One of ZDF’s main highlights is the airing of high-quality documentaries, which is firmly anchored in several program slots. These programs concentrate mainly on topics from nature and science, culture and society, and history from ancient times to the recent past.

The program brand “Terra X” from the department of “History & Society” has been occupying the Sunday evening 7:30 pm time slot for many years now. Viewers are invited to set off on a journey of discovery into the past and to join in as important scientific and historical events in the history of mankind are presented and explained.

Every documentary needs a well-structured dramaturgy and a clear storyline, in which we are informed from the very beginning about the questions that will be explored in the course of the program. Complex matters are communicated in a visual manner that is easily understandable. Over and beyond the popular-science approach, experts from the fields relevant to the theme ensure scientific correctness. Computer animation and atmospherically compelling reenactments serve both to illustrate the action and to draw the viewer emotionally into the action at the same time.

On Tuesdays at 8:15 pm it’s time for “ZDFzeit,” ZDF’s big journalistic “title page.” Each edition of the documentary format gives the viewer essential facts, background information and interconnections to the topics of the time – comparable with the title stories of the major opinion-leading print media. This claim applies both to the substantial inventories of the big political questions of the day as well as to documentaries with a recent-history and social character.
Clearly recognizable characteristics which do justice to the label “ZDFzeit” are incorporated into the aesthetic level of the films. They are understood as knowledge about the past or about the current “questions of our time” that are prepared in documentary form. The derivation and interconnections of present-day circumstances help to transmit knowledge to the viewer, and give rise to insights and thus to the ability to make mature decisions.

The contemporary-history documentary has a firm place in ZDF’s program portfolio. It offers space for collective or personal recollections, confronts important events and developments of 20th-century European and international history and takes us back to the historical roots of the present socio-political conditions. These programs generally include archive materials as well as interviews with contemporary witnesses and scholarly experts.

The news reports and documentaries of the chief editorial staff deal above all with the politics of today in Germany and abroad. They stand out for their timeliness and offer extensive background information on current political events and questions.

The series “37 Grad” places a person at the center and concerns itself with social and psychological themes in a very personal context. By focusing on just a few individuals, the program addresses the viewer in a very direct and emotional manner.

Details on the current program slots of ZDF, ARTE, 3SAT, ZDFneo, and ZDF.kultur are regularly presented by ZDF Studios in the brochure “Factual Programming on ZDF.”