Commercial broadcasting services
The first question when applying for a license with the BLM is whether it relates to TV and radio broadcasting or telemedia, as telemedia services are generally not subject to licensing (Section 17 of the MStV).
In general, “broadcasting” refers to both radio and TV programs.
Different regulations apply for programs to be broadcast on a nationwide or on a local/regional/statewide basis. Another key licensing issue relates to whether the audience reach of a particular program exceeds 20,000 simultaneous viewers or listeners on average and/or whether it is relevant in shaping public opinion.
Safeguarding the plurality of opinion
Radio and television play a significant role in shaping public opinion. It is therefore incumbent on the authorities responsible for oversight of commercial broadcasting to ensure all licensed programs are balanced and that all major strands of opinion, including those of minorities, are represented. Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court established this requirement in its case law on broadcasting, and it was then incorporated into the Bavarian Media Act.
Safeguarding the plurality of opinion not only relates to programming content, but also to media concentration. If, for example, a Bavaria-based broadcaster applies for transmission rights, the BLM must first assess whether and to what extent the applicant is already active in broadcasting or newspaper publishing. In the case of national programming, the Commission on Concentration in the Media (Kommission zur Ermittlung der Konzentration im Medienbereich, or KEK) is responsible for assessing all issues of plurality.
The BLM monitors the programs and services it licenses to determine, among other things, whether licensed broadcasters have complied with programming guidelines, youth protection regulations and advertising rules. All programs and services must respect the principle of human dignity, the moral, religious and ethical beliefs of all members of the public, and the institutions of marriage and family.
As part of its oversight duties, the BLM conducts spot checks of broadcasting content at regular intervals. The BLM routinely requests recordings from several days of a particular broadcast for analysis. Specially trained staff analyze the content of the recordings and identify the topics covered as well as the program format, the relevance of individual programs to the station’s coverage area, the advertising type and content, and the duration of each program element.
Advertising revenues are the main source of funding for commercial radio, television and online services. The main purpose of advertising is not only to provide information about a company’s products or services, but also to ensure a plurality of opinion.
Germany’s Interstate Treaty on Media (MStV) provides all regulations related to advertising, which are designed to prevent third parties from having undue influence on broadcasting content (editorial independence), to protect consumers and to protect minors from unauthorized advertising.
To achieve these goals, commercial broadcasters are subject to the following basic regulations:
- All advertising must be distinguishable from editorial content und labeled as such.
- Commercial breaks during a broadcast are only permitted under certain conditions.
- Television commercials must not exceed 20% of the overall broadcast time during specific time slots (6 a.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., 11 p.m. to 12 p.m.)
- All advertising content must respect the principle of human dignity and comply with youth protection regulations.
- Advertising from broadcast sponsors may not include any additional marketing content apart from a branding slogan.
These provisions also apply – with the exception of quantitative rules – to all online services similar to broadcasting. However, other forms of online advertising, e.g., influencer marketing, must be clearly recognizable as such and kept separate from the website’s other content (see the guidelines of the State Media Authorities (Landesmedienanstalten, or LMAs).
The state media authorities are responsible for imposing penalties for violations of advertising regulations on radio, television and the Internet. The penalties vary based on the severity and the frequency of the violations. The state media authority that granted the broadcaster its license or that has jurisdiction in the federal state in which a telemedia service provider is domiciled is responsible for imposing penalties.
The BLM is the competent authority for the local and statewide radio and television broadcasters licensed in Bavaria, for nationwide television stations such as ProSieben, Kabel Eins, Welt, Sport1, Tele 5 and the pay TV service Sky, and also for Internet service providers domiciled in Bavaria. These internet service providers include Instagram, YouTube and other social media accounts.
The potential sanctions for infringements of advertising regulations range from formal objections and bans to fines of up to EUR 500,000 and license revocation.
If you believe you have identified a violation, you can issue an official complaint using the form linked here.
