Deutsche Welle director Erik Bettermann will retire on September 30 this year. His successor will be Peter Limbourg, currently working in a leading position for German private mass media company ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG. DW broadcasting board chairman Valentin Schmidt announced the decision on March 15; the DW press release was written by the broadcaster’s spokesman Johannes Hoffmann. A press release in English is also available.
14 of the 17 board members voted “Yes”; one voted “No”, and two abstained, according to the German release.
Limbourg might count himself lucky, even if his job at Deutsche Welle, under growing budgetary constraints, won’t be an easy one. He is currently Senior Vice President for news and political information at ProSiebenSat 1, which sounds pompous, the Tagesspiegel (Berlin) wrote on March 15, but the hard truth was that information counted very little at his current employer. Information, the Tagesspiegel continues, counts all the more at Deutsche Welle.
On March 14, the Frankfurter Rundschau wrote that only four weeks earlier, Valentin Schmidt had still ruled out an early decision – that would have to wait until June. The search for candidates to succeed Bettermann hadn’t been completed, and the broadcasting board also wanted to wait and see how the candidates to date presented themselves. Applicants from within Deutsche Welle, among them Gerda Meuer, head of the DW academy (and once working for the German service of Radio Japan) weren’t even invited. By the end of February, only Limbourg had delivered a convincing presentation, and Limbourg it was.
In one respect, however, a trend described by Frankfurter Rundschau on February 17 made it into the vote: Limbourg was a journalist, rather than a politician. A complaint of unconstitutionality was pending at Germany’s federal constitutional court, critical of the oversized influence of political parties in the boards and commissions of German broadcasters, and apparently, the DW broadcasting board didn’t want to risk criticism in line with that complaint. The more, however, representatives of the churches were emerging. Valentin Schmidt, a 72-year-old evangelic Christian, is likely to be succeeded by a catholic prelate, Karl Jüsten, at the end of this year, wrote Frankfurter Rundschau. Both Limbourg and one of his most likely competitors (Stephan-Andreas Casdorff, who withdrew his candidacy before March 15) are catholic.
German chancellor Angela Merkel probably liked the emerging constellation, the Focus (Munich) speculated one day after Limbourg was chosen. Soon, the director and three out of his five sub-directors would be on a ticket of the Christian Democrats (the incumbent director, Erik Bettermann is a social democrat), and Karl Jüsten, the probable next chairman of the broadcasting board, was catholic and therefore close to Merkel’s Christian Democrats anyway.
Limbourg will be the first director at a public broadcaster who previously worked for privately-owned television.
Guanchazhe (Observer), a Shanghai-based website, quotes a scholar from Berlin as saying that the high-sounding election of the new DW director, as well as a low-key restoration of Feng Haiyin (apparently von Hein, a German) as head of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department could bring about a new atmosphere, with some more objective reporting and less ideology in China-related reports (柏林的一名学者18日对记者表 示，“德国之音”选出新台长和冯海音重新担任中文部主任，可能会给该台涉华报道带来新风气，多-些客观报道，少一些意识形态).
Those who had suggested that Feng Haiyin was “close to the CCP” had apparently never listened to the DW broadcasts, scoffs Dream Tramp, a commenter in the thread. All his scripts were full of vicious attacks (说冯海音“亲共”，显然是没听过德国之声广播。他写的每一篇稿子都充满着对土共的恶毒攻击。). German media are more anti-communist than British or American media, suggests another.
Correct, replies Dream Tramp. And [the German media were] stupid at that. I’ve frequently heard them recklessly rushing at rumors – their professional level is far behind Britain’s and America’s.