German Press Council

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Logo of the German Press Council

The German Press Council , registered as the supporting association of the German Press Council eV , is an organization of the major German publishers and journalists 'associations, the Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ), the German Journalists Association (DJV) and the German Journalists' Association Journalists Union (dju). The Press Council was founded on November 20, 1956 on the model of the British "Press Council" (today: "Press Complaints Commission") in order to prevent a planned federal press law. The office has been based in Berlin since June 2009 .


The two main organs of the press council are the sponsoring association and the plenum.

  • The sponsoring association has the task of advocating freedom of the press and maintaining the reputation of the German press. It consists of eight members, including two from each of the four member associations. Dirk Platte, legal advisor of the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ), has been chairman of the sponsoring association since January 2020. The deputy chairman is Karl-Josef Döhring, General Manager of the German Association of Journalists (DJV).
  • The plenum of the German Press Council deals with eliminating grievances in the press and advocates unhindered access to news sources. It consists of 28 members, including seven members each from BDZV, VDZ, DJV and dju, who hold this honorary position for 2 years. Johannes Endres (freelance journalist) has been the designated speaker of the plenary as a representative of the DJV since March 2020 . The designated deputy spokesperson is Dr. Kirsten von Hutten (legal advisor) as representative of the VDZ. The two speakers have only been designated so far because the plenum responsible for their election could not meet as planned on March 18, 2020 due to the corona pandemic. The election will be rescheduled. In plenary meetings held twice a year, the plenum sets new guidelines, changes or supplements the press code and also publishes statements. The plenary also appoints the members of the three complaints committees, each composed of four journalists and four publishers. Two committees deal with general complaints, the third complaints committee deals with issues of editorial data protection.


"(1) The German Press Council receives [...] a federal grant every year. The grant is earmarked for the activities of the complaints committee of the German Press Council. (2) The grant is paid on April 1 of each year, for the first time on April 1, 1976. It amounts to DM 80,000. "

- Law to guarantee the independence of the complaints committee set up by the German Press Council

In 2007 the annual budget was around 700,000 euros , which included around 180,000 euros in federal grants.

Press Code

The German Press Council has drawn up its journalistic principles as a “press code ”, a kind of code of honor for media representatives that was first published in 1973 and last revised on March 22, 2017 (Section 12.1 - Discrimination). On December 12, 1973, it was presented to Federal President Gustav Heinemann. It is part of the tradition of the press code that every change is passed on to the incumbent Federal President.

If a press company allegedly violates one or more of these journalistic principles in print or online media, anyone can submit a complaint to the press council. This has also been possible online since 2009. In its meetings, the committee decides whether the complaint is well founded. It then has the option of taking the following measures:

sent to the relevant editorial team in the event of minor violations of the code, non-public
issued for more serious violations of the code, non-public. According to Section 15 of the Complaints Regulations, there is no obligation to print disapproval in the relevant publications. However, as an expression of fair reporting, the Appeals Committee recommends such an editorial decision.
toughest sanction: the medium is asked to print a "public reprimand". Non-public complaints are issued in the event of serious violations if further publication is prohibited for reasons of victim protection.

In 2018, the Press Council issued 27 public reprimands, 1 non-public reprimand as well as 70 disapprovals and 147 references. In 2017 there were 21 public reprimands, 58 disapprovals and 153 references. In 2016, the Press Council issued 33 public reprimands, 64 disapprovals and 151 references. In 2015, the number of public reprimands was 35, disapprovals 82 and notices 147. In 2019, 2,175 readers turned to the press council with complaints. As in previous years, around 90 percent of them were private individuals, ten percent associations, parties or companies. Most of the complaints were directed against regional dailies, followed by tabloids and consumer magazines.

The highest number of complaints about a single incident was received in 2015 with around 430 about reports following the accident on Germanwings flight 9525 . After the accident at the Love Parade in 2010 , there were 241 complaints.


When deciding which pictures may be shown, the press council weighs up the readers' interest in information on the one hand and the violation of the protection of minors, human dignity and the protection of individual privacy on the other . When asked whether pictures of the killed Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi may be shown, he decided that showing such pictures does not automatically violate the principle of human dignity according to Section 1 of the Code. The complaints committee rejected the majority of the complaints as unfounded, as the pictures were "documents of contemporary history". Only two special cases with inappropriate enlargement or special placement on the front page were disapproved.

