This is somewhat underreported in those German media that usually go berserk over the capitalist dealings of international investors:
Former workers feel chill in Russian TV venture
Turnover in the news department of REN TV, Russia's last nationwide television network with independent news programming, has raised questions among analysts and media watchers about Kremlin influence in the channel's sale and the role of RTL Group, the broadcasting arm of the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.
In July RTL Group bought a 30 percent stake in REN TV, one of the top Russian networks, from Irena Lesnevskaya, who founded and ran the channel with her son, Dmitry Lesnevsky. (...)
RTL shares ownership of the station with a Russian steel maker and a Russian oil company, whose chief executives both campaigned for Putin during the 2004 presidential race. (...)
Romanova said that, in the weeks leading up to her removal as anchorwoman, she had protested what she said were Ordzhonikidze's decisions to keep several reports off the air, pressure that began after she ran a report about a pro-fascist march in Moscow on Nov. 4. The reports included one about elections in Kazakhstan and another about prosecutors' dropping charges against Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's son, who was accused of killing a pedestrian with his car, Romanova said. (...)
Romanova and the colleagues who followed her in leaving the station said that REN TV's German investors have been a particular disappointment, saying they had expected the outsiders would be protectors of freedom of the press.
"I think that RTL in this situation behaved even worse than Russian shareholders because they represent an international concern," said Yelena Fyodorova, REN TV's former news editor. She said she had resigned because of the new atmosphere at the station. (emphasis added)
Well, well, well, Mrs. Fyodorova... we don't want to be too critical with global capitalist locusts, right? After all, this locustis affiliated with such left-wing German media treasures as Stern and ZEIT...
Recently one of Germany's larger media firms announced that it planned to purchase a majority stake in ProSiebenSat1, Germany's second largest broadcasting corporation. So what? No big deal, just another corporate merger, right...?
Wrong. This isn't just any media firm: It's Axel Springer. And Axel Springer is the sort of company that touches a very raw nerve with certain groups of Germans. For starters, it is a firm that values a strong transatlantic partnership, supports the Israeli peoples' right to existence and is dedicated to fighting totalitarianism. But that is just the half of it. The firm, which owns newspapers like "Die Welt" and the best-selling tabloid "Bild," is also perceived as conservative. And to top it all off, the Chairman of Axel Springer is one Mathias Doepfner, a man who has mercilesslycriticized the resurgentanti-American, anti-capitalist, pro-appeasement tendencies in German society.
So when Springer announced it wanted to expand its reach, a shrill cry went up from the ranks of the German left that democracy itself was being threatened by over-concentration of media. Particularly loud, fearful objections were registered at Stern and Der SPIEGEL. The SPD's Vice-Chairman for its parliamentary fraction, Ludwig Stiegler commented openly that, "This is a very alarming concentration of media power in a conservative publishing house." Stiegler added, "Springer shouldn't celebrate too soon. I am certain that the anti-trust authorities will take a very close look at the merger."
Germany's Real Media Hegemon: Bertelsmann
As is so often the case, the outcry was a highly selective one motivated in part by personal interests and political fears. Remember that Stern is Germany's most widely read weekly with 8 million
readers and Der SPIEGEL is more or less tied for second-place with
FOCUS with around 5 million. And it just so happens that Bertelsmann,
far and away Germany's largest and most powerful media corporation(and
Axel Springer's major competitor), owns a majority share in Stern and a 25.5% stake in Der SPIEGEL through its subsidiary Gruner & Jahr.
And let's just compare Germany's two largest media firms for a moment: Bertelsmann has a turnover of 17 billion Euros, a presence in 63 nations and a workforce of over 76,000 employees. Axel Springer has a turnover of 2.5 billion Euros, a presence in 27 countries and a workforce of 10,700. Should its merger succeed, Springer would still be much smaller than Bertelsmann. Yet we are supposed to be worried about the over-concentration of media power at Axel Springer? Is there something wrong with this picture?
The Wall Street Journal: "Axel Springer's Enemies"
No one has given a better account of the ongoing hypocrisy in German media and politics vis-a-vis Springer than the Wall Street Journal. Here are excerpts from an outstanding August 11 editorial that hit the nail right on the head:
"German democracy is under attack. At least that is what a flock
of the media elite has been claiming since Axel Springer, Germany's largest
newspaper publisher, said Friday it would buy ProSiebenSat.1, the country's
second-largest broadcasting group. This "cannot be in the interest of
democracy," said Michael Konken, the chairman of Germany's journalist association.
Frank Werneke, a trade union leader, called for "the containment of media
power across sectors."
These concerns would sound more sincere if they also had been
voiced four years ago when Bertelsmann, the world's fourth-largest media
company, took control of RTL Group, Germany's largest broadcaster. But back
then, there were no such warnings about democracy's imminent decline.
Bertelsmann's outlets are more to the liking of the German left.
Let's look at some of the facts. Although the acquisition will
nearly double Springer's sales to about €4.2 billion, Bertelsmann still dwarfs
its competitor, with global sales more than four times higher. Bertelsmann's
German business alone still outpaces its rival with about €5 billion in sales.
RTL is slightly more popular than ProSiebenSat.1 but neither broadcaster
reaches 25% of the German audience -- the ceiling regulators have set for
combined print and television companies. (...)
The principles Springer journalists are expected to support are
freedom and democracy in Germany and efforts to bring the peoples of Europe
closer together; reconciliation between Jews and Germans, which includes
support for Israel's right to exist; the trans-Atlantic alliance and the
liberal value community with the U.S.; the rejection of totalitarianism and the
defense of Germany's free, social-market economy.
