Ideas Abound In Brave New Media World
Sharp, often scathing words and images in the news are meant to shock. Sometimes this sells, circulations and ratings boosted. A slap can also inform. Not all stories benefit from tact and subtlety. It is the privilege of a free press.
German news weekly Der Spiegel certainly attracted attention - worldwide - with a cover illustration (February 3) depicting US president Donald Trump with a knife and the severed head of the Statue of Liberty. There is a two-word caption: America First. “Donald Trump is now president of the United States,” wrote editor-in-chief Klaus Brinkbaumer, “and it physically hurts.” Der Spiegel has the widest circulation of any news magazine in Europe. (See more about media in Germany here)
The cover was created by Cuban-American free-lance artist Edel Rodriguez. "I was nine years old when I came (as a political refugee in 1980), and I remember well the feelings of being a young child leaving my home country," he said to the Washington Post (February 3). He said the illustration represents “the decapitation of democracy, the decapitation of a sacred symbol.” Last year advertising industry voice Ad Age listed Mr. Rodriguez as one of the fifty most creative people of 2016.
German news media, generally, is quite traditional. Re-built completely after World War II publishers and broadcasters tend to tread lightly, preferring essay to polemic. There can be sharp words but Germans are always mindful they invented the printing press. Not making waves has been a signature… until recently.
Reaction from German publishing rivals came quick. “Der Spiegel is playing exactly to Trump’s needs,” writes conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (February 4), “a distorted image of him that he can make use of for his own distorted image of the press. The image and text does not invite a sober, differentiated view of Trump’s politics.” Weekly competitor Die Welt (February 4) called the cover illustration “crude… publicity at any cost…an example of hyperventilated anti-Trump journalism.”
“In all its imagery the caricature succeeded. It radiates,” said art critic Carsten Probst on German public radio Deutschlandradio Kultur (February 4). “Trump is now a media label, a distinctive figure like Mao or Elvis.” The February 4th cover of The Economist, drawn by British illustrator Miles Donovan, depicted the US president tossing a flaming Molotov cocktail under the caption “an insurgent in the White House.”
Last week TV satirist Jan Böhmermann was again awarded the German Television Prize (Deutschen Fernsehpreis) for best late night entertainment show. “We are dedicating the prize to the ZDF legal department,” he beamed, quoted by news agency dpa (February 3). His Neo Magazin Royale show, appearing on public TV channel ZDFneo, regularly skewers the powerful and the pretenders.
Herr Böhmermann’s satire didn’t sit well with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, like other authoritarians not fond of criticism. A lawsuit was filed - hence the reference to the ZDF legal department - by president Erdogan personally under a German law criminalizing insults toward heads of State. German courts tossed out the lawsuit in November for “insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.” A few weeks later the German parliament moved to remove the lese majeste law from the books as “obsolete and unnecessary.”
TV satirists around Europe took to their Final Cut Pro X for a slam at the “America First” meme. The Dutch were first with a “Netherlands Second,” followed by the Swiss, Danes, Belgians, Portuguese and Lithuanians (asking for third). Herr Böhmermann’s crew, without surprise, couldn’t resist. (See here on YouTube)
See also in ftm Knowledge
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Home to Europe's biggest broadcasters and publishers, Germany is a highly competitive media market. Transition to digital television was easy, other media not so simple, unsuprising with Germany's complex regulation and business structures. This Knowledge file reports on media leaders and followers. Includes Resources 214 pages PDF (July 2013)
Press/Media Freedom - Challenges and Concerns
Press and media freedom worldwide is facing challenges from many corners. As authoritarian leaders impose strict control over traditional and new media with impunity, media watchers have concerns for democracy. This ftm Knowledge file accounts the troubles of this difficult decade. 88 pages. PDF (December 2011)
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Suggestions that traditional news media died in 2016 as “post-truth” reality defined news - online and elsewhere - widely misses the mark. Disruption certainly has a place in civil society but not the only place. The ethos of journalism is easily dismissed but not, completely, forgotten. It’s just the hacks who send out press releases, whether touting a new experience for over-stimulated Millennials or sowing confusion among those “low-information” voters.
Public broadcasters working under constrained independence, administrative and financial, risk default to State broadcasting. Those separated barely a generation from dogmatic control face stiff resistance to new and open practice. Authorities always prefer a pliant mouthpiece.
Media regulation changes most when money is the object. Politicians are predisposed to crunch numbers in favor of short-term gain, elections being the most obvious. Broadcasters must consider transmitters, salaries as well as paper clips, air conditioning and pensions. Pulling a string makes the top spin fast enough to overcome inertia. Direction is something else.The advertising people know this.
The Millennials – new
In the media sphere nothing is more important than knowing the audience. Once in a generation a target group evolves to catch the attention of publishers and broadcasters, advertisers and media buyers, social critics and politicians. The Millennials, also known as Generation Y and digital natives, are it, with unique characteristics and behaviors. They have already reshaped everything we do. 35 pages, PDF (December 2016)
State Aid - Media Rules
National authorities have at their disposal a variety of economic measures to stimulate, develop and improve competitive market sectors. Sometimes they miss the big picture or have special circumstances. Within the European Union an executive branch of the European Commission stands ready to clarify the rules of each and every game. State Aid rules are developing as the playing field gets bigger. 35 pages, PDF (September 2016)
Social Media Matures (...believe it or not...)
Hundreds of millions use social media, billions even. It has spawned revolutions, excited investors and confounded traditional media. With all that attention a business model remains unclear or it's simply so different many can't see it. What is clear is that there's no turning back. 114 pages, PDF (July 2016)
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