HR contributes to the programming of the main German public-service broadcasting channel Das Erste, and also to that of the associated 3sat, ARTE, KI.KA, and Phoenix.
Like other regional public broadcasting corporations in Germany, HR has its own, regional "channel three" (i.e. in addition to the national ARD and ZDF channels). From 1964 until 1983 this was known as Das Hessisches Fernsehprogramm ("The Hesse Television Programme"). It was then rebaptized as Hessen Drei ("Hesse Three"), before it was rebaptized hessen fernsehen ("Hesse Television") in 1997. Most recently, in October 2004 the channel became hr-fernsehen. Since December 2013 the channel has also been available in HDTV.
hr1 plays almost exclusively middle of the road and easy listening music, chiefly from the 1965 to 1985 era, and is aimed at a 40- to 60-year-old demographic. Until 2004 hr1 had been HR's main information channel.
hr2-kultur is HR's cultural and classical-music radio channel.
hr3 is an adult-oriented popular music programme. Relaunched in the early 80s as a service targeted principally at young people, the station has aged together with its audience.
hr4 is aimed at an older listenership. It broadcasts regional news and German popular music (schlagers) and "evergreens", as well as instrumental music, folk, and light classical music.
hr-info is a 24-hour news radio. On weekday daytime, it provides rolling news, with bulletins every 20 minutes. At all other times (except overnight), it broadcasts special in-depth-reports on a range of topics, alongside a quick news summary every half-hour.
YOU FM is HR's music programme for young people. It has also become famous outside of Hesse and Germany for its Saturday night techno music transmissions.
Former radio channels
hr-klassik – classical music programme (closed September 2005)
hr XXL – independent music programme for young people (1998–2003, now replaced by YOU FM)
hr-skyline – business-oriented information programme (1998–2004), now replaced by hr-info)
Hessischer Rundfunk maintains three resident ensembles:
hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony) – Founded in 1929 by HR's predecessor, the Südwestdeutsche Rundfunkdienst (1924–33), the orchestra is an internationally renowned ensemble. Its 112 musicians perform the whole spectrum of symphonic music dating from the Baroque era to the present day, initiating various new forms of presentation as well as undertaking experimental projects. Although the orchestra is based in Frankfurt, working principally in the German State of Hesse, it is a frequent guest at important international festivals and regularly tours the world. Since the 2021/2022 season Alain Altinoglu has been the orchestra's chief conductor. Important predecessors have included Dean Dixon, Eliahu Inbal, Dmitri Kitayenko, Hugh Wolff, Paavo Järvi and Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
hr-Bigband (Frankfurt Radio Big Band) – The Frankfurt Radio Big Band started life in 1946 as the Radio Frankfurt Dance Orchestra. Since the 1970s it has developed into a jazz big band with the focus on concerts. The Frankfurt Radio Big Band plays approximately 50 concerts every year, performing in every possible jazz-style as well as crossing over into classic, pop, ethno-, and electronic music. After three years as the band's artist in residence, Jim McNeely assumed the position of chief conductor in 2011.