Archive for September 9th, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deutsche Welle enters “Dialog” with Chinese Media, Yu Jie boycotts Broadcaster

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports the dismissal of Deutsche Welle Chinese department editor Su Yutong in a Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin for the month of September (see item no. 7 there). Su denies that DW managers had issued a warning or claimed that she had violated any internal rules.

Also according to IFJ, DW’s Director General Peter Limbourg visited Wang Gengnian, Director of China Central Television International Channel, on August 28 [or August 27, local time]. Wang Gengnian is, in fact, director of China Radio International (CRI), rather than of CCTV.

A broad majority within Deutsche Welle broadcasting commission (Rundfunkrat) supports director Limbourg’s reform process, DW spokesman Johannes Hoffmann wrote in a press release in German, on Monday. Limbourg had reported to the commission on Friday, concerning initial measures to implement DW’s Aufgabenplanung (task plan). Aufgabenplanung is described by this commenter (January 2012) as the paper that requests DW’s budget from German federal parliament. The commission had, in particular, welcomed Limbourg’s talks with Chinese broadcasters about possible cooperation, acording to the press release. The primary objective of the meetings had been to get to know each other better. There was only little common ground (kleine Schnittmengen) with Chinese media, but what was there ought to be used to enter a dialog, the press release quotes Limbourg.

Even earlier, on Friday, Hoffmann had published a press release in English, with details about Limbourg’s Chinese interlocutors:

From August 27 to 29, 2014, Limbourg met in the Chinese capital with, among others, the vice president of the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) as well as the presidents of the state educational broadcaster, China Education Television (CETV) and CCTV’s nationwide digital platform (CDP). Talks with the director general of China Radio International were also on the agenda.

Limbourg said the goal was “to present the journalistic offerings of Germany’s international broadcaster and to examine possibilities for an extended cooperation.” He said the discussions took place in “a good atmosphere and were very constructive.”

According to the Friday release,

A contract was signed with the cultural broadcaster SHTV, for the sale of more than 100 hours of DW Transtel programs. The cooperation will be expanded through a Chinese edition of DW’s weekly cultural magazine Arts.21. CDP will continue to broadcast the Chinese adaptation of DW’s lifestyle magazine Euromaxx for another three years. The program is available in 140 million Chinese households, via the Chinese World Geographic Channel, and is also accessible as video-on-demand at http://www.tv.cn.

On Thursday, Limbourg had spoken at the 5th Sino-German Media Forum of the Robert Bosch Foundation. The Robert Bosch Stiftung is frequently among the sponsors of harmonious east-western meetings.

Limbourg’s salesman-like approach isn’t welcomed everywhere in the German press (as far as the press pays attention at all). Michael Hanfeld of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote in an article published online on Saturday that Limbourg’s cooperations raise lots of questions. And as far as Frank Sieren‘s DW column of June 4 is concerned – the trigger for the Su Yutong incident [si je puis m’exprimer ainsi – JR] -, Hanfeld’s criticism comes across as somewhat resigned:

When reading Sieren’s articles more closely, an attitude becomes apparent that may suit a so-called business paper, but one that Germany’s foreign broadcaster cannot afford: the principle of let bygones be bygones, and keep focused on business.

Liest man Frank Sierens Beiträge genauer, offenbart sich eine Haltung, die vielleicht zu einer sogenannten Wirtschaftszeitung passt, die sich der deutsche Auslandsrundfunk aber nicht leisten darf: das Prinzip Schwamm drüber und immer schön an die Wirtschaftsbeziehungen denken.

While DW didn’t employ a permanent monitor to evaluate the Chinese department’s work anymore – Limbourg reportedly ended the practice several months ago -, occasional evaluations by an external expert were still an option, Hanfeld quotes DW. Hanfeld’s suggestion: try Chang Ping, who countered Sieren’s June-4 column with columns of his own, also published by DW. Or Su Yutong, who had asked Limbourg in an open letter to meet with Gao Yu too, while in China.

It probably won’t happen. In an apparently somewhat miffed DW statement requested by Hanfeld or FAZ, concerning Su’s open letter, no proposals from Su Yutong are needed to make sure that the DW director would advocate freedom of the press, freedom of information or freedom of opinion.

Yu Jie (余杰) on the other hand, who published China’s Best Actor in 2010,  a book about former Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao which had been broadcast by DW Chinese as an audio series, doesn’t think he needs DW anymore. In the September issue of Open Magazine (开放杂志, Hong Kong), Yu wrote that

As a dissident against CCP tyranny, I’m proud of my identity. I hereby declare that from now on, I will boycott Deutsche Welle. I won’t have interviews with them anymore, won’t listen to their programs anymore, won’t browse their website anymore – unless Deutsche Welle returns to the correct path [and no longer takes the ways of the Fifty-Cent-Party?], and restores Su Yutong to her job.

作为一名反抗中共暴政的异议人士,我为自己的这一身份而感到光荣。我也在此宣佈,从现在开始抵制德国之声,不再接受德国之声的访问,不再收听德国之声的广播节目,不再流览德国之声的网站——除非德国之声回归正道,不再是洋五毛当政,并恢复苏雨桐的职位。

In February – and therefore long before the Su Yutong incident -, Alina Fichter, an editor with German weekly Die Zeit , suggested in an article about Deutsche Welle TV that Limbourg’s ambitions to make DW “competitive”, and a provider of programs for “urban decisionmakers”, was not in line with the task of a publicly-owned broadcaster.

