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Germany: a major media market undergoing upheaval

2014 saw a serious crisis of confidence in the German media. During coverage of the Ukraine conflict news portals were flooded with online commentaries in which German journalists were accused in some cases of spreading pro-Western, in others pro-Russian propaganda. According to an Infratest-Dimap survey, by the end of the year 63 percent of Germans had little trust or no trust at all in German media coverage of the Ukraine conflict.

The Pegida Movement called the German media "Lying press".
(© picture-alliance/dpa)

Each article prompted several hundred readers' commentaries. This seemed to show a growing gulf between media producers and consumers but could also be interpreted as journalists testing out the possibilities and limits of the Internet. Readers are no longer an anonymous mass – they have become visible and voice their criticism in no uncertain terms.

More than ten years after the first media crisis in 2001, publishers and journalists are still trying to find the right way to meet the challenges of the networked world. This means not only finding out how to respond to readers' commentaries but also how to finance copy, given the widespread "for free" mentality on the Internet. Discussions continue about whether paywalls should be increased and to what extent print and online editions should be linked.

In the meantime, however, journalists themselves are coming up with creative ideas: they are founding crowdfunding platforms, networking more closely and joining forces with colleagues from other media to research stories. The publishers are trying to compensate for eroding revenues by pooling resources, so that in some regions there is no longer any competition in the print market. Jobs have been slashed, editorial departments merged and attempts made to sell the same story in several different media.

The Internet is also influencing the content of German journalism: new reporting formats are being tried out, users and readers are becoming involved in production in various ways and new modes of publication are being sought. At the same time, journalists are facing a growing Internet public who criticise the work of the established media through their own portals and blogs, such as during the Ukraine crisis in 2014.

Germany has more than 300 national and regional dailies and twenty weeklies, most of them privately owned. In 2010 the professional services company KPMG conducted a study of the media market in Germany, which ranked the following as the ten leading media companies: Gruner + Jahr, Axel Springer AG, Verlag Georg von Holtzbrinck, Bauer Media Group, Hubert Burda Media Group, Medien Union, Waz Mediengruppe (now Funke Mediengruppe), M. DuMont Schauberg, Madsack Mediengruppe and Ippen.

Axel Springer Verlag is making especially intensive efforts to enter the digital age by networking with digital start-ups, transforming established media brands, launching its own new online services and acquiring web companies.

Germany has both public and commercial radio and television stations, whereby the licensing fee-financed and advisory board-controlled public broadcasters have a mandate to provide a basic information and entertainment service.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 12th place (2015)
Freedom House: 18th place (2014)

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