Participation and democracy in German public service broadcasting

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2022 Number 82

Participation and democracy in German public service broadcasting
Annika Weiss pages 91-109
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.82.06.2022


Public media systems have a core role in making European democracies functional. Their independence should mean that they ensure the accountability of democratic political frameworks, while also offering audiences a safe space for plurality, diversity, accessibility and quality. Publicly funded media broadcasters countervail private media’s profit maximisation strategies of commercialisation, commodification and individualisation to allow a spectrum of public-serving media producers to challenge the parameters of public debate. There are a range of issues here which apply to the BBC and other public service broadcasters, but the German public service broadcasting system (including its main national PSB stations, ARD and ZDF) has its own specificities, which are outlined here. There are structures in place that allow for a limited degree of democratic accountability in Germany, but these are becoming increasingly ineffective. This article, drawing on extensive research, including discussion with the online content network funk, puts forwards proposals that could introduce into the system a greater degree of accountability, civic participation, transparency and accessibility. It argues that German public service broadcasters need to establish a reciprocal relationship with their audiences through allowing more participation, in order to break the mould of its outdated structures, and the concentration of representation within elite and unrepresentative hands. 

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To cite this article
Annika Weiss (2022) Participation and democracy in German public service broadcasting, Soundings, 2022(82), 91-109.

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