ZDF rejects calls for sponsoring ban

Germany's public broadcasters on the defensive

COLOGNE, Germany -- Germany's public broadcasters have been put on the defensive by politicians here who are pushing for a partial ban of on-air sponsoring of sporting events.

ZDF on Wednesday rejected the proposed ban, which would outlaw sponsoring on public channels after 8 p.m. and ban sponsoring entirely on weekends and holidays. Fellow pubcaster ARD declined comment.

Supporters, which include the governors of the states of Bavaria and North-Rhein Westphalia, say the ban is necessary to level the playing field between German commercial channels and their pubcaster counterparts.

While German private networks are suffering one of the worst advertising downturns in years, the public channels have recently seen their budgets boosted. This is thanks to an increase in TV license fees which, it is estimated, will add some $500 million to the coffers of public broadcasters ZDF and ARD over the next four years. Sports sponsoring over the same period is worth a bit more than half of that.

But ZDF warns if the ban goes through, public broadcasters will have to increase the license fees again.