By Dan Kubiske | July 31st, 2008
Another posting from Butler Cain on broadcasting in Germany.
I was introduced to the German broadcasting industry through the RIAS exchange program. It’s for American and German journalists who are interested in learning how the broadcasting industry works in each country. RIAS – which stands for Radio in the American Sector – began broadcasting in 1946 to counteract the rise of Communism in Eastern Europe. After the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunified, the RIAS Berlin Kommission changed its mission to one of exchange. It’s based in Berlin and is online at http://www.riasberlin.de.
In Germany, private agencies are the ones who wield authority over programming decisions. There are 14 licensing agencies there (compared to one – the FCC – in America). The idea has historic ties. After Hitler concentrated governmental power (and we know what happened as a result), Germany is very careful to avoid giving significant authority to any one organization.
All households in Germany (with some exceptions) are required to pay approximately 17 Euro per month to support public broadcasting, which gave public broadcasting a roughly 7 Billion Euro budget during the past fiscal year. This mandatory support is a typical funding model in Europe. But, it’s very different from the American model, where public broadcasting is supported primarily by voluntary contributions.
This has created lots of consternation among members of Germany’s private broadcasting industry, which has only been around since 1984. Commercial broadcasters complain that they have difficulty competing with public broadcasters because of the massive budget disparity. Unlike in America, Germany’s public broadcasting system has the financial advantage over the commercial industry.
And here’s a quick note about the king of Germany’s TV programs. “Tagesschau” is a nightly news program that airs between 8 and 8:15 PM. The public broadcaster is located in Hamburg. It has such a dominant hold on that country’s TV viewers that other channels program their schedules around “Tagesschau.” I’m not kidding.
If you’re interested, here’s a short narrated video of a few of my trip highlights. It’s at http://streams.ua.edu/aprnews/RIAS_Project.mp4.
Next time, I’ll share what I’ve learned about broadcasting during a visit to the Czech and Slovak Republics.