German Television Interview with Deutsche Welle director: Aha, the Russians do Propaganda

After facing many inconvenient questions about the editorial independence of his multimedia broadcaster during the past months, from the media, from politics, and from Reporters without Borders, Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg got airtime this month with much nicer questions. On November 16, Berlin Direkt, a primetime political magazine on Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), one of Germany’s two national – domestic – television channels, interviewed Limbourg.

Q:   Russia currently upgrades its foreign television, and other [media] – internet, radio – incredibly, and also invests a lot of money into these. Is the restructuring of Deutsche Welle an answer to that offensive?
A:   I think that it [DW restructuring] has to do with that, because we simply noticed that very many broadcasters, internationally, spend a lot of money for their purposes, and that we obviously have to see to it that the German perspective and German values for which we stand, i. e. democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, that these are heard in the world. Therefore we have, of course to enter this competition to a degree, even if that is quite expensive.
Q:   And even if this will immediately lead to the accusation that aha, the Russians do propaganda, but Deutsche Welle spends more money, too, so Deutsche Welle, too, does propaganda?
A:   No, I think that in our place, that’s nothing to do with propaganda or counter-propaganda, but we want to score with enlightenment, and this means that we won’t explicitly try to work against someone, but we work for our values, and I think that it explains itself, that  when you stand for democracy, freedom of the press, and pluralism, that precisely therefore, we have nothing to do with propaganda, but on the contrary: we try to represent plurality of opinion. That means, too, of course, that we listen to other opinions such as opinions of the Russians, and work with these.
Q:  How is Deutsche Welle positioned in Russia, and how are you received there?
A:  We have a correspondent bureau in Russia and we have, of course, a very strong and, during the past months, yet strengthened, Russian and Ukrainian service which are in very, very high demand. The numbers of users have tripled or quadrupled. But we wouldn’t be able to launch a broadcaster in Russian in Russia; you don’t get a licence from the government for that.

I didn’t watch Berlin Direkt on television. On the ZDF internet pages, you can access both the interview and a report that provides some background information about Deutsche Welle’s Russian competitors – ZDF certainly portray Russia Today television, Radio Sputnik, and Russia’s umbrella organization for foreign media, Rossiya Segodnya, as competitors for Deutsche Welle. The Berlin Direkt report starts right from the first minute here, and there may not be a great deal of information about Russia’s foreign propaganda around at German television. “Recently, German is spoken, too”, the ZDF anchor suggests in his lead-in.

In fact, the first program by Radio Moscow that ever targeted a foreign audience was in German. That was in 1929. The German programs continued through the years of the 2nd World War, and when Radio Moscow was reorganized as the “Voice of Russia” in December 1993, the German-language tradition – many hours a day, seven days a week – continued. It still does.

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Update/Related

Putin’s side of the story, …

… in an interview with the other main German tv channel, ARD, Nov 17.

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Main tag: Deutsche Welle

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