Text Programme Supervision
All TV and radio programmes as well as all audiovisual online services create and disseminate their content within the scope of their constitutionally protected programming freedom.
The Media Authorities regularly conduct programme observations for this purpose. They also respond to complaints and comments from listeners, viewers and users who have noticed problems with the content in the electronic media. Retrospectively, the checks are performed exclusively on the basis of the providers' freedom surrounding both broadcasting content and expression of opinion, as well as viewers' and users' right to obtain information. In this respect, providers are responsible for the content that they disseminate.
The Media Authorities are in regular interaction with the broadcasters and online providers based in Germany and are frequently able to come to an agreement without the need to initiate formal supervisory procedures.
The supervisory duties to be fulfilled by the responsible Media Authorities also include checking that providers appropriately identify themselves online, thereby complying with their obligation to provide publication details (so-called “imprint”). In most cases, investigations in this regard result in the website content being corrected so that imposition of fines is rarely called for.
If you think that a programme or a website are infringing upon legal requirements, you can notify the relevant Media Authority via the complaints form on its website or via the complaints form at www.programmbeschwerde.de.
Reporting and information broadcasts must conform to the recognised journalistic principles, be independent and objective. News items must therefore be checked for truthfulness and provenance before transmission.
The journalistic due diligence standards for print, broadcasting and online media are defined in the German Press Code, the guidelines for journalistic work as recommended by the German Press Council. It contains publishing rules that are intended to ensure minimum journalistic quality standards. Some of these include:
- observation of truth and human dignity,
- differentiation between advertising and editorial content,
- avoiding one-sided reporting,
- respecting the rights of individuals and preventing discrimination.
Whilst the German Press Council is responsible for print media, monitoring for compliance with the press code in private broadcasting is conducted by the Media Authorities.
Opinion articles must be clearly separated from reporting and identified as such by naming the author.
Legal disclosure obligations/Imprint
The obligation to have an imprint requires the operators of websites that are not intended exclusively for private or family-related purposes to provide their full name and address on the site in a form that is easily recognisable, immediately accessible and permanently available. Contact details can usually be found under menu item "Impressum"/"Legal notice" or "Contact".
The provider's details are primarily intended for consumer protection, but in a business context they also provide an opportunity to obtain information about a potential business partner. Finally, a provider's details are also for general interest, such as when a criminal prosecution is involved.
If a website contains journalistic or editorial content, the responsible individual must be named with their full name and address.
If the website is a business one owing to its advertisement content, it also needs to provide the details required under Article 5 TMG (German Telemedia Act). This includes in particular the specification of an email address.
On a case-by-case basis, the locally responsible Media Authority will determine which details actually need to be provided.
Requirements applicable to prize games
For prize games and their programmes, the participants must be informed in a transparent and easily comprehensible manner, especially in regard to terms of participation, participation costs (e.g. telephone charges on a landline and from a mobile) and the method for determining the winner.
Users must not be misled. For instance, this may be with respect to the solution to the task posed, the degree of difficulty or the potential winnings. The prize game organiser, i.e. the broadcaster or the online provider, must also ensure that underage persons are excluded from participating in prize games or prize game programmes.
Participation in prize games requiring payment is permitted from the age of 14, in prize game programmes from the age of 18. The cost for one-time participation in a prize competition is not allowed to exceed €0.50.
Sanctions for breaches of the obligations under the so-called "Gewinnspielsatzung" (Prize Competition Statute) depend on the severity and frequency of the breaches. One possible measure to deal with breaches is a complaint – potentially involving a fine of up to 500,000 euros. The ultimate sanction that can be imposed by Media Authorities is to withdraw the licence of the broadcaster.
In their supervisory activities, the Media Authorities are bound by the legal provisions of the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RStV), the Prize Competition Statute (GWS) and the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV). They continually monitor programming practices of the private broadcasters and especially audio-visual online content.
This involves focused spot checks conducted in parallel and investigations prompted by specific concerns or by specific complaints from viewers or users.
Responsibilities for nationwide broadcasting
Compliance with general journalistic principles, the prize game statute and the advertising guidelines is monitored by the Commission on Licensing and Supervision (ZAK). It receives support in fulfilling this duty from the Committee for Regulation.
Compliance with the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media (JMStV) is the monitored by the Commission for Protection of Minors in the Media (KJM).
The KJM is also responsible for supervising telemedia services with respect to youth media protection, whilst supervision relating to other matters is usually performed by the Media Authority in whose state the provider is based or resident.