Deutsche Welle: End of the Radio Era

“Since October 30th, 2011, Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) has been breaking new ground”, the Bonner Generalanzeiger, in an article on November 23, quoted the Welle’s website.

[Main Link:
Links within blockquote added during translation.]

Not everyone at Deutsche Welle seems to follow this path willingly or hopefully, writes the Generalanzeiger.

The end of the radio era – Deutsche Welle terminated its shortwave program in German after sixty years, in favor of its online presence – gnaws at the employees’ self-image and causes fears. After all, employment reduction in a three-digit dimension is hanging in the air.

[The outlook provided] issues in abundance for the staff meeting in the Welle’s board room on November 22, the first such meeting after the end of the radio era. That, and an initial all-clear from the director, Erik Bettermann: there would be no operational layoffs, but there would be early-retirement arrangements, and the severance of fixed-term contracts. Most of the employment reductions would hit freelancers, according to the Welle’s press spokesman Johannes Hoffmann.

The Welle once offered more than twenty radio languages – a global network on analog shortwave. Just one example from a deluge of listeners’ letters: “No Welle no more. Germany abolishes itself”*), wrote a sailor.

That much about the users. For the Deutsche Welle employees, the reshuffles spell a reduction of technical and editorial jobs, in unknown numbers. There are worries about the broadcaster’s sustainability, too. Voices within the Welle are talking about perplexity and deep frustration, and little trust in the new multi-media arrangements. More video, for example, could lead to dangers for the language departments in Bonn.

During the staff meeting, which was held in closed session, there was talk about chaos at restructuring, and lacking orientation. The Deutsche Welle needed new products for new markets, that was also said. But the path was difficult – why? The Welle was a broadcaster with two locations, with grown corporate cultures, and with two heads of programming with no love lost between them, an employee said.

Press spokesman Hoffmann appreciates some of the fears, but “we must position Deutsche Welle multi-medially, in a way which makes it sustainable”. The process was under way, “but the structural reform will only take effect early in 2012”. Bonn, so far with a focus on radio and the internet, would spend more time on television production, and cooperate much more closely with Berlin, than before. Currently, television magazines are adapted for eastern-European languages, and successfully broadcast in those countries.

In a footnote or update to the article, the Bonner Generalanzeiger adds that

Deutsche Welle [is] under pressure to reduce its costs: besides a need to react to globally changing media use, a massive financial problem is part of the reform background. Currently, Deutsche Welle gets 273 million Euros from the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media. According to the Generalanzeiger, quoting the broadcasting commission’s chairman Valentin Schmidt, Deutsche Welle ran a funding gap of “at least ten million Euros”, in 2011.



*) “Germany abolishes itself” (or “Deutschland schafft sich ab”) was the title of a book published by former Berlin senator and then Bundesbank governor Thilo Sarrazin, in a somewhat different context.



» Deutsche Welle cuts Shortwave, May 20, 2011


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