Sunday, July 17, 2016

Germans and their News

I've probably blogged this once or twice over the past five years, but it always gets updated to some degree.

Germans have five basic ways of getting their daily or occasional news.

The first is by newspapers.  If you wanted to talk up one single national newspaper.....it's the Bild.  Some Americans who've been around a while would laugh when Bild gets brought up....because it's pretty limited and orientated toward the working-class guy.  It's rare that a story goes on for more than twelve lines.  It is mostly dedicated toward entertainment, sports, murders, crime, national news to some degree, and international news to a marginal degree.  If you wanted a paper that you could read in 20 minutes on the way to work onboard the train.....this does the job.  Course, there won't be much meat to the story but maybe you just didn't want 200 lines of wasted news on BREXIT or some bridge that fell apart in Rome.

After Bild, there are probably forty regional papers that do a fairly good and substantial job of telling the local news and some national news.....with some European and US pieces included.  In the Wiesbaden area, there is the Kurier. If you want the local crime stories or city council fights.....that's where you have to get your dose of local knowledge.

The second is by FM radio.....through mostly state-run stations.  No one runs a twenty-four hour talk-show format.  What you will get is five to seven minutes of local news, some traffic reports, and weather.  It is worthless (by my humble opinion) except in the winter months when the weather and traffic business is pretty important.

The third is news magazines.....like Spiegel, Focus, and Stern.  These are produced every week and still attract a fair number of Germans....particularly those who are educated and focused on knowledge.  

The fourth is the internet.  Some sites....like the Huff-Post is Germanized now and attract some folks.  There is nothing like the Drudge Report in German.

The fifth is TV news.  You have the state-run folks (ZDF, ARD, and regional networks) and the commercial news folks (N-TV and N-24, along with smaller news folks at RTL or SAT1).

Most Germans will get their daily dose of news from the 8:00PM nightly news at ARD.  It's a fifteen minute episode, that ends with a minute of sports news and 90 seconds of weather.

Most of the state-run operations are packaged in some way.....magazine format, 60 Minutes-format, or longer news items.  If you hear music in the background.....it's a gimmick news format that is supposed to make you laugh or cry (your choice).  If the guy or gal you are watching.....seems to be telling strictly one side of the story, well, there is only one side in their mind.

If you ask most Germans about the value of the state-media tax (17.50 Euro a month) and the news value.....they usually laugh and say it's not worth it but they can't change things.

A quickly emerging situation that you would like twenty-four coverage on?  Well....no, you can't have that in German.  You'd best stick with CNN or BBC or RT.  Even on the state-run networks.....they will move to the emergency that exists, do about 30 minutes of questions and answers.....show some video.....then promise an update in three hours.  Even if a meteor were going to be announced to hit the Earth in four days.....state-run German TV would still only give you 30-to-40 minutes of coverage every couple of hours.

Are Germans missing out on the news?  No.  Lets be honest, that 10-line item in Bild's article probably tells you all you need.  That weather report on the FM radio of 30 seconds is all the weather you really need.  And the first eight minutes on the 8PM news episode is probably all you really need.  You don't Germans all hyped up on immigration, meteors, terrorists or bank collapse sessions.  If they were hyped up.....they'd want to fix it, and you just need a bunch of Germans thinking of solutions to problems.  Things would then get resolved and you wouldn't have all this heavy dosage of news for Americans to get hyped up about.

5 comments:

blurij said...

Why is there no talk radio like there is in the U.S.?
Why is there no one like Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin ?

R Hammond said...

A curious question. I would suggest four reasons:

1. State-run TV offers via their two major networks and dozen regional networks...probably around twenty hours a week of political dialog (covering draft laws, pension reform, immigration, current events, etc). You can get intense dialog, 360-degree information, and points covered by these shows. If you just wanted to grasp why something failed or why some impending law is important....these political chat shows work for the most part. I will admit....some are comical, but several of these do justice to getting the facts on the table.

2. FM just isn't listened to that much. AM is marginally utilized (I listen to maybe 1 hr a year). Germans get focused on traffic reports, weather, and short pieces of news while driving to work, via FM.

3. A German Limbaugh (if I could imagine such a guy) would be left with a nation of only 81-mil and would at best only be able to generate 60 minutes a day for a show. While it might look like one single nation...it's sixteen states, and individual politics for each state have their own intensity or significance. Bavarians would care less about what's going on in Hamburg or the Pfalz.

4. There are a handful of individuals who can show up at some chat forum or TV debate who perform like Limbaugh. Thilo Sarrazin (the former SPD finance) for example can deliver a five-star intensity to any discussion. Guido Westerwelle (while alive and still in politics) had that type of clever mind to bring to a topic.

I would also offer this observation. In the US, between the House and Senate (Rep and Dem), there are probably fifty percent of these folks who are dimwits and idiots....unable to debate. In the European atmosphere, for any party, you have to develop skills of debate and present something for your discussion. By way of survival and moving up the food-chain, German political folks aren't typically in the same dimwit group.

