Freedom of the Press: “He Who pays the Piper, calls the Tune”

Nowadays, it is the media themselves which pose the greatest risk to the freedom of the press. The quality of journalism is deteriorating because media companies want to make more money out of the media than in the past.

Heribert Prantl, Süddeutsche Zeitung / Goethe-Institut »

» DW, Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011
» Why are Mass Media losing Relevance, Febr 26, 2009


7 Responses to “Freedom of the Press: “He Who pays the Piper, calls the Tune””

  1. I never knew that Prantl was a judge and a public prosecutor, before he joined the Süddeutsche Zeitung. And I can see the parallels between your interview with Wang and the events at Deutsche Welle and what Prantl describes. But there are differences, too. Prantl writes about commercial media.


  2. Here is another article, JR. Deutsche Welle Director General “leveled clear criticism at Web 2.0, which in some states has proven itself to be ‘virtually a job machine for government approved opinion controllers’.”


  3. It seems to me that Erik Bettermann‘s idea of traditional journalism as a gatekeeper in an information overload reflects a search for Deutungshoheit (probably sovereignty of interpretation, in English). Roland Detsch‘s reference to al-Jazeera‘s role in the Arab Revolution points into a similar direction – that without an aggregator (both sovereignty of interpretation and aggregator are my terms of choice, or my interpretation – it’s not what the article says itself) of Jazeera’s kind, deliberately taking up the material distributed by the protest movement over Web 2.0 channels and spreading the Twitter hashtags on demonstrators’ banners all over the world through television, and his article and Bettermann’s message basically re-enforce each other.

    Talking about interpretation – even if not the sovereignty thereof -, it might be time for me to sit down and to try and make sense of the information I’ve gathered during the past three years or so, and especially during the past few weeks. Wang Fangbo mentioned that Adrienne Woltersdorf left Deutsche Welle last year, and Detsch’s article confirms that (“former head of the chinese services at Deutsche Welle”). I invited a statement from Deutsche Welle by e-mail last week, but there’s no answer yet. In case that I get no news from there, I’ll use the statements made by the station in news articles and reports elsewhere.

    But I will probably still be feeling my way forward. Despite having looked at the whole story quite closely, I have no idea yet where the Welle actually wants to go, and Bettermann’s apparent lance for traditional journalism last year only confuses me further. If Web 2.0 is a leviathan, DW might be a leviathan of another kind.

    Thanks for bringing this article to my attention.


  4. News of the World and the the rest of Murdocks tabloid empire is a good case in point.


  5. True. But as Tai De has pointed out, the special thing about DW is that they are publicly funded. This public funding doesn’t go without saying. Radio Austria International was discontinued in 2003, and 2004 marked the end for Swiss Radio International.

    Wang Fengbo pointed out in this interview that German department of Deutsche Welle is still not able to give a satisfactory answer to the question, i.e. in the age of internet and globalisation, why a German expat should be interested in its radio broadcasts or internet content, as ARD, ZDF or Spiegel are only a mouse-click away, all over the world.
    I believe that international radio can only justify its existence when it is radio, and not part of the internet. It may make sense to be on Facebook and all that, and to run a website, too, but to me, the Welle is only one source out of many on the internet. I think this is a natural and pretty universal trend.

    The Welle’s approach to serve as a promoter for tourism in Germany, or for German business (that’s what I felt they were doing before 2008) and as a promoter of human rights (that’s the approach now, in Wang’s view, and that doesn’t look unlikely to me either) was or is a try to offset some of the loss of influence the Welle would suffer as a mere source of information (on the internet, in paticular). It may also be an effort to justify continued public funding.

    If all that was part of a mix, it might actually work. But to abandon their unique selling point – and that’s to be available on every small shortwave receiver, or maybe satellite receiver, too – is likely to be their death blow in the long or even short run. No modern medium – from newspaper, to radio, to television – has ever been completely abandoned by the audience, and if you tell your audience how to listen, rather than to reach them where they are, your approach doesn’t look terribly customer oriented – and if you consider the federal government your first and foremost customer (that’s my suspicion), you will lose your listeners – German-speaking and Chinese-speaking listeners alike.

    Listener numbers would go down, anyway – that’s pretty much for sure. But without shortwave, the numbers will probably fade much faster, and to even lower levels.



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