Reform or Repair A distress call from the engine rooms of public broadcasters

By Peter Welchering | Public broadcasting is under fire. That is not new. Too closely aligned with governments, political bias towards one party or another, unbalanced programming, red tape and high-handed executives, some of them remarkably self-serving – I have been hearing these points of criticism ever since I produced my first piece for West German public broadcaster WDR 40 years ago.1 But in the past, at least until the Schlesinger affair, there was a general truth, encapsulated in a quote by Johannes Ludwig, speaking in the voice of a public broadcasting executive in February 2009: »It’s like water off a duck’s back.« And: »Public broadcasters think they can get away with it.« (Ludwig 2009:6) The Schlesinger case, however, has rattled the smugness of public broadcasting bigwigs. Now at least, they could no longer refuse to engage in a reform debate, as they had before. One group, however, has hardly been heard at all in this debate so far: freelancers, with or without contracts.

Provision of information Thoughts on an overdue reform of public service broadcasting in Germany

By Horst Pöttker | Public service broadcasting in Germany has entered a crisis of legitimation that puts its very future in jeopardy. Taking an external view, this paper reminds the reader of public service broadcasting’s statutory purpose: as a source of reliable information and of relevant advice, education and entertainment. It is a crisis born of the ossification of its structures and the difficulty of recognizing its public service profile. This forms the background for this discussion of a potential reform comprising four measures: composing the supervisory committees based on competence and independence; a means-based scale for the license fee; keeping programming free from advertising; and reducing the number of channels. To finish, the paper considers how such reforms could be implemented and the opportunities and risks this would present for society.

The »climate crisis« in public service broadcasting Communication processes, management culture, and what they mean for output – On the latest discussion of broadcasting policy triggered by the NDR »Climate Report«

By Hans Peter Bull | A survey of staff at Norddeutscher Rundfunk, which gathered the opinions of more than one thousand employees at all levels, revealed a poor working climate and painted a predominantly negative picture of the broadcaster’s management bodies. In particular, the respondents expect a better »management culture« at all levels, claiming that many managers are overwhelmed by the major processes of change currently underway in public service broadcasting and therefore unable to develop clear guidelines for the change needed in the organization. This article analyzes this criticism in more detail. In particular, it asks what »management« can realistically achieve at a broadcaster, given the external constraints involved.

What do you tell your daughter who wants to be a journalist? On the future of journalism and journalism education in the United States

By Kenneth Starck / While still living at home, your daughter has completed all of her mandated schooling. She is now seriously thinking about life’s next important step. Not surprisingly she decides to extend her learning by attending university. The next question follows: What to study? She reads a lot and writes well. Surprisingly, perhaps, she actually seeks advice from her father—me, a former journalist (newspapers), former journalism professor and, for more than twenty years, a journalism school administrator. Aware of the massive convulsions occurring in the field of mass communication and, most particularly, journalism, I am hard pressed to offer enthusiastic endorsement to enroll in university to study journalism. This essay is an attempt to formulate a thoughtful and realistic answer to your daughters’ question: Should I study journalism? continue to article

Contribute more, broadcast less On the role of feedback and articulation in a model of “elevated journalism”

By Sebastian Köhler / The paper discusses the extent to which journalism needs to take its function of articulation more seriously and fulfil it more effectively as part of the profession’s public role. To do this, the paper develops aspects of a model of “elevated journalism” – an approach that also includes dialectic criticism of key tendencies in established journalism. Working with feedback from users, be it actual or anticipated, is expected to gain importance in future if journalism is still to maintain a place in societies that are constantly modernizing in so many ways. continue to article

Quo vadis, Journalism? The Future of an Old Media Profession in the Digital Era

By Horst Pöttker / Rising costs, outsourcing, mass layoffs, diminished circulation, rapidly sinking revenue from advertising: there is a general consensus that the print media are going through a crisis and that the underlying causes for this are to be found in the revolution of digital media. There is also a widespread concern among journalism researchers, and more recently also among democratically oriented politicians, that this crisis could lead to a decline in the journalist profession. continue to article