What sounds like a manifesto that any reasonable democrat in
Germany should be able to sign is now being called a threat to the country's
democracy. Without doubt, the company's commitment to the trans-Atlantic
relationship is what irks its opponents the most. Springer publications often
criticize U.S. policies but its readers will not find the kind of hysterical
anti-Americanism now so prevalent in much of Germany's media.
Consider the two weeklies Stern and Der Spiegel, both with
circulations of over a million and links to Bertelsmann. Der Spiegel in
particular is considered Germany's most high-brow and influential political
magazine. To give a flavor of the kind of image these two publications spread
of the U.S. and the Bush administration, one only has to look at some of their
Last fall, when General Motors was considering layoffs at its
German Opel unit (which in the end did not happen), Stern's front page showed a
giant cowboy boot with the American flag on it about to step on a group of
people grouped together to form the Opel logo. The headline was "The
Wild-West Method." Another front page in March 2004 showed President
George W. Bush in front of an American flag above what looks like a Middle
Eastern city from which smoke is rising up. Headline: "How America lied to
the world." The story was about the Iraq war, of course.
Before the U.S. election last November, Der Spiegel showed a
caricature of President Bush dressed as a cowboy ready to shoot his opponent.
The headline here was "Will America become democratic again?" Another
front page in 2003 showed the American flag with little assault rifles and gas
nozzles superimposed on the stars, headlined "Blood for oil. What Iraq is
Television, particularly public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, whose
news shows are still the most trusted, often echoes such themes. According to
Media-Tenor, a media analysis center headquartered in Bonn, their Iraq coverage
was at times even more negative than that of al-Jazeera.
Rather than stifling the political debate, Springer's expansion
to the TV world is likely to introduce the kind of "plurality of
opinions" its opponents claim he threatens. What Springer threatens is not
the diversity of view but the uniformity of view and group think -- and that
can only be healthy for Germany's democracy."
We at Medienkritik would like to think that the above was inspired to some degree by our work. Apparently the Journal's article caught the attention of Springer Chairman Mathias Doepfner, who made reference to it in a recent interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. We wanted to link to that interview, but for some reason SPIEGEL ONLINE has taken the unusual step of restricting access to the piece with a fee after only two days. So we will work on an English translation for you. Stay tuned for that...
Media Research Institute Confirms Long-Term Negative Trend in German Media's Reporting on the United States
Day for day we at Davids Medienkritik point out examples of anti-Americanism in the German media. We report these examples because we know, through our own experience and observation, that they are part of a larger trend that is seriously damaging transatlantic relations.
Many of our strongest critics, however, suggest that the examples we present simply represent isolated incidents in the German media and that our postings are little more than anecdotal. They deny that anti-Americanism is widespread in the German media and claim that German media sources are fair and balanced. Unfortunately, such critics are often very short on convincing evidence.
The Evidence Is In
Just two days ago, an independent German media research institute, Medien Tenor, released the results of a major, long-term study on seven major German television news programs that examined over 14,000 individual television news reports. The results overwhelmingly confirm what Davids Medienkritik has argued all along: That Germany's largest, most influential media outlets are pervasively biased against the United States.
Here, now, are the Medien Tenor study results translated exclusively for our audience:
US Protagonists in German TV: News Reporting Continues to be Negative 2005-04-20 Bush visit in February does not bring a sustainable change
Despite the short-term positive reporting of the Bush visit at the end of February, the negative trend in the portrayal of US-American protagonists and institutions that has been ongoing since 2002 continues in German television. This is shown by a current, long-term analysis done by the independent Bonn media research institute Medien Tenor of the main news programs of ARD, ZDF, RTL, SAT1 and PRO7. "Since the German federal government backed away from its 'unconditional solidarity' in the year 2002, the rating has gone continually downwards in the television news," explains Roland Schatz, the Director of Medien Tenor. The short "Bush-Schroeder pageant" in Mainz also did not bring a sustained change to the news reporting.
The negative trend was also not limited to political figures, but also encompassed news reporting on business. Scandals and crises have predominantly marked the picture of the American economy since 2002. "Successful developments clearly stand in the shadow of scandals and are barely portrayed," Schatz analyzes. The news prefer to repeatedly present their viewers with information on Enron or the investigations of Eliot Spitzer instead of reporting on success stories like those of Dell.
For the analysis, Medien Tenor evaluated 14,703 news reports in seven German TV news programs. ARD Tagesschau and Tagesthemen, ZDF heute and heute journal, RTL Aktuell, SAT1 NEWS (18:30), Pro7 NEWSTIME. Time period: January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2005.
And here is a graph of the negative trend from Medien Tenor:
Steady Trend: German Television Media Have Grown Increasingly Negative Towards All Things American Since 2002
The results of this study also emphatically contradict the claim that German media are simply "anti-Bush" and not "anti-American." The study clearly shows that major German television news programs suffer from a pervasive, across-the-board bias against the United States in reporting on both political and non-political matters.
Bearing these results in mind, is it any wonder that the United States has grown less popular in the eyes of the German people? How would the American people view Germany if they were bombarded daily with increasingly negative television images of German society, politics, culture and business? When will the leaders of both nations properly recognize this issue and the impact it is having?
Finally, as a concerned observer, one has to wonder how the German government could possibly be taking out expensive, full-page color ads in American newspapers claiming that Germany and America are "united" and "partners" while failing, completely, to criticize the media bias in their own country that is slowly destroying German-American friendship. Why, for example, has Gerhard Schroeder's so-called "Coordinator for German-American Cooperation" Karsten Voigt been so deafeningly silent on this vital matter? Could it be that Gerhard Schroeder and his Socialist-Green coalition know that they may, again, have to rely on anti-American media and voters to put them into office come election time, as they did in 2002?