The German ministry of finance and federal government commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters have agreed to increase the Deutsche Welle (DW) budget by twelve million Euros, from 2016 on. The Generalanzeiger, a paper from Bonn, and therefore from one of the two cities hosting DW services, describes the agreement – reportedly reached on February 22 – as a mark set by the two against DW director general Peter Limbourg‘s plans to close ten out of the thirty language services run by DW.
Employee committee member Daniel Scheschkewitz had referred to the director general’s plans as hostage-taking, according to the eco-liberal daily taz in December last year. In the same article however, taz also quoted DW spokesman Christoph Jumpelt as saying that Limbourg had pointed out consequences that budget squeezes on DW could lead to.
But neither the Generalanzeiger, nor taz, come across as convinced. Nor does Tabea Rössner, media spokesperson for the Greens in German federal parliament. In a speech on a demonstration of some 300 DW employees in Bonn on February 23, she quoted DW general employee committee Ayse Tekin as saying that if the director general wanted an English-language news channel, the budget needed to be increased, and that the news channel should not come at the cost of DW’s regional language services. And she didn’t forget to mention how enduringly she, Rössner, had advocated this position in the federal parliament, in the press, in interviews, and in discussions.
Indeed, Rössner has made DW, and the strategic choice it is facing, publicly noticeable (if anyone has). And she caught the ire of the DW bosses when, a few days ahead of the DW staff protests in Bonn, she allegedly referred to their plans as the organization’s transformation into an English-language news channel. This echoed the two opposing December narratives, about an either reckless or concerned director general. DW spokesman Jumpelt reacted with a press release, on February 20, criticizing Rössner’s representation of the plans – or warnings, depending on whose side of the story you side with – as unobjective. There were “some” who used the discussion about DW financing to raise their own profiles.
If that, too, was targeted at Rössner, it may not be completely off the mark. But every politician who makes DW a topic of public debate – beyond government – is doing the public foreign broadcaster a favor.
Related tag: Deutsche Welle