Posts tagged ‘Deutsche Welle’

Monday, March 2, 2015

Good News for Deutsche Welle, but “some used the Discussion about DW Financing to raise their own Profiles”

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.

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Related

Leaving Rwanda, Febr 12, 2015
Mindless Competition, Jan 6, 2015
Aha, the Russians, Nov 25, 2014
Cooperating with CCTV, Oct 4, 2014

Related tag: Deutsche Welle

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Deutsche Welle: Withdrawal from the Land of a Thousand Hills

Deutsche Welle (DW) is going to close Kigali relay station in Kigali, Rwanda, the last shortwave station in its ownership, on March 29, according to Tabea Rößner, media spokesperson for the Green members of Germany’s federal lower house, the Bundestag. Rößner published the information on February 4, and voices regret:

In our motion of December 2014 we, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen demanded to keep the station operating and to secure transmissions of Deutsche Welle radio programs on shortwave. We want the station to be maintained because we believe that interference-resistant supply of information such as shoretwave need to be kept. This is the more important as geopolitical and foreign-policy constellations can change anytime. Independent coverage needs to be independent from infrastructural issues.

In unserem Antrag vom Dezember 2014 haben wir von BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN gefordert, die Station aufrecht zu erhalten und die Übertragung von Radioprogrammen der Deutschen Welle via Kurzwelle zu sichern. Die Station wollen wir aufrecht erhalten, weil wir der Meinung sind, dass störunanfällige Informationsangebote wie die Kurzwelle unbedingt aufrechterhalten werden müssen. Dies ist umso wichtiger, da geo- und außenpolitische Konstellationen sich jederzeit ändern können. Unabhängige Berichterstattung aber muss von Infrastrukturfragen unabhängig sein.

Indeed, on December 18 last year, when the Bundestag debated, among others, Deutsche Welle’s task plan and budget, had argued that rather than entering a mindless competition with English-language foreign broadcasters, DW, the Greens argued, should strengthen its core competences, maintain shortwave in general, and the Kigali relay station in particular.

Deutsche Welle QSL card confirming reception of Kigali relay station, on September 6, 2014, at 04:00 UTC.

Deutsche Welle QSL card confirming a report on Kigali relay transmissions, September 2014

Adventist World Radio (AWR), a station that broadcasts via stations of its own (Guam among them) and via rented airtime (Nauen in Germany and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka among them), appears to have rented a lot of airtime from Kigali since October last year, according to a report by Radio Berlin-Brandenburg‘s (RBB) media magazine on February 8, who quote Jose Jacob, an Indian ham radio operator, as an unverified source.

A week earlier, the magazine had reported that Kigali relay station would be dismantled.

It won’t be DW’s first withdrawal from the land of a thousand hills. In April 1994, seven German DW staff and four relatives were evacuated from the transmitter site by Belgian paratroopers, while Rwanda was descending into genocide. Most of the Rwandan staff, some eighty out of 120 Rwandan nationals, are believed to have been killed in the 1994 massacres, according to DW.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

CCP Influence on Education in Free Societies is a Problem – but it’s not the Main Challenge

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick (while we still have this feeling)

Yaxue Cao of ChinaChange.org links to questions asked by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith:

Is American education for sale? And, if so, are U.S. colleges and universities undermining the principle of academic freedom and, in the process, their own credibility in exchange for China’s education dollars?

These are important questions, asked in New York University’s (NYU) cooperation with the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai. And Chris Smith, writes Cao, did not know the answer when he delivered his statement on Thursday.

There are people who think they do know the answer. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph, a sinologist from south-western Germany, for example. In an interview with German national radio Deutschlandradio he said in the context of German universities cooperating with Confucius Institutes that

The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Every country seems to have its share of sinologists who believe – or believed in the past, anyway -, that free trade
with China would be the catalyst for political liberalism. They don’t seem to say that anymore, or maybe nobody quotes them anymore. But that doesn’t change the attitude of those who seem to believe, for whatever reason, that engagement is always better than maintaining a distance.

