INFOYER I German Wiki - Radio & Television in Germany

Radio & TV continue to be two of the most important sources of information as well as entertainment. Today there are multiple ways of receiving both radio & TV signals.

Radio & TV: Television in Germany

The availability of English language TV channels in Germany is increasing rapidly, although having a cable/satellite/broadband connection is a prerequisite to be able to view most of these channels. Access to a standard package offering a limited number of channels is relatively affordable and spending an extra premium would ensure unlimited access to a really wide variety of channels and programmes. Basic German cable TV service offers only a couple of English news channels. 

Before we go into details of the different kinds of TV connections, it is imperative that we inform ourselves about the standard broadcast in Germany. If you have a multisystem television set with dual voltage that can process both the German ‘PAL’ (B/G) as well as the North American ‘NTSC’ system, then you have nothing to worry about. Else you would need to get yourself a PAL/NTSC digital/HD converter which is available online. With about a 100€ you are sure to find one of reliable quality online. The cheaper ones tend to have sound-vision synchronization problems.   

The channels offered or quality of reception of Terrestrial TV varies widely based on location. The standard channels available, of course only German, are ARD, ZDF, the secondary programmes and in some areas RTL. The difference in quality of reception when the same channels are viewed via a cable connection is stark. Purchasing a digital or HD DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial) receiver, worth between 40€ & 100€, may solve only half the problem and increase access to a higher number of channels but even that is heavily dependent on where you live. Both hardware and the strength of the signal can fluctuate. Therefore it is important that you state your area of residence clearly and discuss these issues with the retailer.

Cable TV in Germany was governed solely by the Deutsche Telekom until the recent formation of several smaller subsidiary providers. Kabel Deutschland is the most prominent of them. The charges and services offered are more or less the same and your selection of a provider is largely dependent on where you live and the existing networks in the neighbourhood. 
As mentioned earlier, channels such as CNN, CNBC, MTV & BBC are usually some of the standard English channels among the 40 odd channels that are normally available. Certain programmes are occasionally offered in a language of your choice, for instance original version of movies or sport channels in English and can be availed of with the appropriate receiver, decoder or TV. Channels offered by German Sky range from movie channels & sports to children’s shows as well as adult television. Cable TV providers additionally offer up to 16 English TV channels or more these days with starting prices as low as 4€! Receivers can cost around a 100€ or come free with a long term contract (a year or two at the least). 

The latest and increasingly popular television connection is Satellite TV. Installing a new satellite dish or adjusting an existing one must be done with the landlord’s prior permission. A new dish is relatively affordable and the attractive packages available in the market make it more so. Having an experienced professional take care of the installation ensures precision and is likely to lead to less malfunction. Therefore seeking such service is highly recommended despite the implied costs. 
Receiver prices are in the range of 50€ to100€ and above, for digital and digital/HD receivers respectively. If you are interested in additional special features like one touch recording of episodes/seasons, on screen electronic programme guides (EPG), live TV freezing etc. an HD receiver with a twin tuner and hard drive makes it possible. This is especially suitable if you’re always on the move but would like to catch your favourite TV shows at leisure.

Here’s what the most widely accessed satellites (ASTRA 19.2E & ASTRA 2 at 28 degrees East from South) in Germany offer:

ASTRA 19.2E: On Sky Deutschland TV (not the same as UK Sky TV) one can normally watch National Geographic, AXN, TNT, Fox and other channels in English. Other channels screening movies, documentaries, reality shows, Sci fi specials may also be of interest to you. For about 20€ a month you should have access to over 40 channels in addition to the free channels. You will of course also require to have a compatible receiver. The free channels are from across the world although the English ones are mostly restricted to news and teleshopping. Premium packages costing a little more give you a wider choice and the option to experience HD quality. 

ASTRA 2: Freesat ( as the name suggests is complete free and offers over 140 English radio and TV channels. The quality of reception and variety of channels aired are both praiseworthy. One can watch all the BBC, ITV channels, several children’s channels and some are even aired in HD quality. A regular German digital or digital/HD receiver is all that is required. 
A large dish and an appropriate LNB & receiver set often make it viable to receive signals from both satellites. The internet is a good source of information on receivers, decoders, satellites and the corresponding services offered. 

It is in fact even possible to get access to the UK Sky TV ( if you are willing to bear the costs involved. If you have lived in the UK before, then you can simply bring your Sky receivers and viewing cards along and they work just fine here in Germany, barring of course features that are linked with a UK phone connection. For those unable to use an address in the UK for the subscription, there are hosting agencies that take care of it all both pre and post activation, for about 200€ hosting charges per annum. These agencies also provide the relevant equipment. The top performance of the latest upgraded twin tuner Sky HD+ hard drive receivers makes it highly recommendable. The monthly payments (subscription fees) need to be made using a credit card.
Internet TV is gaining popularity worldwide and Germany is no exception. Infrastructural advancements such as fiber optic cables, more DSL lines, increased availability of speedy connections are making it possible. Service providers like Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and 1+1 offer packages with telephone, internet & internet TV. Satellite service subscribers of Sky Deutschland are also offered Internet TV services. 

Right equipment and a good wireless router enables you to watch TV on any device of your choice. You could even lay back and enjoy your favourite shows on your iPad. Access to channels depends largely on the service provider. On demand shows with the option of watching them in their original language is one of the biggest plus points of Internet TV. High speed connections enhance the experience even further. 

Although this may not be the most convenient way of watching regular television, Slingshot TV enables one to connect to an audio/video device back home using internet and stream content wherever you are, as long as you have a high speed internet connection. Ensuring that you have access to an active connection back home (whether your own or a friend’s), that your television set is on standby and the potential need for manual adjustments makes it an impractical option. 

Radio & TV: Radio in Germany

Like television, limited Radio stations are also available in English terrestrially, particularly if you are near a U.S. or British military base like Sembach or Herford. Cable connections offer some more choice but the best option once again for a wide variety of stations from across the world in high digital quality is a satellite connection. 
The AFN AM signal on 1107 and 1143 KHz are interesting for those who would like to keep themselves up to date with American news, music, sports or talk shows. The AFN FM service transmitters are weaker and can be accessed only in and around US military bases. 
Der Rundfunkbeitrag refers to the quarterly payment to be made by all those who own a TV set/ a radio (in the car as well) or a PC sound card and you stand a chance to be penalized if you are caught trying to avoid it. The fee is not the same for a private person and a company. The company fees also vary depending on parameters number of employees etc. contains more information on the fee structure and applications for registrations. Payment is possible through a bank transfer or even direct debit (Lastschriftverfahren). The concerned authorities (ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice) can be reached via email at or by telephone at 018 59995 0100, Mon-Fri: 07:00 – 19:00. Please note that this number is not toll free. Costs incurred are around 0.65€ a minute from a landline and variable for mobiles depending on the network provider. This fee is one of the main sources of income for public broadcasting companies ARD, ZDF and Deustchlandradio