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Window or Aisle Seat?

This is how a German political correspondent from ZDF described U.S. television.  After pointing out the alarming dearth of print news outlets — many parts of your county have only one regional newspaper — (which, alas, is true) — he allowed as how our audiences have two choices: MSNBC and Fox. Or, as he rather colorfully put it: window or aisle seat. 

It was fascinating to hear both his take on our media — and, of course, how German television works. He admitted they are rolling in the dough because people are charged a fee — whether they watch television or not. Apparently, some here have sued over that 18€/month fee (NOT a tax) saying they don’t watch public television so should not have to pay for it. I believe the court knocked down that argument. 

But just because they are “rolling in the dough” does not mean they ignore what their viewers want to watch. They do pay attention to ratings — and programming. They can’t just do documentaries on serious matters — slave labor in the Sudan. mating habits of owls (I’m making those up, btw) but want to create programs people are interested in. 

I wondered about that considering they don’t actually depend upon viewers. Commercials make up only about 10 per cent of their revenues. German public broadcasters want to meet the needs of their younger audience — almost like insurance against the possibility that future generations might someday refuse to pay that monthly fee. 

Which is why, as I mentioned in a prior post, ZDF is broadcasting the World Cup.

We had an interesting discussion about Twitter – which I found more enlightening of American differences than nation disparities. Twitter is apparently just catching on here. The correspondent we spoke with says he tweets more than most — and yet when I went to follow him, I saw he had fewer than 7,000 followers. 

Among the Americans, I learned that some stations absolutely control their journalists twitter feeds, some forcing them to sign a Twitter contract, others giving their staff no ownership of their own handles. I was surprised (and I love when that happens).  

Going on a walk to the former wall (“mauer”) as our trip winds down. 

About Janet

The author of Ruling Woman is a television journalist, based in Manhattan who spends her workdays at 30 Rock, her nights on Broadway, and her weekends at the Farmers Market. Likes to knit, commune with the angels, and travel.

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