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50 Years of Deutsche Welle: "An Investment for Germany"

All eyes were on the Deutsche Welle on Friday as it officially celebrated its 50th birthday. German President Johannes Rau heralded the work of the multi-lingual German broadcaster as a success story.


The future headquarters of the Deutsche Welle in Bonn.

Speaking at the anniversary celebrations in Bonn on Friday, German President Johannes Rau said the Deutsche Welle (DW) had earned its “excellent reputation for seriousness and credibility.” He described the broadcaster’s multi-lingual worldwide programming, which is financed both by tax-payers and earmarked federal funds, as an investment for Germany.

Rau went on to talk about the importance of portraying the real face of Germany in all its “colorful diversity”. He said “We can promote our country the way it is with a good conscience.” He said the objective information offered in the foreign language broadcasts was particularly important in war-torn parts of the world and in countries where censorship was practised, and stressed the significance of Deutsche Welle’s contribution to providing reliable information.

New broadcasting house in Bonn

The fiftieth birthday celebration was coupled with the official opening of Deutsche Welle’s new broadcasting center in Bonn. The new building, know as the Schürmannbau, is to be the home for DW Radio, which is currently based in Cologne. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, it will be the workplace for more than 1000 people who contribute to the production of radio programming in more than 30 languages. Deutsche Welle TV is broadcast from the DW studios in Berlin.

Minister of State and government representative for culture and Media, Christina Weiss described Deutsche Welle as a “vital pillar of Germany's foreign culture policy”. She said that Deutsche Welle was an important source of information in many countries, and that there was no longer any debate about the main amendments on the future of the broadcaster. She assured that the German government would continue to finance the Deutsche Welle, a pledge which was welcomed by Deutsche Welle Director, Erik Bettermann.

From short-wave to multi-media

The deputy chairman of Germany’s public broadcaster ARD and director of the broadcaster WDR, Fritz Pleitgen said that Deutsche Welle had become an “Institution of high international regard”. He compared the multi-media face of Deutsche Welle today with its humble short-wave beginnings, and said “Deutsche Welle need not be shy of comparison with other international broadcasters.”

The first Deutsche Welle broadcast went out in German on short-wave radio on May 3rd 1953. By the next year, the station was broadcasting radio programs in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. These days, more than 1,500 people from 60 countries work to put together Deutsche Welle’s rich variety of television and radio programs, and the multi-lingual website dw-world.de. Deutsche Welle’s official and legal remit is to “provide listeners with an extensive picture of political, cultural and economic life in Germany, and to supply and explain Germany’s opinions on important issues.”

The reform concept for DW, which is scheduled to be passed before the end of the year, is largely aimed at modernizing its profile and making it more outward-looking. Deutsche Welle is to become a forum which represents Germany both as a European cultural nation and a democratic constitutional state.

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