Rundfunk-Staatsvertrag

“Broadcaster’s treaty,” also short for the name of a law, the Staatsvertrag für Rundfunk und Telemedien or German Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia.

The broadcasting treaty regulating one of Germany’s two big public broadcasters, ZDF, is being reviewed by the supreme Constitutional Court [Verfassungsgericht] in Karlsruhe after a political fight in 2009 about firing ZDF’s editor-in-chief. Germany’s other big public broadcaster, ARD, reported that the case’s core question is whether governments and political parties have too much influence in ZDF’s current setup. The states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg brought the lawsuit to the supreme Constitutional Court in the form of a complaint about who’s on two boards that control ZDF.

“I believe that we have, step by step, walked ourselves into too much dominance by the government-influenced members of the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] and Television Council [Fernsehrat].” –Kurt Beck (S.P.D.) former Rhineland-Palatinate governor and chair of the ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] who, after trying and failing to make legislative changes, co-brought the suit.

Former Hessian governor Roland Koch (C.D.U.) led the 2009 fight in the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] to not renew ZDF editor-in-chief Nikolaus Brender’s contract.

The ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] has 14 members, of whom five represent German states and one represents the federal government. The remaining eight Administrative Council members are selected by the 77-member ZDF Television Council [Fernsehrat]. That board is supposed to “set guidelines for ZDF shows and advise directors about programming questions” and to consist of 77 people from societally important groups, namely

1 person from each of the German states signing the Staatsvertrag, 3 people sent by the federal government, 12 people sent by the political parties proportionate to their proportions in the Bundestag, 2 sent by the Protestant church, 2 sent by the Catholic church, 1 from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, 1 from the German association of unions [Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund], 1 from the association of service job unions ver.di [Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft e.V.], 1 from the bureaucrats’ union [Deutscher Beamtenbund], 2 from the federal association of employers’ unions [Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Arbeitgeberverbände], 1 from the national chambers of commerce association [Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag], 1 from the German agriculture central committee [Zentralausschuss der Deutschen Landwirtschaft], 1 from the central association of German craftsmen [Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks], 2 from the association of German newspaper publishers [Bundesverbandes Deutscher Zeitungsverleger], 1 from the German journalists’ association [Deutschen Journalistenverbandes e.V.], 1 from the media section of the service jobs union ver.di, 4 from the Free Welfare Associations [Freie Wohlfahrtsverbände] (and that should be 1 from the German Protestant church’s Diakonie Werk, 1 from the German Catholic church’s Deutscher Caritasverband e.V. umbrella association of charities, 1 from the German Red Cross, 1 from the central committee of the German workers’ welfare group Deutsche Arbeiterwohlfahrt e.V.), 1 from the German cities’ council [Deutscher Städtetag], 1 from the German association of cities and communities [Deutscher Städte- und Gemeindebund], 1 from the German counties’ council [Deutscher Landkreistag], 1 from the German sports association [Deutscher Sportbund], 1 from Europaunion Deutschland e.V., 1 from the German association for the environment and protecting nature [Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V.], 1 from the German nature protection association [Naturschutzbund Deutschland], 1 from the association of displaced persons [Bund der Vertriebenen], 1 from the coalition of victims of Stalinism [Vereinigung der Opfer des Stalinismus] and 16 from education, science, the arts, culture, the film economy, the free professions, family work, child protection, youth employment, consumer protection and animal protection.

Yet ARD tagesschau.de legal correspondent Frank Bräutigam’s chart broke these 77 members down into only three main groups: 45.4% board members from governments/political parties, 27.3% from unions, 20.8% from professional groups. The current judicial review will be casting a sharp eye on the complaint that the 27.3% unions and 20.8% professional groups are also nominated by the political parties. In fact, said ZDF heute journal, a considerable portion of them are selected by state governors, adding that informally the television council actually breaks down into two large groups: the C.D.U.’s allies and the S.P.D.’s allies. Usually, said people defending the current system, the duopoly controlling the ZDF television council is balanced enough to prevent the appearance of violation of the German Constitution, which guarantees freedom of reporting in broadcasting and film (Grundgesetz, Art. 5).

ZDF heute journal said the supreme court cannot change the Staatsvertrag but can define criteria limiting it.

ARD tagesschau.de calmly concluded their report by noting that the German supreme court in Karlsruhe has been issuing decisions that help define Germany’s media landscape for decades now. A verdict is expected in 2014.

Update on 25 Mar 2014: The court issued its verdict, invalidating the ZDF charter because it allows too much political influence to be taken. Germany’s public broadcasters must not become state broadcasters, said the judges. In future, the 44% of ZDF’s board members who are politicians or “part of government or close to government” must be reduced to 33%, and political parties must stop exerting “determining influence” on the naming of the other board members (who are supposed to be “far from government” but were in part being named by e.g. state governors).