Cao also tends to believe that she knows the answer. She draws some conclusions that sound logical to me, and besides, she quotes Chinese stakeholders, whose statements suggest that the CCP carried the day at every stage at the ECNU negotiations with the NYU.

In fact, nobody should ever accuse the CCP of making a secret of their intentions. They discuss these intentions and drafts very openly, in the Chinese press. The problem, and here again it is time to quote Rudolph,

[…] is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper.

The problem with maintaining standards – and I’m all for defining and defending some – is that political corrections come and go in waves. Campaigns, not reflection, shape the debates when it comes to how much cooperation with totalitarianism a free society can stand. When it is about the CCP infringing on freedoms, complaints usually get some media attention, because this fits into the general propaganda. When Chinese or ethnic Chinese people in Germany get censored, they get hardly any attention – it is as if the process were taking place in an anechoic chamber.

Rudolph, the sinologist quoted above, isn’t only a writer, but also a doer. He was the first president of the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, in 1997. And he was a “program observer” at the Chinese department of German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle, probably from the end of 2009 until 2014, appointed and paid by Deutsche Welle. That practice was never a matter of public debate in Germany, and no transparency either – only one news service cared to write a telling report, which only appeared in a media trade journal. At least four Chinese or Chinese-German journalists lost their contracts, apparently in conflicts over what was deemed “too CCP-friendly”. Rudolph doesn’t look like a champion of free speech to me.

The CCP is indeed unscrupulous. Its power abolishes freedom in China, and its influence endangers freedom where societies are supposed to be “autonomous”. A few weeks after Beijing and its puppet administration in Hong Kong had finished off legitimate democratic demands for universal suffrage from the Hong Kong public, Huanqiu Shibao (“Global Times”), one of the flagships of Chinese state media, warns that opposition against a mainland student running for university office at the University of Hong Kong reflected a dangerous “McCarthyite trend” in the former British colony. On a sidenote. if this conflict occured in Germany, Huanqiu might have tried allegations of Nazism instead.*)

But the CCP isn’t the core problem when it comes to its influence on academic institutions and people. When private enterprise becomes an important source of income for universities, that, too, endangers academic independence. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

If there were clear standards, procedures and constant verification of their practice in general, and beyond this particular “communist problem”, nobody would have to fear the CCP anyway.

In that way, Beijing actually helps to demonstrate what is wrong with us. If we don’t get this fixed as free societies, don’t blame China. Don’t even blame the CCP.

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Note

*) Recent years have seen a resurgence of Nazi Skinheads in some places in Germany. Attacks on foreigners occur from time to time. The unhealthy trend of racism is also the background to a series of anti-China moves of some German mediaXinhua, in 2008, reacting to the suspension of then DW-Chinese deputy department manager Zhang Danhong.

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Related

» 不该让“麦卡锡”进校门, Huanqiu, Feb 6, 2015
» Hearing transcript, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Febr 4, 2015
» Princelings & Sideshows, March 4, 2011

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Deutsche Welle Updates: “Mindless Competition”

Combative Director, Annoyed Politicians, December, 2014

German politicians reacted with resentment last month, to an announcement by Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg to cease programs in German and other important languages if there was no significant increase in the broadcaster’s funding. “I’m thinking of the cutting of the German language as an unnecessary threat posture to get more funding. A Deutsche Welle that does without the German language and doesn’t broadcast in rare languages misses the mark and damages its reputation”, the main representative of the Christian Democrats in German parliament’s foreign affairs commisson, Roderich Kiesewetter, told a German paper, the Handelsblatt, around December 15.

Tabea Rössner, media spokesperson for the Greens in German federal parliament and quoted in the same article, also criticized Limbourg’s policy. The decision to adjust the broadcaster to the English language was “fatal for Deutsche Welle’s future”, Handelsblatt quoted Rössner. The multi-language character of DW was its core competence and its unique selling point. “Thus, a source of information, with broad great esteem for its reliability, is lost for the broad population.”

Kiesewetter had been positive about Limbourg’s idea to “counter” Russia Today (RT) television, some two months earlier.

