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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