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Private and Public Service Broadcasting: The Introduction of the "Dual System" in Germany

Private and Public Service Broadcasting: The Introduction of the "Dual System" in Germany

Setting the course of media politics, legal decisions, technical developments and a change in culture and society led to the introduction of the “dual broadcasting system” in Germany in the 1980s. Private broadcasters had to receive a licence from the new public service media organisation in the federal states. Since then, the private and public-service broadcasters and the commercial and non-commercial broadcasters were competing with each other on the market. What political decisions were made by whom? And what technical developments drove the development of broadcasting history forward in the 1970s/1980s? This chapter of the more recent history of media has had little attention thus far and many sources have not yet been secured. Therefore, the Research Centre Media History first conducts preliminary studies on this topic and helps to secure document stores.
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Project Description

The project about the introduction of dual” broadcasting system in the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1980s is being established at the moment. The reappraisal of the privatisation of broadcasting, the questions for a pluralisation of media services, as well as decisions in media politics and technical developments, are a desideratum in the research of communication, media and contemporary history.
Against this backdrop, the Research Centre Media History was the host and a joint organiser of the Jahrestagung der Fachgruppe Kommunikationsgeschichte in der DGPuK [Annual Symposium of the Section History of Communication of the DGPuK] in January 2015. The conference took the introduction of the “dual” broadcasting system 30 years ago as an opportunity to introduce the topic “New Diversity? Media Pluralism and Media Competition in Historical Perspective”. Several lectures could be recorded and made available online to a broader audience by using the programme “Lecture2Go” at the University of Hamburg, thanks to funding from the Rudolf-Augstein-Stiftung [Rudolf Augstein Foundation]. The lectures also include contributions from Jürgen Wilke, Christoph Hilgert, Michael Meyen und Maria Karidi. The interview with Helmut Haeckel, conducted by Hans-Ulrich Wagner, about his work as the first director of the Hamburger Anstalt für neue Medien (HAM) [Hamburg Authority for New Media] and the change in broadcasting politics in the 1980s, is available online as well.
A first study focuses on the development in the Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg [Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg]. The Hamburg Media Act came into force on January 1st 1986, and in the first half of that year, the Hamburger Anstalt für neue Medien (HAM) [Hamburg Authority for New Media] began its work. That is how the City of Hamburg introduced the “dual broadcasting system” and enabled the authorisation of private programme suppliers besides the existing public service broadcasting. Dr. Helmut Haeckel, the first director of the HAM, talks as a “contemporary witness of the Hamburg media history” about media political debates during the 1970s and 1980s and about the licensing of the HAM to the first private radio stations and television broadcasters in Hamburg. 

The interview with Dr. Helmut Haeckel is the focus of the ninth „Nordwestdeutschen Heftes zur Rundfunkgeschichte“ [Northwest German Papers on Broadcasting History]. It is complemented by two central documents of Hamburg media history: the theses for a media law from September 11th, 1984, introduced by the Senate and the wording of the Hamburg Media Act in the version of the 3rd.

Project Information


Duration: 2015-2018

Research programme:
RP3 - Knowledge for the Media Society

Involved persons

Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner
Senior Researcher Media History

Dr. Hans-Ulrich Wagner

Forschungsstelle Mediengeschichte
Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17-0

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