Germany TV bosses look to silence populist political talk shows


Political shows’ negative focus on Islam erodes social cohesion, says cultural council

The head of Germany’s most powerful cultural body has called for the plug to be pulled on the nation’s multitude of political talkshows for a year, arguing that their populist agenda has helped fuel the rise of the far right.

Olaf Zimmermann, who heads the German cultural council, an umbrella group for organisations from art galleries to television companies, said public broadcasters needed to step back and rethink a format that has helped cement gloom-ridden public attitudes towards refugees and Islam, and propelled the Alternative für Deutschland party into parliament at last September’s election.

“I’d suggest for them, take a break for a year … though the length of the intermission isn’t the decisive factor. What is crucial is that they return with new talkshow concepts and try to come up with more suitable contents with regards to social cohesion in our society,” Zimmermann said, arguing that the public broadcasters ARD and ZDF were obsessed with refugee-related issues, often framing them negatively.

The cultural council, which is taxpayer funded, has pointed out that since 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis when almost a million refugees and migrants entered Germany, more than 100 political talk shows have put a topic related to migration at the centre of their discussion.

Since September’s election, which saw the AfD enter the Bundestag for the first time, much debate has surrounded the extent to which framing an issue, or lending a topic a certain perspective, might have helped their cause.

Television analysts have argued that the issue of refugees has been dealt with in a mostly negative way.

TV bosses have defended their formats, admitting the intensity of the refugee debate led to the topic being far more widely discussed in 2015 and 2016 than ever before, but arguing that it was no longer a dominant theme.

Even last week, however, ARD’s main talkshow Hart Aber Fair – Hard But Fair – led with the question: “To what extent is it possible to integrate young men who have fled from war and archaic societies? How unsafe is Germany as a result of them?”

The programme was triggered by the murder of a 14-year-old German girl whose body was discovered in Wiesbaden last week. The 20-year-old Iraqi man suspected of her rape and murder was extradited from Iraq to Germany this week to face trial.

Zimmermann said in too many cases refugees were unfairly presented as a threat to German society.

Read more at The Guardian