What makes these institutions [DW, but also the BBC] special is that they don’t need to earn money in the advertising markets, but rather need to convince us – those who pay for their funding – that they are legitimate [in what they are doing]. Legitimacy doesn’t stem from their viewing rate, but from the quality of their content.Das Besondere an diesen Anstalten ist, dass sie kein Geld auf den Werbemärkten verdienen müssen, aber dafür die Zahlenden – also uns – von ihrer Legitimität überzeugen sollten. Diese erwächst nicht aus der Höhe ihrer Quoten, sondern aus der Qualität ihrer Inhalte.

That a “broad majority” among the broadcasting commission supports the director seems to indicate that not every commission member does. But apparently, public debates about the course of the public broadcaster are deemed undesirable.

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Related

» Pendulum swings back, Aug 27, 2014
» Ask your Ancestors, SCMP, June 16, 2014
» Trivial matter, Jan 23, 2012
» Yu Jie’s sudden flight, Jan 13, 2012
» Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011
» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009
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Updates

» Media boast distinctive advantage, CNS, Sept 5, 2014

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deutsche Welle: Invincible in the Labor Courts, vulnerable in Propaganda Wars

In an interview with dissident website Boxun (rendered here by Beijing Spring), Su Yutong (苏雨桐) spoke about her dismissal by German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW):

Personally, I think this isn’t necessarily a good thing to happen, because but this incident may provide a glimpse on many things, it may lead to further debate, such as to which degree have Western media been infiltrated? Is the personal freedom of speech of people at the media protected or not? When you look at it from this perspective, [my dismissal] is an absolutely positive thing to happen. This is the opposite case of the one we had after the Zhang Danhong incident. We can also, from one side, verify the reach of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party to every corner of the world. How Western democratic societies can resist the Chinese autocratic pattern, which comes with money, needs to be reflected upon.

对于“被离职”,苏雨桐向博讯记者表示:“我觉得于我个人来说,未必是一件令人高兴的事情,但这个事件可以窥见很多东西,也可能会引起接下来的讨 论,西方媒体被渗透的程度?媒体人的私人言论自由受不受保护?从这个意见上来说,完全是一件积极的事情。这是自张丹红事件后,与之相反的一个案例,也可以 从一个侧面印证中共的手伸到世界各个角落。更大的思考在于,西方民主社会如何抵抗带着金钱袭来的中国独裁模式。”

Boxun asked about “similarities and differences” between how Su and Zhang Danhong (张丹红), in 2008, had been treated by DW.

Su Yutong said that this was absolutely not comparable. “I was dismissed, and Zhang Danhong was not. She was moved to another department. That’s one difference. The other is that Zhang Danhong spoke in favor of an autocracy. This touched upon a bottomline of values. But DW still wouldn’t dismiss her, and only found that her position and her values weren’t suitable for her work as deputy chief editor at DW Chinese department. So she was transferred to another department. But I was dismissed, based on a technicality (the so-called leaking of DW internal information), for opposing a columnist who defended an autocracy.

苏雨桐表示,这根本没有可比性。“我是被离职,而张丹红从未被离职,是调职,这是第一。第二,张丹红为专制辩护,触到提价值底线,但德国之声并没 有辞退她,而是认为她的立场和价值观不适合做中文部副主任,调职。而我是因为反对为专制辩护的专栏作者,被以技术性原因(所谓的泄露德国之声内部消息)为 由被离职。”

There aren’t only differences at Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department. According to a DW editor who spoke with German daily Junge Welt in May this year, on condition of anonymity, said that they were compelled to refer to the Crimea referendum in March as the “illegal” or “so-called” referendum.  And more in general, editorials about Russian president Vladimir Putin were only written by editors deemed “suitable” for the topic. What if the anonymous editor would not write in conformity with the prescribed terminology? Answer:

I hope I will never know what happens in such a case. Many try to circumvent the requirements by using less problematic synonyms. It is, after all, fertile soil for censorship when you need to support a family with two children, working on a fixed-term contract. Eventually, you’ll find yourself censoring yourself – because you want to keep your job, you write in a way that won’t cause offense. There are many good journalists at DW, but I haven’t seen great rebels there yet.

Ich hoffe, daß ich nie erfahren werde, was in einem solchen Fall passiert. Viele versuchen die Vorgaben zu umgehen, indem sie z.B. weniger problematische Synonyme benutzen. Es ist halt ein fruchtbarer Boden für die Zensur, wenn man als Journalist eine Familie mit zwei Kindern ernähren muß und auf Basis von Zeitverträgen arbeitet. Irgendwann ertappt man sich bei der Selbstzensur – weil man seinen Job behalten will, schreibt man so, daß es keinen Anstoß erregt. Gute Journalisten gibt es bei der DW massenweise – große Rebellen sind mir bisher aber nicht aufgefallen.

The problem here is that getting rid of quasi-employees is easy for Deutsche Welle. Strictly speaking, based on labor-law terms, Su Yutong wasn’t even dismissed. Su’s contract “expires” next year, and won’t get “renewed”. The same was the case with Wang Fengbo (王凤波) and some of his colleagues at DW whose contracts expired in 2010 or 2011. But for whatever reason, Boxun apparently didn’t ask Su Yutong questions about similarities with these former colleagues’ cases.

Deutsche Welle appears to have become nearly invincible in the labor courts. But on the other hand, the management’s apparent influence on content has also made the organization an ideal battleground for propaganda wars – when there is a lack of professional principle, everything becomes possible. Beijing and the dissidents have apparently seized these opportunities first. But other players will keep succeeding – until Deutsche Welle becomes a believable source for news again, or until German parliament lays the station to rest forever.

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Related posts under the Deutsche Welle tag.

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