Education policy chiefs want to hold a meeting in Vienna this month in order to discuss a current debate over spelling and grammar reforms of the German language agreed to by Austria, Germany and Switzerland in 1999. Last week, a handful of Germany's biggest publishers, including the influential newsweekly
DER SPIEGEL and the Axel Springer Publishing conglomerate, which includes the mass-circulation
Bild tabloid, said they would abandon the rules and return to old ones. The decision has had a domino effect and many publishing houses and broadcasters say they are keen to join the news outlets in their boycott of the new rules. However, educational policy authorities in Austria and Switzerland have said they want to uphold the new spelling and language guidelines. "Having several simultaneously valid orthography rules would be fatal," said Christian Schmidt, a spokesman for Switzerland's education authority. German supporters of the reform also criticized the publishers' move, saying that it was the publishers who were causing uncertainty among Germans. In a written statement issued last week, officials for the conference of German culture ministers, the government body that initiated the reforms, said media companies had so far supported the change.