Germany’s public broadcasters must also remain available to the public and not be allowed to wither by being restricted to obsolescing technology.

The judges demanded a cultural change at German public broadcasters, to become more of what they were always intended to be, said Süddeutsche.de: an institution for the entire society, reflecting diversity and variety in that society. Freedom of broadcasting as it is guaranteed in the German constitution is based on ensuring variety of content that cannot be achieved via a free market alone, the judges said. One judge’s minority opinion said these measures were too lenient, that 33% was still too high, and he called for emancipation of the public broadcasters from government entirely.

(ROOND FOONK shtots fair TROG.)

Mit Steinen auf die eigene Zukunft werfen

“Throwing stones at their own future.” Young violent protesters trying to dredge up old problems in Northern Ireland. Well-said phrase from ZDF heute journal’s Marietta Slomka.

(Mitt   SHTEYE nen   ow! f   dee   EYE gen eh   TSOO koonft   verf en.)

Stromanbieter wechseln

“To switch electricity providers.” Many industries in Germany have been granted electricity rebates that are ultimately being paid by individual consumers. Some policy watchers are concerned that electricity prices are rising so rapidly in Germany because consumers are on the hook for avoidable surplus costs. Competitive “market forces” are supposed to prevent consumer abuse, yet not enough people are switching providers for the utilities to change their behavior.

On 29 Nov 2012 ZDF heute journal said they’d posted a handy 60-second video showing how to switch to a cheaper electricity provider, and they broadcast a brief clip of it showing a timer counting down from 00:60 to 00:50 while a lady researched electricity prices and contracts. Yet I have searched and searched for this video and can’t find it. ZDF did have a similar video from 22 Nov 2012 online; this one is 2:10 long and only points out pitfalls to look for in the new contracts. Its general advice to consumers: agree to the shortest term possible, don’t pay in advance in case they go broke, beware low initial prices used as bait.

(SHTRRROAM on bee tah   VECK cell n.)

Causa Strepp, Causa Horst Seehofer

“The Strepp Affair,” “The Case of Horst Seehofer.” The Bavarian state branch of Angela Merkel’s CDU party insists on remaining separate from the general CDU and calls itself the CSU. Horst Seehofer is in charge. The CSU has been posturing in national politics for an upcoming state election. Last Sunday, CSU spokesperson Hans Michael Strepp called the public broadcasting ZDF television station and said he’d heard they were going to broadcast a news report about the rival Bavarian SPD’s recent festive nomination of their top candidate, Christian Ude. Strepp told ZDF that neither the public broadcasting ARD nor the public broadcasting news and documentaries channel Phoenix was planning to report on the Bavarian SPD’s state convention and far be it from Strepp to want to tell them their business but he wanted to give them food for thought that there could be discussions afterward if ZDF went it alone. ZDF interpreted this as exerting influence and broadcast the report anyway. Then they broadcast a report about Strepp’s phone call.

At first, the CSU said nothing bad had happened. At noon on Thurs. 25 Oct 2012, Horst Seehofer announced that Spokesperson Strepp had resigned because Strepp had said he hadn’t exerted any influence on ZDF and the ZDF disagreed with that statement and Seehofer could not clarify this situation. The CSU’s position is now that Strepp acted entirely alone. In a lively parliamentary discussion after Seehofer’s announcement of Strepp’s resignation, Bavarian M.P.’s cast a lot of aspersions. CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt has now been dragged into it because he obfuscated rather than clarified and because people find it credible that he might have given Strepp the incredible order to make the call. The Bavarian SPD demanded that Seehofer and Dobrindt resign their seats on ZDF management boards (!).

German Green party member Jürgen Trittin has demanded that all politicians holding government office resign from public broadcasting channels’ supervisory boards. Trittin said the Greens have been demanding this for years, and that a gray zone forms where government and media entangle. Trittin also said this is what you get when people have been in power longer than Fidel Castro.

(COW zah   SHTREP,   COW zah   Horst   ZAY hoaf er.)

Katiba

Small autonomous groups of rebels fighting the Assads’ military machine in Syria. According to ZDF heute journal reporting on 11 August 2012, these small units or brigades fight on local territory, defending their neighborhoods. Each katiba has a logistics officer, and they organize their own money, food, weapons and medicine. It is not entirely clear where their money is coming from, but the local neighborhood defense means that foreign fighters are few, ZDF says, and when foreign fighters have joined the rebellion against the Assads it tends to be in border regions.

The BBC posted this map yesterday showing who may have recently been holding which territory [thanks, BoingBoing.net]. Nearly all the territories marked on this map appear to be in border regions.

(Kah TEE bah.)

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