Germany has banned RT DE (the German language edition of the international Russian state-funded broadcaster formerly knows as Russia Today). The official reason is that RT has no permit (and has not requested one), but the German press also mentions that the die Medienkommission sieht die Staatsferne nicht gewährleistet (the media commission does not see distance to the state guaranteed), suggesting that they probably wouldn't get a permit if they applied for one (instead, RT DE had applied for a permit in Serbia and in Luxembourg). Meanwhile, France24 and Voice of America are allowed in Germany, but they broadcast in English (the English language edition of RT appears to be allowed as well). Is (was) RT DE the only foreign state-funded broadcaster to broadcast in Germany in the German language, or are there others? The BBC ended their German language broadcasts in 1999. There appears to be a TRT Deutsch from Turkey, but I don't know if they are state funded or have a German language broadcast in Germany.

The deeper question I'm after: is being funded by a foreign government sufficient to be (probably) ineligible for getting a permit to broadcast in Germany in German, or is there also a criterion related to the content of the broadcast or (alleged) direct government influence on the content?

(The BBC had a German edition during World War II, but that situation was quite different)

  • German broadcasting licencing rules are online in English translation. It should answer your questions.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 4, 2022 at 10:32
  • The German wikipedia article on TRT says that their German-language division "TRT Deutsch" is currently only a website and not a TV channel. But the Turkish version of TRT is available in Germany for decades. It is pretty popular with the large community of Turkish expatriates in Germany.
    – Philipp
    Feb 4, 2022 at 14:19
  • @Philipp Right. They don't seem to be state funded, either.
    – gerrit
    Feb 4, 2022 at 14:21
  • @gerrit According to the article I just linked, they are partially state-funded.
    – Philipp
    Feb 4, 2022 at 14:23
  • In some parts of Germany, the Austrian state TV network ORF can be received via cable. However, this probably doesn't fit as ORF takes steps to prevent non-Austrian-residents from accessing it, mostly in order to reduce licencing fees. I suspect the same is true for (state-funded) Swiss TV.
    – Jan
    Feb 22, 2022 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


To answer the "deeper question", the relevant regulation is in §53 (3) Medienstaatsvertrag:

Eine Zulassung darf nicht erteilt werden an juristische Personen des öffentlichen Rechts mit Ausnahme von Kirchen und Hochschulen, an deren gesetzliche Vertreter und leitende Bedienstete sowie an politische Parteien und Wählervereinigungen. Gleiches gilt für Unternehmen, die im Verhältnis eines verbundenen Unternehmens im Sinne des § 15 des Aktiengesetzes zu den in Satz 1 Genannten stehen. Die Sätze 1 und 2 gelten für ausländische öffentliche oder staatliche Stellen entsprechend.

I hope the following translation is adequate:

A licence may not be issued to a person or legal entity governed by Public Law, with the exeption of churches and institutions of higher learning, to their legal representatives and their executive personnel, as well as political parties and voter's associations. The same applies to companies that are affiliated in accordance with § 15 Aktiengesetz (Stock Corporation Law) to those named in sentence 1. Sentences 1 and 2 apply to foreign public and govermental agencies accordingly.

The last sentence focuses on ownership relations, not funding. In the case of RT DE, its parent company Rossiya Segodnya according to Wikipedia is owned by the Russian state. If true, that would probably rule out a licence.

  • That is a confusing sentence. Does "the same" apply that a license may not be issued (i.e. a political party may not run a TV channel), or that the same exception applies?
    – gerrit
    Feb 4, 2022 at 21:32
  • "The same" applies to sentence 1 as a whole, so if an entity is forbidden to broadcast TV, the same applies to its subsidiaries, and if it is allowed, its subsidiary could also do so (Imagine a Caritas TV channel - allowed, because it is part of the Catholic Church - vs. a imaginary Neue Westfälische TV - forbidden, because the Neue Westfälische newspaper is a subsidiary of the Deutsche Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft, which in turn is owned by the Social Democratic Party).
    – ccprog
    Feb 4, 2022 at 22:07

The German Wikipedia has a list of German-language TV channels. Naturally, this list cannot be not all-encompassing but it does give a good overview of what can be expected. The first table lists broadcasters that are free to receive (i.e. no subscription services) and aren't regionally focussed. It can be sorted by Region (region) to put all countries together followed by Rechtsform (loosely corresponds to type of financing in this context, with PR meaning privatrechtlich or privately funded (typically meaning ad-based) and ÖR meaning publicly funded – the ones you are after).

The column with a background colour in it differentiates the content the broadcaster carries.

Using the sorting method outlined above at the time of posting the top five channels are by the Austrian public broadcaster, ORF. ORF 1 and 2 are all-content broadcasters which, however, primarily serve the Austrian market, are encrypted via satellite (decryption only available to residents of Austria) and can only be received close to the Austrian border. (My parents live about 50 km away from the border, still within the reception zone.) Thus, these channels can be excluded as not being for German residents. The same probably applies to ORF III (a culture channel) and ORF Sport + (a sports channel) although I have never seen them in the wild. ORF 2 Europe is classified as an information channel (with the note: foreign broadcast); maybe this is indeed a channel aimed at non-residents. I should check if I (currently living far away from the border) can receive it.

The next entry is a Belgian regional TV station, probably serving the Belgian German-language community. Then, three channels by the Swiss public broadcaster (SRF), of which SRF1 and SRF2 probably have exactly the same status as ORF1 and ORF2. I am not sure about the status of SRF Info (which is labelled as an information channel but not as aimed at foreign audiences).

After a long list of German public broadcasting channels one final entry is Arte, which is registered in France but is a co-production of German (ARD and ZDF) and French (France Télévision) public broadcasters, so essentially domestic. (The list also contains 3sat which is a cooperation between the German, Swiss and Austrian public broadcasters but that one holds a German licence too.)

All other channels listed are private channels, typically ad-funded.

This leaves potentially ORF 2 Europe and SRF Info as German-language state-funded broadcasters aimed at German TV audiences.

(Note: at the time of writing and using the sorting method as described, Austrian KronenTV shows up at the very top. It is not marked a private broadcaster although it clearly is, belonging to the Austrian newspaper of the same name.)

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