It is a different environment, where people want to hear debate between different sides.

blurij said...


I appreciate the consideration you took in presenting such a lengthy and thoughtful reply. I gather the concept of a "talk radio" was comical to you and that's why you regarded my question as "curious."

I've lived for lengthy periods in Belgium, and I could get American talk radio on the internet, but was always curious why the "common folk or little people" were not given a format to discuss politics ? Apart from the reasons you provided, I gathered it was the same reason why parents can't home school. It parcels out a bit too much freedom. And, unfortunately, too many Europeans are not accustomed to the kinds of freedom Americans are - they would rather opt for the securities of social welfare.

I agree Europe's politicians come across as wittier (esp English Prime Minister Questions), but despite the clever ripostes, they seem to have a fundamental lack of common sense -EU being perfect case as example, of which you have well written of many times.

I have an uncle and aunt that live outside Munchen, and I am well aware of the condescensions between Bavarians and Berliners, but the USA has 50 different states and similar north south east west sensibilities; so I don't fully understand why that would be a barrier to talk radio.

You have given me other reasons to consider as to why talk radio does not exist in Germany, but I think there must be deeper societal or authoritarian reasons as to why the regular folks would not want to talk to one another over the air. I don't believe government would be comfortable with the idea ( rabble rousing foment and such ), and should a radio station want to put on a "Limbaugh" format, they would be subjected to so many "equal time" prohibitions as to make the concept unworkable.

Thank you again for taking interest in my "curious" question. Keep up the good work.

R Hammond said...

From all my travels and observations of the world....I came to some point a couple of years ago of realizing that some things would fit and work great in the US (like those German roll-up/down shutters) and some things would never work well (unlimited speeds on the American highway system). Vice-versa as well....certain ways of the US would really help improve Germany, and others would not.

The home-schooling topic is one that would only make things worse in Germany, if they attempted to apply it. Few Americans realize that the bulk of German society reaches some peak of real education (high school) by age 15 (roughly 8th or 9th grade). Then you go off to an apprentice program, which drills into particular knowledge for that trade, and marginal knowledge for anything else.

So imagine your dad being a roofer and the bulk of his worldly knowledge gained by the 8th grade, and your mom is a part-time baker's assistant who maybe wrapped up the 9th grade, and did two year of apprentice training before the job at the bakery. Will either of the two really be much of a instructor once you get past the age of 12 or 13? Is this begging for consequences down the line as people simply don't get X-amount of education in their youth?

The Germans drilled down into craftsmanship and for 2,000 years....have made this way of life a big deal. You can take and measure this segment of German society and they have a lot of knowledge over their craft (they know how to build a house, construct a roof, or bake bread). But if you were looking for science or math knowledge like you would find from the 11th or 12th grade in the US? Well....it just won't measure up.

Course, I will admit that roughly 40-percent of German society aren't in the craftsman arena, and they get more generalized education....which might make them semi-qualified for the home-schooling deal. But how would you explain the unfairness of this family getting permission to do this, and that family not getting permission to do this?

Cultures form within a enclosed society, and progress at different rates. Some of the best carpenters in the world come out of Germany....only because of the craftsman method of education exists as it is.

blurij said...

Having been a teacher once myself, I can assure you that whatever grasp of math or science knowledge your German carpenter and baker has ( my father was a German baker in Munchen), it would measure up quite well, if not exceed, American 11th and 12th grade instruction.

If you haven't heard, American education (Common Core or whatever) is on the skids. 30 or more countries rank ahead of American youth in the basic subjects. Home schooled kids in America test better than public school students. And that is saying a lot if one considers the IQ of the average American voter.
There is much talk of reviving our educational system with vocational schooling. Craftmanship certainly beats a doctorate in gender studies.

I don't think Herr Schickelgruber (my mom's maiden name sadly was Schlisselhuber -lol) had educational or vocational goals in mind when he outlawed home schooling back in the 1930's. His intent then, just as government schooling in America is now, was social engineering and indoctrination.

I still happen to believe, and much of my experience in Europe ( I have German citizenship ) has hardened that belief that individual expression (talk radio) and freedom to raise your children is not strongly valued or encouraged. Home schooling is absolutely verboten. Arbeit macht Frei. If Germans really think work makes one free then individual liberties have no meaning or protection at all.

So, back to Talk Radio. Do you think it would not work because of lack of interest among the populace or because of EU restrictions regarding equal time for equal viewpoints making the concept unworkable? President Reagan's FCC did away with such restrictions making Limbaugh and the flourishing of talk radio possible.

And one more question - Do German internet websites have more independence from government censorship as is the case here - one example being Howard Stern going to satellite radio ?

And thank you again for your editorials and comments.