Some 600 DW employees took to the streets in Berlin’s government quarter on December 15, according to Frank Überall, treasurer of German journalist association DJV. They reportedly protested against Limbourg’s plans. DW would only remain a success story if further developed in close cooperation with the employees and politics, and Limbourg should know that, Überall told his organisation’s website, djv-berlin.de, in December.

Members of the two biggest groups in German federal parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, had stated in November that they had recognized the problem of structural underfunding at DW. On December 18, three days after the demonstrations in Berlin and in a debate of DW’s Aufgabenplanung (task planning), federal state minister for culture Monika Grütters and spokes persons of all parliamentary groups said that DW should get more funding on a regular basis. Above all, rising labor costs needed to be taken into account. All parties seem to have agreed that far.

The Christian Democrats, their Bavarian sister Party and the Social Democrats (SPD) – i. e. all bigger parties and all of them forming the current federal government – agree with Limbourg that DW English-language television needed to be strengthened. Martin Dörmann (SPD) pointed out that while the German television program reached only 250,000 viewers, the English program had an audience of 30 million. Members of parliament from the governing parties also suggested that DW “countered” frequently propagandistic coverage from other foreign broadcasters, from countries like Russia and China. That’s where the opposition disagreed.

The Left Party and the Greens, currently the only oppositional parties in federal parliament with only a fifth of all mandates there, oppose the idea, if it leads to closing down departments in other languages. Rather than entering a mindless competition with the English-speaking television stations of other countries, DW needed to strengthen their core competences.

In a motion for a Bundestag resolution, the Greens also addressed a paragraph from Germany’s co-determination law for federal institutions, the Federal Staff Representation Act (Bundespersonalvertretungsgesetz), § 90. The paragraph in question states that only permanent employees (with indefinite as well as temporary contracts) are eligible to elect members of the employee committees or to be elected. Non-permanent employees should be represented by the employee councils, too, according to the motion, which was turned down by the CDU/CSU/SPD majority.

The motion, if accepted, wouldn’t have greatly strengthened the position of non-permanent DW employees when defending themselves in the labor court against sackings, but it would have allowed – and obliged – the employee councils to pay closer attention to such issues.

Member of parliament Marco Wanderwitz (CDU) rejected criticism from Green member Tabea Rössner that Limbourg had taken DW employees hostage in order to get more money. However, Monika Grütters (also CDU) acknowledged that Limbourg’s move to threaten the closure of the German service had been wrong.

As many other departments, too, the German radio service was closed down during the past decade.However, there are still German-language television programs and a German-language internet website run by DW.

Foreign-language Service “from a German perspective”, January 2015

From the the [German] foreign office’s press release:

the foreign office and Deutsche Welle have agreed to establish a new multi-medial foreign-language service to promote international coverage of Germany abroad. The news agency dpa will contribute content, and the foreign office will support the project financially.

The new multi-medial foreign-language service shall spread current news and background from a German perspective to media partners and end-users all over the world. News from Germany and topics that shape discussions in the German public are at the center. The foreign-language service will be produced in German, English, Spanish, and Arabic, and fitted with regionally relevant topics respectively.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democrat) is quoted in the press release as saying that the new service offers the opportunity to spread news from and about Germany in a contemporary way and at high standards, thus shaping Germany’s image abroad in a positive way.

Limbourg, also according to the press release, said that the offer contributes to put Germany’s global political and economic weight into a medial context. Lasting partnerships can only evolve with cultural understanding. We want to promote this understanding with an honest, independent view onto Germany.

A press release by Deutsche Welle (in English) also mentions a budget from the foreign office, but does not become more specific than the foreign office either.

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Related

» Phoenix/DW, press release, Dec 19, 2015

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

DW director resigns “Reporters without Borders” post

Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg has resigned from the “Reporters without Borders” (RSF) board of trustees, reports Germany’s domestic broadcaster Deutschlandfunk (DLF). The report quotes RSF managing director Christian Mihr as saying that RSF had asked Limbourg to resign.

Limbourg and RSF disagree about DW’s cooperation with Chinese television broadcaster CCTV, a cooperation of which RSF is highly critical.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bundestag: Deutsche Welle “structurally underfunded”

German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle is structurally underfunded, according to a press release by Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, published on Wednesday. Members of parliament representing the Christian Democrats and the Bavarian CSU as well as the Social Democrats – all of whom form the current federal coalition government – said that they had “recognized the problem”.

