First, I should note that commercial TV networks in Germany rarely carry public chat forums...mostly because there's no real money opportunity and they aren't stupid over the lack of the public asking for this product. Public TV networks are different.....they don't worry about money opportunities or viewer count.
Second, within the German political system....you have to be able to stand and deliver a debate or hype up your cause. If you were a weak or marginal debate individual....there's zero chance of you moving up or getting a chair in the German Bundestag. It's also virtually impossible to get an invitation to a public chat forum, without some ability to debate.
Third, these public chat forums go into different topic areas. Sometimes they will select from the top ten most valued topics of the month....sometimes, they will go way off the charts and spend an hour on something that you'd regard as number eighty-eight on the topic scale.
Fourth, If you knew absolutely nothing about a particular topic....you can figure that in roughly 60 minutes (the typical average show)....you will walk away and admit that you have some basic knowledge.
All of this said and done....one has to admit that the viewer numbers for these public chat forums aren't that extremely high. Most occur after 9 PM. The highest rated show is the ARD Anne Will forum from Sunday evening at 9:45 PM. If you went and asked working class Germans under the age of forty....the vast majority will admit that they rarely ever watch these chat forums. From the intellectual class.....probably over 90-percent will say they view these regularly. It is a dividing line of the German society. German youth....between 15 and 25 years old....it's very limited to just college students.
In my mind, these public chat forums are organized to fit into three typical models. Model one is where the moderator has assembled five guests....of which one is on the pro-side.....one is the 'expert'....and the rest are the anti-crowd. I would call this the slam-dunk method of getting points accepted to the viewing audience. Unless you grasp the manipulation angle....you won't go and do further research later to get more insight and perception into the topic.
Model two is where you have four or five guests to talk over a subject, with them being fairly divided. You then inject audience members (regular Germans) into the topic who typically have a pretty strong belief in the topic and try to nudge the viewing audience to a particular stance. I would call this the sympathy-method.
Model three is where you just turn the five or six guests loose and you get a very wide view of the subject matter.
Now, I bring all of this up because of the Wednesday night public chat forum from ARD....the Maishberger Show. They decided for Frau Maishberger....that the topic would be the Hamburg G-20 riots, and they wanted to have an expert or two....a right-wing person or two....and a left-wing person or two. It was an attempt to have a wide talk over the riots and the problems.
In this group was a retired CDU political figure (Wolfgang Bosbach). It's best to describe Bosbach as a fairly clever guy.....intelligent.....respectful....and he can show a bit of humor at times (something rare for German political figures). On the other side of this debate was a Green Party figure.....Jutta Ditfurth). She can be described as clever....extremely driven to her political agenda....intelligent....one geared to getting in the last word.
This debate went slightly sour in the first ten minutes, and it reaches a stage where Ditfurth comments on the bad intent of the Hamburg police and how they were disrespectful.
It's safe to say that Bosbach reached a level of frustration when the 'insults' came about the Hamburg cops.....that he wasn't going to sit in this chat forum.
So he gave warning....then he left.
It generally fired up the public because it's just plain rare that someone gets fed up with debate that seems insulting and they seem always hand-cuffed to the chair.
The positive? There's this other odd feature of German chat forums.....they take a fairly long summer break.....every single summer. You can figure a minimum of five to six weeks. On some rare occasions....because of some huge topic....you might see one chat forum operation dragged back from vacation and some one-time show run....just to dump the topic back onto the public's attention.
No one collects data to show how many of the 82-million Germans watch these shows or show any interest. I would take an educated guess that a quarter of the adult population have never watched a single show, and have zero interest. Probably another quarter of the adult population will admit they might watch one or two of these per year....mostly falling asleep in the middle (which says something about the 'heated' topics list).
Regional topics making it into the listing? No....it's very rare and it'll only be done via a regional network.
If you ran down the typical yearly top dozen listing....it usually revolves around crime, immigration, taxation, foreign policy, social responsibility, pensions, welfare (Hartz IV), healthcare, children issues, the EU, BREXIT, and the environment.
Another eventual Bosbach public forum? I might suspect that after the summer vacation period....one of the forums will invite him on and chat about why he did it.....to just another odd topic. I suspect that more than three-quarters of the population agree that he was right to walk off and that the police-insult talk wasn't something that was positive.