Deutsche Welle plans cutbacks

Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcaster that has been operating since 1953, has been ordered by the German government to cut expenses. Deutsche Welle has prepared a 400 page report detailing plans to tighten its focus by dropping shortwave and reducing mediumwave (what is known as AM in the United States) broadcasts. For more details, here is a Deutsche Presse-Agentur story and also a Deutsche Welle press release (in German).

Deutsche Welle’s new focus will be FM broadcasts in target areas, which include Asia, Africa, Arab countries, Iran, and Latin America. In another big change, Deutsche Welle will no longer target German expatriates. It also sounds as though the German government will have more of a role in keeping Deutsche Welle’s output compatible with German foreign policy.

The notion of an international broadcaster being forced to reduce costs is hardly news. Dropping shortwave broadcasts as part of cost reduction is also not a new idea. (Deutsche Welle already dropped English and German shortwave broadcasts to North America some time ago.) But no longer broadcasting to expatriates does surprise me. That used to be one of the biggest functions of international broadcasting and one of the reasons for its existence.

I also wonder about foreign policy promotion, an idea popular with politicians but rarely with listeners. One of Deutsche Welle’s stated goals is to “promote understanding of Germany as an independent nation with its roots in European culture and as a liberal, democratic, constitutional state based on the rule of law.” Done properly, promoting Germany’s foreign policy interests could be compatible with that.

But going too far down the road of foreign policy promotion road might threaten Deutsche Welle’s reputation for journalistic integrity. After all, who tunes into a radio station to hear more about German foreign policy?

One thing is for certain, these are troubling times for international broadcasters.

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