Media Ownership Rules - Germany




Following certain recent experiences which have affected the media market in Germany, it appears that Germany may now be willing to change it's media ownership rules.

Until 1997, shareholdings in consortia were by law limited to a maximum shareholding of 49% in one TV company and 24.99% in a second TV company. A viewer rating system was introduced to replace the old law and as a result the pre-existing consortia became instead subject to a concentration process thereby allowing the Kirch Group and Bertelsmann/RTL to have a monopoly over the TV sector. The Kirch Group insolvency which shortly followed, harmed the entire market, namely the digital TV sector, which is now dominated by Premiere.

It is now the right time to reconsider the current rules and assess the new laws which Germany should adopt and in the process reflect whether Germany should adopt a European approach. This, however, would require adopting a trans-frontier concept and defining of joint (constitutional) goals.

1. Television

  • Foreign ownership restrictions - Can a non-EU entity control the following broadcasting interests in Germany?[1]

Satellite yes
Cable yes
Terrestrial (analogue) yes
Terrestrial (digital) yes

  • Ownership Aggregation Limits -

Shareholding Threshold Restrictions

An entity may control the national broadcast of an unlimited number of TV programmes, except whereby it is able to exercise a predominant impact on public opinion.

A predominant impact on public opinion is assumed where:

i. Programmes have an average annual national viewer rating of 30%;
ii. Viewer levels reach 25% if the entity also has a dominant position in a media-relevant and related market (advertising, radio, licences, production etc.); or
iii. An overall assessment of an entity’s activities in TV and media related markets suggests that influence is exercised, equivalent to an entity with viewer levels of 30%.

With respect to (ii) and (iii) the actual audience share will be reduced by 2% if the programme with the highest audience share out of the programmes attributed to the entity incorporates regional window programmes. The audience share will be reduced by further 3% if at the same time airtime for independent third parties is provided.

In assessing audience levels, an entity’s own broadcasts, broadcasts of any company in which it holds at least 25% share, or any company which holds at least 25% share in the entity are taken into account.

Programmes broadcast by a company capable of having an impact (solely or jointly) comparable to 25% shareholding in the entity are also taken into account, (for example, if through contractual arrangements, articles of association etc. a company’s consent is required for decisions of the broadcaster, or the purchase or production of programmes).

Local Level

Thresholds may apply for regional broadcasters, e.g. in one region a national TV broadcaster with annual viewer share of at least 20% in aggregate for its programmes must control less than 25% share in a local broadcaster.

2. Radio

  • Foreign ownership restrictions -

No national or regional limitations

  • Ownership Aggregation Limits -

No national or regional limitations

3. Newspapers

  • Foreign ownership restrictions -

No restrictions.

  • Ownership Aggregation Limits -

No specific restrictions apply, other than general competition law principles relating to cartels.

4. Cross-media Ownership Restrictions

Television/radio/other related media-markets:

National Level TV and other media related market such as newspaper market

(i) No specific restrictions apply as to the permitted level of shareholdings in both the TV and radio sector. Aggregate market share for TV broadcasting and media-related markets is considered only when assessing a predominant impact on public opinion.
ii) Regarding the assessment of a predominant impact on public opinion 1. (ii) and (iii) applies:

If an entity, that intends to acquire a broadcaster, has a dominant position in a media-relevant and related market (which might be the newspaper market or other media-related markets) or if an overall assessment of that entity's activities in the broadcasting and media-related markets suggests that influence is exercised which is equivalent to the predominant impact on public opinion of a broadcaster with viewer levels of 30%, the threshold for the assumption of a predominant impact on public opinion with respect to the TV-market is lowered to a viewer share of 25%.

E.g. a newspaper owner with a predominant market position on the newspaper (or other media-related) market (which is evaluated by consulting comparatively the 30% threshold applied for TV) may only control TV-entities with a viewer share below 25%.

Local Level

i. Restrictions exist on permitted shareholdings in broadcasting entities in certain regions, for example, in one Federal State, a newspaper publisher with a dominant position on the market for newspapers (or an entity affiliated to it) may not exercise a predominant impact (directly or indirectly) on local national broadcasters with annual audience shares of 20%.

Newspapers / television:

National Level

Please see 4 (ii) above.

5. Local Competition Law Policy

The German Cartel Office (BKA) and The Commission on Concentration in the Media Industry (KEK) regulate competition in the media environment.

The KEK examines, for example, whether a TV broadcaster could enjoy a predominant influence on public opinion, whilst the BKA looks at the merger's impact on the economic market. Despite being constituted in 1997, the KEK has never intervened to prevent a merger or acquisition of control.


[1] There are no restrictions or rules applicable only to non-EU entities.