Protection of minors
The BLM monitors compliance with youth protection regulations by the broadcasters it licenses. The Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Human Dignity and the Protection of Minors in the Media (Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag, or JMStV) strictly prohibits any infringement of human dignity, glorification of war or transmission of pornographic content in any television broadcast.
Its provisions apply to content broadcast on television, radio and the Internet. The BLM therefore also oversees all online service providers domiciled in Bavaria. Any content that could adversely affect child development is subject to watershed restrictions or technical access restrictions.
The Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media (Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz, or KJM) is responsible for the oversight of commercial broadcasting and Internet services. Should the KJM identify a violation of youth protection regulations, it decides what sanctions are to be imposed against the provider. The regulatory authority that has jurisdiction in the federal state in which the provider is located is responsible for enforcing sanctions. Under the authority granted by the JMStV, the BLM is authorized to impose penalties of up to EUR 500,000.
A media intermediary is an entity which chooses, aggregates and makes available to the general public journalistic content of third parties. Service providers such as search engines (e.g., Google or Yahoo), social networks (e.g., Meta/Facebook or Instagram) as well as other platforms that provide media content generally created by their users (e.g., LinkedIn or Twitter) are considered media intermediaries within the meaning of the Interstate Treaty on Media (MStV).
The provisions of the MStV apply to media intermediaries to the extent that their offerings are intended for use in Germany. All media intermediaries (e.g., Google or Meta/Facebook) are obliged to appoint an authorized representative in Germany. The state media authority of the federal state in which the authorized representative is based is responsible for the oversight of media intermediaries.
Media platforms are defined as service providers that consolidates broadcasting, online services similar to broadcasting and other online press content into a single offering for their users. Examples of these platforms are cable network operators such as Vodafone, IPTV providers such as M-Net or streaming services such as Amazon and Zattoo.
The provisions of the MStV apply to all media platforms and user interfaces to the extent that they are intended for use in Germany. Most of these provisions only apply to media platforms of a certain size. The most important regulations concerning media platforms relate to discoverability, freedom from discrimination and transparency.
The state media authority of the federal state in which the service provider is domiciled is responsible for the oversight and notifications of media platforms and user interfaces. Service providers must notify the competent state media authority at least one month prior to the platform’s launch. Foreign providers can decide to which state media authority they wish to notify their platform.
The mandatory legal notice (in German, Impressum) for websites generally comprises information such as the name, address, contact details and (where applicable) the legal form of the entity in question. It is designed to ensure interested parties can quickly contact the entity responsible for certain (Internet) content; in other words, it safeguards transparency while also playing an important role in preserving public order, shaping opinions and protecting consumers.
In principle, every Internet site that does not exclusively serve private or domestic purposes is obliged to publish a legal notice. This applies in particular to commercial telemedia products, but also to most other telemedia service providers with an audience reach over a certain threshold, for example.
In Bavaria, the BLM is responsible for monitoring compliance with the legal notice obligation (in German, Impressumspflicht) by all providers domiciled in Bavaria. If you believe you have observed a violation of the legal notice obligation, you can contact us via our complaints form (https://www.blm.de/service/beschwerde.cfm) or by email (email@example.com).
Quality rating for commercial broadcasting and telemedia: According to the Interstate Treaty on Media (MStV), all moving image, audio and telemedia content that makes a significant contribution to the plurality of opinion and the balance of offers should be easy to find on smart TVs and other user interfaces. In other words, if programming content offers added value for the general public (public value), users should be able to find it easily and quickly.
It is incumbent upon state media authorities, which are independent of state control, to identify and publish a list of programs with added public value. This so-called “public value list”, which is published on the website of the media authorities, is valid for a period of three years and based on criteria outlined in the public value provisions of each state media authority’s bylaws.
More than 70 audio, moving image and telemedia products on this list are based in or licensed in Bavaria, which amounts to one quarter of all the media with public value status in Germany.