To the German public, Asia has often been just an exotic source of culture but economic ties go back a long way. The main aim of Angela Merkel’s visits to India and China last year was to promote even closer economic ties. Asia’s boom is posing new questions about the importance of portraying the continent appropriately in the German media.
Economic boom in Asia is awakening German interest in the country
The German public seems to have wide-ranging expectations of the media. One student would like to understand the mentality of the Asian people better,” and another is “particularly interested in Japan, China, economics, and of course, politics”, as she is reading Asian Studies.
Politics is also important to this passer-by, especially in “Afghanistan, the Middle East – because I think that’s where it’s all going to play out in the next year.” For another, “Pakistan is probably the most topical subject, the situation around President Musharraf. And maybe also Burma.”
While politics and economics play an important role, there also seems to be a strong interest in Asian culture, says Deutsche Welle’s cultural director, Ramon Garcia-Ziemsen.
Asia is “perceived as something great, something very interesting and, what is very important, it is perceived as the future -- not only because of China with its growth in economic terms, but also because of culture, that’s very important,” Garcia-Ziemsen said.
Economic growth in Asia has brought much attention to the region but to focus only on the boom would fail to meet the demands of German audiences, which want a complete, well-balanced portrayal of the continent, say media experts.
“We try to give as broad a picture so that people can learn more about Asia -- and from all perspectives,” explained deputy editor Michael Kolz from the German Phoenix documentary TV channel.
But how is the broader picture achieved? One of Phoenix’s advantages is that it has a lot of air-time and the channel has been set up for the very purpose of providing as much information as possible, says Kolz. It even broadcasts entire press conferences and summits.
But air-time is not everything -- the German media will only be wholly successful if their ethos is to provide a wide variety of social, political and cultural themes from the entire Asian continent.