Volksmusik fans in Germany were glued to their televisions on Thursday night for the last episode of "Lustige Musikanten." Public broadcaster ZDF is cancelling the folk music program and older fans are up in arms.
The dream couple of Volksmusik Marianne and Michael will soon be hosting one less show
"Lustige Musikanten" or "The Merry Musicians" is one of many folk music programs on German television. Hosted by Marianne and Michael -- the dream couple of Volksmusik -- the show, however, takes its final curtain call on Thursday night.
Public broadcaster ZDF said it was not renewing the respective contracts due to planned program reforms for 2008. The channel said it wanted to make itself more attractive for younger viewers. Yodeling singers in dirndls and lederhosen apparently just weren't doing the trick.
A recent poll showed that in the first six months of 2007, ZDF only held a market share of 6.6 percent in the 14-to-49 year-old range -- one of the worst results in the station's history.
According to media reports, the lobby group for the German-speaking popular music industry "Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Schlager und Volksmusik" (ADS) is now contemplating legal action against ZDF.
Exclusion violates anti-discrimination laws
Manfred Knöpke, head of ADS, said the group criticized ZDF's justification of wanting to make the channel younger.
This isn't hip enough for young viewers
"This means older people are being excluded," Knöpke said in interviews with various German papers. "In our opinion, this violates the anti-discrimination law." ADS has now ordered a legal expert analysis whether a lawsuit against ZDF would be viable.
"If the stations take Volksmusik shows out of their programs because the viewers are too old, then several parts of the population are being shut out," he said.
ADS has gotten support from Trude Unruh, head of the senior citizens' activist group Gray Panthers.
"This is an insult to everyone who rebuilt Germany after the war," Unruh told the mass circulation paper Bild am Sonntag.
Senior citizens shouldn't be underestimated as consumers
According to Knöpke, ZDF's program policies were not forward-looking. He said many sectors had recognized that it wasn't the 14-to-49 year-olds that were the most interesting target group, but rather those over 50.
Heino is one of Germany's most popular Volksmusik singers
"The industry is just beginning to discover the growing group of senior citizens as consumers," he said.
Whether ZDF's new policies will attract younger viewers remained to be seen. According to Knöpke, when it came to music, young people would stick to MTV and VIVA anyway.
ZDF is reportedly unperturbed by the uproar. It said no one had a right to a specific type of music on television.
Some media have also questioned ADS' motivations. The group, with some 12,000 members, represents the interests of musicians, management, record companies and other institutions which live off of Volksmusik. Public television is a major source of publicity for their work.