Radio Bremen – A New Experience
The insides of a broadcasting station, a live show and over 70 studio lights – we got to experience all this when we went for a tour to Radio Bremen, a public broadcasting station.
We already knew a little about German Media system and were excited for the visit. When we reached Radio Bremen, we were taken for a guided tour to the studios, working spaces and archives of Radio Bremen.
Radio Bremen is comparatively smaller than most other media houses in Germany but as we reached there we knew like everything else this was also going to be grand and so it was. Even though it has the name radio in it, Radio Bremen also runs a TV station as well as internet portals. The building was big and modern with high-tech equipment, compared to the media houses in Nepal. The working system was totally digital with some really high tech equipment. For example, there were cameras costing 250,000 Euros for recording T.V shows.
The Radio and T.V stations were in two different buildings and were linked together through a bridge. “It makes things easier for us because we don’t need to go all the way down and get back up.” said the tour guide. The interesting thing about radio in Germany is that the presenters of the program are called editors on the microphone as they are the ones who decide on the topics, prepare the programs and they have full control over the content. The radio editors also collaborate with sound technicians like the music editors who choose and play appropriate music.
We then went to one of the TV studios where we watched the live recording of a 10 minute news program. The room consisted of high tech equipment needed for the recording including the camera, Teleprompters and more than 70 studio lights. Even though Radio Bremen is one of the smaller broadcasting stations in Germany, they use expensive and good quality equipment for their programs. “The room looked fascinating to us coming from a country with small media houses. The thought that came in my mind was if this was a small radio station what could be bigger than this.” said Unnat Sapkota one of the students from Nepal.
The excitement and motivation that the visit added to Nepali students was good because all of them wanted to make their media system better. “It was an amazing experience for us to be able to visit a public, regional media house which was using really high quality equipment and we will learn a lot from it because as media students it is our duty to improve the media in our country. And I think we could learn a lot from the media system here in Germany.” Said Prabin Dhungel another student from Nepal.
The German media system – a result of World War II
Pluralistic, independent and complex – German media differs from other media structures around the world. Our guests from Nepal were excited to explore a new system.
For a country like Germany, it is very important that the media is independent due to its history which also included the use of media as a propaganda tool by the Nazis. There is a public and a commercial sector. This duality in the media is aimed to create a pluralistic and diverse range of media and to avoid another misuse. After the Second World War, Germany had to deal with several restrictions from the allies. The Allies did not allow the Germans to produce their own media content for a few years until the two German states were founded in 1949. The main idea about German media is to provide objective information which helps the people to form their own opinions.
The public service broadcasting began already in the 1950s. It receives funding by a broadcasting fee. Every household has to pay 17,50 € to finance the public media in order to decrease the influence of special stakeholders like advertisers. Nevertheless, some commercials are actually included in the program of public stations with some special restrictions. For example, the stations are not allowed to broadcast advertisements in the prime time. Concerning the television, it means that there are no commercials after 8 PM. They are also obliged to provide inner plurality i.e. they have to include information as well as entertainment and education into their program. Furthermore, they have to produce content for minority groups as well.
The first station in the public sector was the ARD, which is now a huge network including nine independent stations. They all cover different regions and target groups of Germany. The broadcaster we visited in Bremen also belongs to this company. Later, the second public station, the ZDF, was established. It was founded to create a balance in the media to avoid the monopoly and domination of the ARD. The public media is also seen as the basic supply for the people. In addition to that, there are private stations in Germany to provide more information to the public. Following the change in the law of the broadcasting services, private stations were established in the late 1980s. They are financed by advertising. In comparison to the public media they are not obliged to represent minorities and pluralistic opinions and topics. That means that there exists specialized broadcasters like music or entertainment channels in the private sector to provide diversity.
The German media system focuses on pluralism and independence of the broadcasting stations. The media range has to be well balanced and not dominated from one station or other stakeholders. Despite of the misuse of the media by German politicians in the past, the press freedom and freedom of expression have very high values in Germany. The media developed to a complex and diversified system which is independent from the government.