Director-General Bettermann defines parameters for dialogue with the German government - Unanimous approval by supervisory committees -
Strategic steps towards optimizing audience acceptance - Higher priority for intercultural communication
On its channels, Deutsche Welle (DW) will be focusing more closely on the European integration process within the EU and also among potential member states in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe. Seeking to reflect Germany's new role among the international community, DW will concentrate more intensively on the countries and societies of the Islamic world, thus making a competent contribution to intercultural communication. Moreover, DW will step up the regional component of its journalistic content in any areas that are of geo-strategic significance in the world, while at the same time orienting its electronic facilities towards the technical situation on these media markets and therefore achieving greater acceptance among its target groups. These are the central aims of the repositioning policy pursued by Germany's foreign language service, as outlined to journalists by DW's Director-General Erik Bettermann on March 18, 2002.
Throughout the world this global player of "Germany Plc" is often the only electronic "information portal" for anyone interested in Germany and Europe, so that it is in a unique position to convey the basic values and cultural standards of Germany's democracy. Therefore, says Bettermann, the broadcasting company "simply cannot ignore the geopolitical challenges which our country has been facing at least since September 11. Moreover, in view of the restrictive budget developments of the last few years, we just cannot shut our eyes to the rapid developments in media technology which continually demand that we adjust our strategies with regard to content, marketing and technology."
The supervisory committees of DW, says Bettermann, unanimously approved the Director-General's blueprint for the repositioning of Germany's foreign-language service at the joint meeting in Cologne on March 15, 2002. Bettermann feels greatly encouraged by the support for state-of-the-art future developments, given by the Broadcasting and Administrative Councils as well as by the company itself. He now feels confident to seek dialogue with the German government and to obtain the required technical and financial backing for a large number of specific case-to-case decisions and innovations. As soon as he had taken office, Bettermann entered into an intensive and purposeful debate with all the various divisions of the broadcasting company. This debate is documented in the form of a highly diversified corporate profile. "This profile," he emphasized, "is something like the 'Magna Carta' of the information expertise of DW's staff, while forming the central foundation for a secure future of DW in the 21st century."
Having defined its corporate profile, says Bettermann, DW as Germany's foreign language service would by no means reduce its function as a preventive and crisis medium, a role which is very much appreciated, for instance in south-eastern Europe: "We will continue to meet the expectations of those many people who want us to provide independent, uncensored information in countries where the freedom of information is either limited or missing." This also applies to the channel's role as an international propagator of culture: "For many people - not just for expatriate Germans - Germany represents quite simply one of the greatest cultures. Culture has always been a central element in the content we provide, and it will become even more central in the future." He goes on to emphasize that in today's global communication the range of content must be viewed in dynamic terms and with an open mind towards developments. This is precisely the aim of DW's focus on European integration and on the regionalization of content.
DW-TV: plans to broadcast content in Dari and Pashtu for Afghanistan
As an example of DW's improved "regional expertise", Bettermann mentioned the planned establishment of DW-TV content in Dari and Pashtu for Afghanistan, the introduction of programmes with Arabic subtitles, aimed specifically at Northern Africa, the Middle East, south-western Asia and - if adequate financial resources are made available - the inclusion of content in Russian for Russia and other states in the CIS. The regionalization concept, he says, runs like a "thread" through large number of programme changes at DW-RADIO for strategically relevant target areas, such as China, India and certain parts of Africa. "Our broadcasting and satellite capabilities," said the Director-General, "should also be adjusted to suit this regionalization scheme." After all, the strategic expansion of DW's satellite network would permit the presence of specific programmes aimed at specific target groups. "This will move us closer to the needs and cultural characteristics of our audience," he explained, "and it will therefore increase our acceptability and reputation." The regionalization scheme will be further supported and "substantially underpinned" by the content of DW-RADIO, which was only repositioned last autumn. "DW World with its journalistic content and services in 31 languages," says Bettermann, "will be developed and expanded as a separate journalistic line of our broadcasting company."
GERMAN TV, the German-language quality content provided as a joint venture by the German broadcasting stations ARD, ZDF and DW, is aimed at viewers in the USA and in other regions throughout the world. According to Bettermann, it is a "totally new quality" in DW's repositioning scheme. What makes him feel confident is the first enquiries that were signalled by the US market immediately after the official presentation of DW's "Best-of-Projects" in Washington on March 6, 2002. GERMAN TV's worldwide market penetration comes at a strategically decisive moment: "It means that DW-TV can position itself as a diversified foreign-language channel with an unchanged German core component - in other words, it can gain a strong element of regional expertise." He points out that the extent to which this is achieved will depend on the worldwide success of GERMAN TV with its entertainment and cultural content for its specific target group.
Debate on functional funding
As far as the German government is concerned, Bettermann expects a "substantial debate on strategies, aims and a functional funding policy of Germany's foreign-language services." The financial guarantee provided under German law would have to be supplemented with clear rules of procedure that will "permit the determination and assessment of our financial requirements by an independent authority." In order to survive, he says, DW needs greater financial planning security, particularly with regard to the long term. After all, in view of the impending amendment of the DW Act, scheduled for 2003, DW's broadcasting brief would need to be defined more clearly. He points out that the most important parameters comprise strong support for a corporation under public law that is independent of state control, the broadening of DW's broadcasting brief to include not only communicating an image of Germany, but also the provision of information on global politics, events and issues as well as on developments in specific target regions. As Bettermann puts it, "if a German foreign-language broadcasting service wants to position itself and remain competitive in the 21st century, the age of globalization, it simply needs to be more open to this globalized world."
Cologne, March 18, 2002