ARD (full name: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – "Consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany") is a joint organization of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters. It was founded in West Germany in 1950 to represent the common interests of the new, decentralized, post-war broadcasting services — in particular the introduction of a joint television network.
Today ARD maintains and operates a national television network, known since 1994 as Das Erste ("The First"), which is itself often referred to as ARD. "Das Erste" is also the parlance used by the audience, referring to ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, founded in 1963, public-service TV broadcaster), as "das Zweite" ("The Second").
The ARD network began broadcasting in 1952 under the name of Deutsches Fernsehen ("German Television"), becoming Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen ("First German Television") with the introduction of a new corporate design on October 1, 1984. The name is an indication that it is regarded as the country's primary network. ARD's programming is broadcast directly to homes throughout Germany over its own extensive digital terrestrial broadcast network. ARD also produces a digital package of three free-to-air channels (EinsFestival, EinsPlus and EinsExtra) and participates in the production of cable/satellite channels Phoenix (events, news, and documentaries), KI.KA (children's programmes), 3sat (cultural/traditional programming), and arte (Franco-German cultural programming).
ARD's constituent broadcasting institutions – BR, HR, MDR, NDR, Radio Bremen, RBB, SR, SWR, and WDR (see below for an explanation of the abbreviations), as well as international broadcaster Deutsche Welle – operate 54 regional and local radio stations and networks, two nationwide radio channels, and seven regional TV networks, some of which split further during certain parts of the day.