The agreement of the prime ministers and state leaders on a new broadcasting contract for ARD and ZDF triggered different reactions. Criticism comes from newspaper publishers, among others.
The Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) sees “the risk that the public broadcasters will also expand their activities in press-like offerings with the planned expansion of the contract”. The association appeals to the federal states “to do everything in the concrete formulation of the new state treaty to ensure that the new order does not indirectly promote press offers from the broadcasters”.
According to the BDZV, many broadcasters are already intervening in the digital press market “to the detriment of the diverse media landscape in Germany”, in violation of the applicable regulations, said Helmut Verdenhalven, head of media policy at the BDZV. The association is committed to reducing the “currently overflowing press-like offerings from broadcasters”.
The amendment of the State Media Treaty on the structure and mandate of ARD and ZDF has been the subject of debate for six years. The changes relate in particular to the definition of the mandate, making the range of programs more flexible, the further development of the online mandate and a strengthening of the committees. Financing issues are to be dealt with in a second reform step.
The private broadcasters association Vaunet welcomes the fact that the Prime Ministers’ Conference “found a solution that takes into account the concerns of private providers in some points and is intended to limit the effects on competition in practice”.
The fact that the public service mandate must in future be perceptible in its entirety during the course of the day in the full programs and in the media libraries, “is an important step towards an independent public service program profile,” emphasizes Vaunet CEO Claus Grewenig. These specifications are important because all changes at ARD and ZDF also have a direct impact on private media. At the same time, Vaunet demands that “the expansion of marketing activities that is already emerging” be stopped.
“In the future, the public-law institutions should concentrate their offers primarily on their core tasks – in terms of content as well as Internet and online activities,” demands Nick Kriegskotte, Head of Infrastructure and Regulation at the IT industry association Bitkom. An extension to areas that are supplied by private-sector providers is unnecessary in view of the function of the public service providers and the growing financial needs. “Especially in the field of entertainment, the specific public service profile must be clearly visible.”
Bitkom is also committed to a critical review of the terrestrial distribution of public television programs. “Supplying the currently around 2.35 million DVB-T2 households with terrestrial television alone costs the public broadcasters and thus the contributors almost 75 million euros a year. On the other hand, the distribution of television programs via satellite or cable-bound form is many times cheaper.”
For Frank Überall, the national chairman of the German Association of Journalists (DJV), the agreement shows that “fortunately, the heads of the federal states still have a basic understanding of public service broadcasting”. Basically, the amendment is an important step in the right direction.
However, the DJV classifies the new regulation on the entertainment mandate as too imprecise. Entertainment must remain an unrestricted part of the programming. This is the only way to prevent ARD and ZDF from slipping into niche channels that only reach small sections of the population.
The CDU parliamentary group in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt, whose veto delayed the last increase in broadcasting fees, supports the decision. “We also book that a little bit as our success,” said Markus Kurz, the media policy spokesman for the CDU parliamentary group in the Tagesspiegel.
“With the amendment, we now have standards against which we can measure the public broadcasters.” The discussion initiated by Saxony-Anhalt has also already done something for viewers in central Germany. Topics from the east of the republic are now much more common.
For the next round of fees, Kurz calls on the Commission to determine the financial needs of public broadcasters not to lose sight of the discussions in France and Great Britain. “By no means do we want to fundamentally question public service broadcasting, because it is right and important!.”