German pubcasters are the BBC on steroids. Moneywise, at least. Their combined annual budget dwarfs the GNP of a couple of lesser UN-members. And even hardboiled tax collectors blush at the methods of their fee collecting agency GEZ.
Don’t get me wrong. Strong and independent public broadcasting is an important asset. As seen in the US, a beggar’s banquet of impoverished do-gooders cannot counterweight a fully commercialized brainwash attack. State controlled tv is a terrific tool for thriving populists, post-imperial imperialists, and media savy dictatorships (and definitely not an option).
Still. If you want to collect billions and billions of Euros for the greater good, a well aged argumentation line from the black and white days of the tube won’t do you any good. EU commissioners want to pull the plug (commercial broadcasters will see to that). And the German publishers are finally starting to see a problem with those hidden champion media empires. Because it’s not about here’s print, there’s tv anymore. On the web, all media cats are prey.
The last political fiddlings ended with some strange solutions like this. Yes, the pubcasters can put some their video assets onto the web. But after seven days, they have to be removed. Weird. Even weirder: there are paid deals between mega publishers and mega pubcasters on video syndication. Uhum. Excuse me. Looking at organizational structures of German pubcasters, the micro money passed from WAZ to WDR most likely won’t even cover the process cost. So it’s probably all very strategic. Or maybe just helpless. Redefining public broadcasting for a networked, digital media world it isn’t. (Because, more likely, it will look more like this.)
It’s not helping anyway. Will Münchner Erklärung, the Munich Declaration of the big wigs of German publishing, kill public broadcasting? Nope. We’re more likely talking about assisted suicide anway.