German television is different than television in the United States.  That is what I have gathered after visiting two German TV outlets, one public and one private.

The largest difference is that public television gets about 50% of the viewership in Germany whereas PBS and local public channels in the US receive far less viewership and have suffered significantly declining ratings the past decade.

One of the reasons public TV is so big in Germany is that it was the only TV in the national until 1984, when private stations began broadcasting.

But public TV has maintained a strong share of the market among viewers nonetheless.  One of the reasons is that the laws mandate that all households with a television pay 18 Euros per month to receive public television.  Next year, all households (with or without televisions) will be required to pay the fee.  The money is distributed among the public stations in the country, which has a population of 82 Million people.  Do the math.  That’s a lot of money.

One of the largest public stations in Germany is called ARD.  I had the opportunity to interview two ARD employees this week at their headquarters in Berlin.

One of them is Ms. Gabi Kostorz, a reporter who most covers environmental, energy and economic issues.

ARD has 20 television correspondents and 35 radio correspondents in their Berlin office.  Kostorz reports for an 8pm and 10:30pm newscast, sometimes working eight hours per day, but often working 14 hours.

Mr. Peter Mucke works for the radio component of ARD where he covers health insurance issues, politics and the labor market.  Peter explained that ARD is broadcast all over Germany, with smaller sub-stations covering the local news in different districts across the station.  The average ARD viewer is 62 years old according to Mucke.

The private stations on the other hand, are not funded by the government at all.  Instead they rely on advertising dollars and therefore, seem to pay more acute attention to their market share and ratings. 

The group of American journalist fellows in the RIAS program visited a station called N24 this week as well.  This is a private station also based in Berlin.  One thing you notice immediately is that N24 has nicer offices than ARD, the public station. 

Mr. Ronald Warin, Deputy Chief Editor at N24, explained that his station is the leading 24-hour private television outlet in Germany.  The station has a long morning show stretching from approximately 7am to 1pm.  N24 competes directly with stations called N-TV and Phoenix.  Additionally, they are always going up against the public stations such as ARD and ZDF.

N24 reminded me very much of the FOX Connecticut News set up.  They had a video-editing section, nice broadcast studio, social media area and other design and workplace elements very similar to my station in Hartford.  Warin said that N24 is comparable to a CNN in the United States.  The station covers national issues and akin to ARD has local affiliates across the nation as well.