The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe decided that several aspects of broadcaster ZDF’s state contract were against the constitution.
Judges gave the broadcaster's television board, which has representatives from all 16 German states, until 2015 to come up with a new arrangement for ZDF.
The percentage of politicians and people "close to the government" who sit on the boards of the broadcaster must be reduced from 44 percent to a third, the court said.
Politicians can also have “no decisive influence” over the selection of members for the television board, the court added.
The case was brought by the states of Hamburg and Rhineland-Palatinate which argued political parties and the government had too much influence over television.
The debate was sparked in 2009 after the contract of ZDF’s editor-in-chief Nikolaus Brender was not renewed.
Members of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) sat on the board and opposition was led by Hesse’s state premier Roland Koch who was also the board's vice-chairman.
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