Public broadcasters are subject to public criticism and scrutiny, and rightfully so. Their mission, and the fact that they are funded by contributions from the viewing public, require them to be far more transparent about and accountable for their public value than private-commercial media companies. In this issue of Journalism Research/Journalistik, our debate piece as well as two other essays will address the topic of public broadcasting.

Really?! Sophie Scholl on Instagram An analysis of the journalistic discourse

By Martina Thiele and Tanja Thomas | This paper examines the journalistic discourse on the Instagram project @ichbinsophiescholl. The project is based on a fictional premise in which the resistance fighter Sophie Scholl uses the social media platform Instagram during the last few months before her arrest and murder in 1943. This thought experiment and its implementation in 2021 attracted a great deal of media attention. The PR departments of SWR and BR communicated the number of followers and the extensive reporting as a major success and vindication of their approach to reaching young people. This analysis reconstructs discursive patterns, discourse strands, and discourse positions in the reporting on the project, and discusses the extent to which »the« journalism has fulfilled its public role and the various functions assigned to it.

Representativity in broadcasting and television councils A comparative analysis of the discrepancy between council composition and demographics

By Jasmin Koch, Sabine Schiffer, Fabian Schöpp and Ronja Tabrizi / The crisis in public service media indicates various causes and areas in which structural reform is needed. In this context, it is important to consider the composition of the broadcasting councils of the ARD broadcasters, the ZDF Television Council, and Deutschlandradio’s Radio Council. Since the people of Germany fund the fulfilment of the ›programming mandate‹ through their license fee, they need to be represented in the supervisory bodies in all their diversity. It is notable that some groups and sectors of people are disproportionately represented, while others are not represented at all.

Media ownership and journalism A discourse analysis about media coverage of property ownership using the example of Kevin Kühnert’s expropriation debate

By Silas Ketels | In May 2019, Kevin Kühnert – in his function as leader of the Young Socialists in the SPD – gave an interview to the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit about his understanding of the concept socialism. The interview was followed by a heated media debate, which is analyzed in this paper. Employing discourse analysis, dominant discourse positions of several German newspapers within this debate were identified. Furthermore, this study examined whether a connection between the newspapers’ discourse position and their form of ownership existed.

How the internet is being tamed in Russia Chronicle of state securitization measures

By Yulia Belinskaya | As a communicative space, the Russian public sphere is dramatically prosecuted, and it suffers from pathologic efforts to have it systematically shut down. This article looks back into the history of the new restrictive media laws and their framing in the state media. The analysis is disclosing how, or through which instruments and conditions, the state enabled, justified, and legitimized the act of securitization.

»Defend the institutions!« Public service media safeguard democracy

By Barbara Thomaß | Expectations for the reform of public service broadcasting in Germany are enormous. Just as great, if not greater, is the need to meet these expectations – and the motivation to achieve this is more than high. There is a real danger of failing to meet these excessive expectations and a process of ailing setting in, with changes in political majorities in the states possible.

Content creation A new phase of journalism?

By Gabriele Hooffacker | Conventional providers of news and journalism have now been joined by a new group of actors, known by terms like ›influencer‹ and ›content creator.‹ While the job description ›content creator‹ usually describes professions from the world of content marketing, some successful content creators also adhere to journalistic standards and are received accordingly. This essay uses games journalism as an example to present a model for the way a segment of journalistic functions is shifting onto new actors and channels.

Richard David Precht, Harald Welzer: Die Vierte Gewalt. Wie Mehrheitsmeinung gemacht wird, auch wenn sie keine ist. [The Fourth Estate. How majority opinion is formed, even if it isn’t one.]

Reviewed by Beatrice Dernbach | In fall 2022, Richard David Precht and Harald Welzer’s book Die Vierte Gewalt [The Fourth Estate] hit the media sector like a hurricane. In my three decades of teaching and research in media and communication studies and many years working as a journalist in newspaper editorial offices, I cannot remember another book on media ever having spent months on the bestseller lists or having triggered such outrage in the sector.