Political work

The political goal of the German Press Council is to prevent the printed media from being monitored by state supervisory bodies through voluntary self-regulation. The Managing Director of the Press Council, Lutz Tillmanns, formulates this principle as follows:

"How successful the Press Council is can also be seen in the reluctance of the legislature to pass laws that define the limits of journalistic work."

- Lutz Tillmanns, Managing Director of the Press Council, quoted from

In 1952, the Federal Minister of the Interior, Robert Lehr, presented a draft law for a federal press law, which provided for the establishment of "state press committees". The draft law was Lehrs' means of political pressure to convince publishers and journalists that self-regulation by the German press was necessary for “internal cleanliness” (Lehr). Since state control was unacceptable for journalists and publishers, the German Press Council was founded on November 20, 1956, following the example of the British "Press Council". Ten publishers and journalists were involved in the organization when it was founded.

In 1958, the press council took action against a draft of an amendment to the penal code that provided for imprisonment for someone who publicly disparages the private life of a foreign head of state and thus disrupts international relations with the Federal Republic of Germany ( Lex Soraya ). The background to the planned novella was the depiction of the divorce of Princess Soraya from Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , which was reported in detail in the German tabloids in the spring of 1958 . The bill was not passed.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the press council pushed for the unification of state press laws. After the Spiegel affair , the press council achieved a reform of the penal code in which the flexible criminal offense of treason was specified. In the discussion about the German emergency laws in 1968, he turned away restrictions on freedom of the press. The German Press Council intervened in the discussion about media concentration by contributing factual information. Since 1976 the Federal Republic has been paying regular subsidies to the Press Council.

In 1986 a sponsoring association for the press council was founded.

Since the German Press Council opposes data retention , it is a co-signatory of the joint declaration of the AK reserve on the corresponding draft law.

The nationwide press pass , which was reintroduced in 2018 , is being overseen by the German Press Council. The ID card bears the signature of the chairman of the conference of interior ministers. A “standing commission” with equal representation and set up at the German Press Council, with two members each appointed by the Press Council and the Conference of Interior Ministers, examines on the basis of an agreement which associations meet the requirements for issuing the national press card. The Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ), the German Association of Journalists (DJV), the German Union of Journalists in ver.di (dju) and the Freelens Photographers Association and the Association are currently authorized to issue German sports journalist (VDS).

Criticized media and effectiveness

Media criticized by the FREP for the form of reporting since 1986; As of July 2008

When Günter Wallraff discovered controversial working methods of the Bildzeitung in 1977 , the press council reprimanded the newspaper a total of six times. Wallraff himself was reprimanded because undercover investigations violated the press code. The debate about how to deal with Wallraff's research and its results led to a strong division between representatives of publishers and journalists in the press council. When the Express refused to print a reprimand in 1981 , the press council ceased its work until the publishers made a voluntary commitment to reprint the reprimands in 1985.

The media and the complainants assess the effectiveness of the measures taken by the German Press Council differently, since the sanctions have hardly any consequences for the newspaper. Critics therefore refer to the press council as a “toothless tiger” that only has an alibi function.


The press council has been considering a modernization for a long time, because until now the press council has been limited to print media and print media with an online presence. Considerations include a special online code , the regulation of the formats set by users such as blogs, videos and podcasts. This would be the first time bloggers have been recognized as journalistic providers in Germany.

See also

A comparable institution that deals with the assessment of advertising is the German Advertising Council .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Imprint of the homepage of the German Press Council
  2. ^ Communication of the BDZV of June 22, 2009
  3. Plenary and supporting association of the press council (accessed on January 5, 2015)
  4. ^ The organization of the German Press Council. Retrieved July 24, 2018 .
  5. Act to ensure the independence of the complaints committee set up by the German Press Council The annual budget: § 1 (accessed on August 29, 2014)
  6. The Press Code , accessed on March 18, 2020.
  7. Online complaint form of the press council
  8. a b 2019: More complaints, more complaints , annual reports & statistics,, accessed on April 26, 2020. Annual reports: 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 .
  9. Reporting on Germanwings crash: German press council reports complaint record , from April 15, 2015
  10. ↑ The press council had to evaluate 49 complaints about Gaddafi's death . German Press Council. December 8, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  11. a b Stefan Niggemeier : To the point, kitten. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung . January 22, 2006, accessed January 7, 2018 .
  12. Gernot Facius: We want to complain . Welt Online, November 16, 2006.
  13. , accessed on January 11, 2019.
  14. Jessica Eisermann : Self-control in the media: the German press council and its possibilities , WZB, Dept. Public and Social Movement, Berlin 1993, page 20