ARD (German pronunciation: [ˌʔaː.ʔɛɐ̯.ˈdeː]; full name: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – Working group of public broadcasters of the Federal Republic of Germany) is a joint organisation of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters. It was founded in 1950 in West Germany to represent the common interests of the new, decentralised, post-war broadcasting services – in particular the introduction of a joint television network.
The ARD has a budget of €6.9 billion and 22,612 employees. The budget comes primarily from a licence fee which every household, company and public institution are required by law to pay. For an ordinary household the fee is currently €17.50 per month. Households living on welfare do not have to pay the fee. The fees are not collected directly by the ARD, but by the Beitragsservice (formerly known as Gebühreneinzugszentrale GEZ), a common organisation of the ARD member broadcasters, the second public TV broadcaster ZDF, and Deutschlandradio.
ARD maintains and operates a national television network, called Das Erste ("The First") to differentiate it from ZDF, a.k.a. "das Zweite" ("The Second"), which started 1963, as a separate public TV-broadcaster. The ARD network began broadcasting on 31 October 1954 under the name of Deutsches Fernsehen ("German Television"), becoming Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen ("First German Television") with a corporate redesign in 1984; it adopted its current short name (Das Erste) in 1994. ARD's programmes are aired over its own terrestrial television network, as well as on pay television.
ARD also produces two free-to-air channels (one and Tagesschau24) and participates in the production of Phoenix (current events, news and documentaries), KiKa (kids-oriented), 3sat (cultural-oriented) and arte (Franco-German cultural programming).
ARD's programming is produced by its regional members (see also Institutions and member organizations) (Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), Hessischer Rundfunk (HR), Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), Radio Bremen, Rundfunk Berlin–Brandenburg (RBB), Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR), Südwestrundfunk (SWR) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)), which operate 54 regional and local radio stations and seven regional TV networks, some of which have opt outs at during the day. Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, is also a member of ARD.