More details in a blog next week. [Update, 20141121: or later.]

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Deutsche Welle projects: “cooperating” with CCTV, “countering” Russia Today


Main link: Druck auf die Deutsche Welle, October 1, 2014

1. News article: “Pressure on Deutsche Welle”

Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg advocates a role for the foreign broadcaster as an English-language counterweight to Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today, according to an article published by Kölnische Rundschau, a paper from Cologne, on October 1. “It’s not about responding to massive Russian propaganda with ‘counter-propaganda’, but about conveying our free democratic concept by means of good journalism, in accordance with Western standards, the paper quotes Limbourg.

The two parties that have formed Germany’s federal government in a “grand coaliton” since December 2013 differ about the idea. While Roderich Kieswetter, a member of parliament from chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU), likes the idea that someone “counters with medial elucidation”, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) parliamentary budget commission member Johannes Kahrs is skeptical: “I don’t think much of propaganda”. He added that “to state our values should be as much a matter of course as paying the DW employees in accordance with tariffs”.

Neither CDU nor SPD have committed themselves to increasing DW funds so as to enable the station to counter Russia Today.

Either way, Kölnische Rundschau writes, Limbourg is “under heavy pressure”, “on several fronts”. German news magazine Der Spiegel had reviewed DW’s China coverage critically – ever since freelance journalist Su Yutong had been fired, a constant stream of accusations that Limbourg had “kowtowed” to Beijing kept flowing, and Limbourg’s cooperation plans with Chinese state television CCTV had been “another step on a course that was being criticized as precarious”. Christian Mihr, head of the German section of Reporters without Borders (RSF), had told conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that his organization “sharply condemned” the cooperation, and the Green-leaning paper taz pointed out that CCTV had broadcast several “public confessions” of journalists and bloggers. Markus Löning, the federal government’s human-rights commissioner, criticized Limbourg’s plans as “dangerously naive”.

Kölnische Rundschau also points out that some 200 employees have lost some or all of their work at DW. Freelancers are said to be particularly affected by saving measures.

2. Assessment

Are Limbourg’s plans doomed already? Not necessarily. While recent decisions are controversial, Limbourg might still see them through – or back down in certain, but not all fields, depending on how support and opposition develop. When it comes to “cooperation” with party mouthpieces from China, there’s probably a lot of silent support in Germany that isn’t always reflected in the media. At least some circles in German business, the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA), criticized German media this summer for being “inaccurate” in their China coverage, according to a report by Deutsche Presseagentur (dpa),:

It was “the common task of governments and companies on both sides to promote a good reputation of Chinese companies in Germany”, the recommendations, on hand at dpa newsagency in Beijing on Tuesday [July 8], say. This was about a “fair and accurate” presentation. Background [of these recommendations?] is Chinese criticism of German media which “irresponsibly and inaccurately report about Chinese human rights and political issues”, a position paper still in progress says.

APA chairman Hubert Lienhard, talking to journalists, resolutely denied the existence of this paragraph in the raft. However, only a week ago, a draft of the paper containing this criticism circulated in the German embassy in Beijing. Accusations like these were, however, not adopted in the recommendations to the two heads of government, recommendations the APA commission does not want to publish. […]

It is this kind of climate where business interests gain weight, and where principles go down. That said, at least publicly, the German federal government wasn’t sympathetic towards the APA recomendations.

While former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, chairman of the board at Nord Stream AG, a consortium for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany, tirelessly advocates cooperation with Russia, Moscow doesn’t appear to have nearly as much sway over German published opinion or business as Beijing.

This doesn’t seem to suggest that countering Russian propaganda should be a priority. But it’s an easier target than Chinese propaganda.

And many Western “opinion formers” have apparently felt haunted by Russian propaganda, or by what they consider to be the effects of it, right at home.

Confucius Institutes are apparently much less offensive.

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Related Tag

» Deutsche Welle

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Related

» Chinesische Rochade, FAZ, Sept 26, 2014
» Weichgespült, DJV, Sept 15, 2014

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