ARD is a joint organization of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters. It was founded in 1950 in West Germany to represent the common interests of the new, decentralized, post-war broadcasting services â€” in particular the introduction of a joint television network.
The ARD is the world's second largest public broadcaster after the British Broadcasting Corporation, with a budget of â‚¬6.3 billion and 23,000 employees. The budget comes primarily from the licence fees every household, every company and even every public institution like city governments are required to pay. For an ordinary household the fee is currently â‚¬17.98 per month. Households living on welfare don't have to pay the fee. The fees are not collected directly by the ARD, but by the GebÃ¼hreneinzugszentrale GEZ, a common organization of the ARD member broadcasters, the second public TV broadcaster ZDF, and Deutschlandradio.
ARD maintains and operates a national television network, called Das Erste to differentiate it from ZDF, a.k.a. "das Zweite", which started 1963, as a separate public TV-broadcaster. The ARD network began broadcasting on 31 October 1954 under the name of Deutsches Fernsehen, becoming Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen with a corporate redesign in 1984; it adopted its current name in 1994. ARD's programs are aired over its own terrestrial broadcast network, as well as via cable, satellite and IPTV.