The radio landscape is strongly influenced by the state’s federal structure, the broadcasting regulation competency of the Länder and the dual broadcasting system. In 2016 Germany had 70 public-service radio stations and 283 commercial radio stations on air, according the Medienanstalten (Media Authorities). The public-service stations in the Federal States usually have a regional focus. Instead, commercial radios are licensed in all Länder and have a rather local approach. In addition, there is a national public-service radio, Deutschlandradio, under the roof of the ARD, which is the preferred info radio in Germany with a reach of over 1.5 million daily listeners. It is free of ads, airs mostly news and information and is subdivided into Deutschlandfunk (Cologne, news and information) and Deutschlandradio Kultur (Berlin, culture and news). Furthermore, Dradio Wissen is the internet-based young radio channel of Deutschlandradio.
Radio is a popular mass medium that accompanies the public throughout the day. About 80 percent of those above the age of 14 regularly listen to the radio. Among people with a migrant background, radio has a far lesser reach; only 51 percent tune in, according to the 2011 ARD/ZDF Media Commission Study. The average daily consumption patterns reach 173 minutes per day among users of German origin, which is the second longest after television (208 minutes). Those who are in fact listening to radio stay with it for over four hours (249 minutes).
In 2016, at least 46 percent (2014: 52 percent) of Germans declared that they use the radio to access news, compared to 72 percent (2014: 84 percent) who preferred television over radio as the primary source of news; 59 percent preferred the Internet, and only 38 percent printed news (Reuters Digital News Survey 2014, 2016). Among the (post-)migrant communities, a similar interest in radio consumption is observed. Like their German-origin counterparts, younger (post-)migrants are less information-oriented.
In total, public-service radio under the roof of the public broadcaster ARD stands out, with over 36 million daily listeners, compared to the 29.9 million listeners of commercial radio programmes.
In terms of market share, the data shows a diverse regional pattern, as each state is responsible for licensing and regulation of broadcasting. In some Länder, like Rhineland-Palatinate, the public-service program SWR3 reaches by far the highest market share (23.3 percent) before the most successful commercial program RPR1 (12.5 percent), as indicated in the Media Analysis Study 2016 Radio I. In Länder like Hesse or Sachsen-Anhalt, however, a commercial radio broadcaster leads the ranking. In total, two public-service radio stations, SWR3 and Bayern1, lead the market with a 4.4 percent share in 2016, while SWR3 stands out with 14.3 percent of the listeners on an average day (Monday-Sunday, 05.00-24.00h). Public-service radio under the roof of the ARD has achieved a 55.7 percent share, whereas the private networks reach 42.3 percent of the shares (Media Analysis 2016 Radio II).
The economic situation of public-service radio is basically influenced by public funding; radio receives a €3.39bn share of the overall €8bn collected by compulsory licence fees. The revenues from advertising are the second source of income for public-service radio, with radio stations under the roof of the ARD acquiring a net €244m from advertising in 2015, an increased sum of about 6 percent compared to the previous year.
Privately-owned radio stations are economically stable and acquired an income of over €409.7m in 2015 from advertising. In fact, an increase of local commercial radio stations of about 5 percent in 2014 led to a turnover growth, according to the KEK. Media analysis recently point to an unexpected trend that reversed the usual decline of traditional media and formats. Radio stations with informative programs were able to win younger audiences below the age of 40, while at the same time youth channels lost listeners. Unexpected is also the mode in which the youth still access radio, which is mostly via car radios (75 percent) and a “usual” radio set (52 percent), according to the Jugend, Information, (Multi-)Media, JIM 2016 (Youth, Information, and (Multi-)Media Study) ().
For large diasporas in Germany, like those with Turkish roots, a variety of mother tongue radio programmes are available. While public-service broadcasting pulled back its activity in providing mother tongue programmes, traditionally aired for guest workers, commercial local radio channels have become popular, like Radio Metropol in Berlin.
Non-commercial community radio, the so-called Free Radio (Freie Radios), exists in all Länder. The federal state with the highest amount of these self-governed radio stations is Baden-Württemberg, due to its long history of radio activism. Despite these examples, one cannot speak of a dynamic and viable community radio scene as compared, for example, to France.
As regulations differ in each state, some Länder like Hesse were rather late in licensing Free Radios. Some states favour other models that allow public participation in free-of-access media so called Bürgersender, such as local public access radio and television channels, educational stations, and campus radio/television, which allow for better control, because they are licenced, financed, and governed by the regional Media Authorities. Summed up, 173 Bürgersender are in place in the year 2015. In the public access sector, the situation also varies from state to state. In Rhineland-Palatinate, 19 public access channels (Open Channels, radio and/or TV) are in operation, whereas the Bavarian media law does not allow any