In an interview, Erik Bettermann, Director General of Deutsche Welle, responds to questions about the theme of this year's international media conference in Bonn - "The Future of Growth - Economic Values and the Media."
The financial and economic crisis has triggered broad discussion of economics and values. Is that just media hype or is it a pressing issue for the future?
There is intense discussion about the values underlying the economy, not just in Germany and in Europe, but worldwide. Recent events, such as the garment factory catastrophes in Bangladesh, highlight the importance of the topic. Do such disasters shift the mindset for global companies and consumers? How can indivisible, universal safety and work standards be integrated into labor practices around the world? Do we want market forces to determine other aspects of life, such as health and retirement plans, or should human welfare be the guiding principle? Topics like these are on the agenda at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, and the media representatives at the conference will disseminate these discussions to the world.
The theme of this year's media conference hits a central nerve in the current global agenda. This includes much more than the ups and downs of the major listed companies or the huge deficits in many public budgets. The conference looks beyond global economic parameters to focus on responsibility and how we set the course for the future of our planet. For many people it boils down to the question: How do we want to live in the future? We will discuss whether the guiding principle of our actions should be "every man for himself" or whether, in the tenor of former West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, the highest priority should be restored to "prosperity for all." But now we need a "global economic miracle" which must also serve sustainability, social justice and participation. Through conventional and social media, an ever more critical public is closely scrutinizing where we are heading. An internationally binding set of values is one of the key future issues of globalization. We in the media have to raise awareness of it worldwide. International broadcasters play a particularly special role in this.
How can the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum contribute?
Media professionals from around the world meet here for three days with experts from industry, politics, development cooperation and science. They discuss ways to meet the challenges of globalization in which media play a central role. Our international media conference has established itself as a unique platform for this. Many organizations and institutions partner with us, contributing their experience and networks in more than 50 workshops and events. Well-known personalities enrich the conference by adding their perspective. For example I'm looking forward to Noam Chomsky's talk on how we can achieve a more just world. He's not only one of the best-known critics of globalization, but also widely considered to be the intellectual father of the Occupy movement.
Should the media present business topics differently to make the contexts and consequences of globalization understandable locally?
The media must accompany and contextualize economic processes by presenting them together with background information and analysis. Reporting has to keep an eye on all the players on the pitch of the economy and the environment, including employers and employees, producers and consumers, be they in industrialized countries, emerging economies or developing countries. Media must shed light on the relationships, ramifications and interdependencies. In this context, international broadcasters like Deutsche Welle are particularly important because they reach people all over the world.
More than ever before, journalists have to clear the jungle of lingo when presenting economic topics, explain things and bring them to life when talking about the green economy, global governance, joint ventures and corporate social responsibility. We always need to show examples that can be understood in a local context. We have to develop new formats to explain complex economic issues in ways that people can understand and that make the topics relevant to their everyday realities. A consensus must emerge from the interaction between business, media and the public about the values that should govern corporate practice, the economy at large and the 21st-century economic policy. The media's job is to deliver information and create transparency. By doing that, they are ultimately promoting democracy and civil society - which in turn is a basis for investment and ensuing prosperity.
What does Deutsche Welle accentuate in its business reporting?
In our extensive programming we present many examples of developments towards greater sustainability around the world. Right now, there is much focus on the financial and economic crisis in Europe. We report the standpoints of and debates taking place in our country, for example in Greek. Via partner stations, DW experts appear on Greek television several times a week, explaining the decisions made by the German parliament and government and putting them into German, European and global contexts.
Another example of how we put DW's statutory mission into practice is the "Business in the Arab World" multimedia project launched for our audiences in the Middle East and North Africa. German and Arab journalists have teamed up for more than 50 TV reports describing the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and to present projects being implemented with the help of German expertise. This is supported by lots of background material online.
Our multimedia output about business topics makes complex relationships easier to grasp. Web documentaries are a new form of storytelling DW has successfully tested. Data-driven journalism and data visualization are other keywords - in other words, presenting large amounts of data in ways a wide audience can understand.
How important is the "Made in Germany" seal of quality for DW?
That seal of quality is also the name of our TV business magazine. Germany is not only a nation steeped in culture; it is also a sought-after business and trading partner around the world. "Made in Germany" continues to have an excellent reputation. As Germany's international broadcaster, we reflect our nation's experience with what we call the social market economy, a cornerstone of the German system. The reconstruction after World War II and the post-GDR transformation have gained worldwide recognition. In our business coverage we show how our system works - with all its strengths and weaknesses. And we show what German industry, politics and science can offer to global sustainable development. This includes the mechanisms of federalism, the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises, and also co-determination and collective bargaining. Even though it can be tedious at times, the struggle for consensus is part of our business culture and a pillar of our social stability. We report on aspects that could interest other countries and perhaps serve as a model - for example, the dual vocational education system, which Spain is now testing to cope with its dramatically high youth unemployment.
Does the Global Media Forum also address the economic challenges media have to deal with as business entities?
Media are part of the economy. As companies they are subject to economic forces and have long been subject to the mechanisms of globalization. No product moves faster around the world than information. Balancing quality and ratings is a central point for media companies. Is good journalism compatible with an everything-for-free mentality on the part of consumers? Can publishers and broadcasters survive in the long term with bite-size content and instant journalism? Media professionals from more than 100 countries can exchange their views on this at our media conference in Bonn. I am convinced that a diverse media system that supports democracy cannot be had for free.