcast was broadcast as on ARD on 3 July 1967, regular operation began on 25 August 1967. In the meantime, the range was so extended that approx. 80 percent of the participants were supplied.