Deutsche Welle - 60 years in dialogue with the world | Conference 2013 | DW | 17.06.2013
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Conference 2013

Deutsche Welle - 60 years in dialogue with the world

Celebration of Deutsche Welle's 60th anniversary on June 17, 2013 in the former plenary chamber of the German Bundestag. Welcome address from DW Director General Erik Bettermann

Minister of State Bernd Neumann,

State Secretary Eumann,

Lord Mayor Nimptsch,

ARD Chairman Marmor,

Representatives of the German Federal and State Parliaments,

Your excellencies,

Fellow director generals and representatives of the Broadcasting Board and the Board of Directors,

Dear colleagues,

Dear guests,

I am honored to be able to welcome you today, to the official DW festivities here in the former plenary chamber of the German Bundestag in Bonn. I would like to extend especially warm greetings to my predecessor, former DW Director General Dieter Weirich. And to my successor as director general, Peter Limbourg.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a birthday celebration. Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, has been on the air for 60 years.

But we aren't only celebrating Deutsche Welle's birthday today. Today is also the anniversary of the 1953 popular uprising in East Germany. The 17th of June became the "Day of German Unity", a national holiday in West Germany.

The popular uprising was not only a rebellion against increased production quotas. People in East Germany longed for freedom, for freedom of speech and press freedom, for democracy and for human rights. The message spread quickly from East Berlin to the whole of East Germany.

Deutsche Welle went on the air just before June 17th 1953. The German International Broadcaster's task was clear: to show the world during the Cold War that there is a new, democratic, free Germany.

That is the link between Deutsche Welle's 60th birthday and the popular uprising on June 17th in East Germany that we want to recall today.

On June 11, 1953 the members of the ARD (The Association of Public Broadcasting Corporations in Germany) signed a contract establishing a joint shortwave program. On that day, Deutsche Welle was born.

Just a few weeks before, on May 3, Deutsche Welle first went on the air with a German-language radio program.

Until 1956 the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR, Northwest German Broadcasting) was in charge of Deutsche Welle's programming, before responsibility passed to the WDR

For its programming, the German international broadcaster was able to make use of all the public state broadcaster’s programs.

At the time, the director generals of NWDR and later of WDR were in charge of Deutsche Welle as well.

Deutsche Welle did not become an independent broadcasting corporation until the act on the construction of broadcasting premises under federal law was passed on 29 November, 1960.

On first glance, DW seems to be a rather exotic member of the German public broadcasting family, but on closer consideration DW is a unique jewel .

And that applies up to this very day. Of course DW is completely different from the other German state broadcasting corporations – and yet we are a fully-fledged member of the German media system in every way.

Some might recall that initially we couldn't always take this for granted. And so the success that we have achieved together in the past years is even more of a cause for celebration.

Even a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable that Germany's public broadcasting companies including the ARD, ZDF (Second German Television) and Deutschlandradio would advocate improving a German international broadcaster.

There were questions about a shared use of content, international rights and co-productions, but the goal was always a political one for me: I was committed to Deutsche Welle working as an equal partner with Germany's other public broadcasters.

And if you are familiar with the federal system here in Germany, you might know that such a partnership is far from being a foregone conclusion. The federal and state governments have already done their part in paving the way for the success of the reforms, which are in Germany's best interest.

Last Thursday, on June 13, the German chancellor and the heads of German state governments decided unanimously in favor of an expansion of the cooperation between Deutsche Welle and the ARD German federal broadcasting companies, ZDF and Deutschlandradio. Their resolution has strengthened Deutsche Welle.

In my opinion, it was a milestone for German media policy. And the decision is certainly an important step towards securing Deutsche Welle's future.

The widespread interest and favour that Germany receives in many regions around the world is an opportunity for our country, and one that we should make use of.

International broadcasting remains important, as indicated by the establishment of several new international broadcasters.

All around us countries are recognizing the importance of fighting for the sovereignty of information and of interpretation in a globalized world.

That is why I am convinced that these efforts at working closer together in the interest of an ideal portrayal of Germany have come at the perfect time.

Deutsche Welle has been the international broadcaster of the Federal German Republic for 60 years.

We can see every day how important it is for Germany to have a voice on the world stage: whether it's in Iran, in Latin America, in China or in Africa.

The international community is facing pressing challenges: international tensions, rising energy prices, climate change, the global financial crisis and international terrorist threats. The topic of this year's Global Media Forum, "The Future of Growth - Economic Values and the Media," also emphasizes these challenges.

Developing countries and emerging markets like China and India are redefining power balances in the global economy, as the latter becomes more close-knit and therefore less clear cut.

The 21st century's media agenda includes global developments and challenges that are extremely important for a globally influential and internationally respected country such as Germany.

And still it is becoming increasingly clear that the fundamental pillars of Western society, such as democracy, freedom and human rights, are no longer self-evident truths.

Since 1953 Deutsche Welle has been conveying German perspectives and views on international, European and German subjects. We started as a shortwave broadcaster and – through reforms to our programming and our overall structure – have now become a multimedia broadcaster.

What that means is that at DW we no longer separate radio, television and online content. Instead of the traditional media model, we now have a convergence of media.

Our television, radio and online content in 30 languages raises awareness of German and European values, especially concerning democracy, freedom and human rights.

The importance of conveying these German and European perspectives will only increase against the backdrop of the global developments that I have outlined.

As we all know, the most important challenges of the 21st century can only be met through cooperation with other nations. Such cooperation hinges on mutual understanding between different cultures and of their values. And that is where Deutsche Welle makes its contribution. We have now been facilitating international dialogue for 60 years.

And the competition is getting tougher.

People often refer to it as a battle for international public interest. This competition is about values and ideas. It's about what goes on in people's minds.

Deutsche Welle has to assert itself in this new media landscape. In today's battle for international public interest, we need to promote the values we stand for: freedom, freedom of speech, democracy and human rights.

Competition on international media markets is increasing: both politically and commercially motivated international, national and local information providers are vying for people's increasingly short-lived attention.

Growing media diversity as well as the rapid development of information technology has led to fundamental changes in the way audiences in many regions around the world use the media.

These developments are set to continue.

We have to respond and are responding to these changes under the motto, "Germany needs a strong international media presence in order to be able to face the challenges of the 21st century."

And so we are defining the image of our country, the image of Germany in the world.

DW Akademie has been active alongside DW's journalistic content for ten years now. The Akademie particularly trains media specialists from developing countries and countries in transition as well providing training for young journalists.

We therefore train new journalistic talent in developing countries.Every year more than 3000 people are trained at Deutsche Welle Akademie.

For several years now we have been offering a master's program in "International Media Studies" in cooperation with the University of Bonn and the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. We are internationally the only broadcaster to offer such a program.

Deutsche Welle's stands out on the global stage so that we and thus also Germany, can be heard in international media markets.

As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, even after 60 years, there is still a lot for us to do.

We broadcast from Bonn and Berlin – from the center of Europe. From here, we advocate our values and continue to see ourselves as a voice for human rights, especially for people's right to free information.

I would like to say, especially to those here today from abroad, that I hope that I have conveyed to you a feeling for who we are and for what Deutsche Welle does. And what it has been doing for 60 years.

Thank you for being with us today, as our guests.

And most importantly, welcome!