Media policy

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Media policy refers to all discourses and measures that lead to a regulatory framework for journalistic media (laws, ordinances, guidelines) and define their scope. Since these media play an essential role for the functioning of a democratic constitution, media policy is part of the state's general interest to protect the freedom of expression and information of the citizens. At the same time, it must ensure that political and economic power groups cannot exert any decisive influence on the range of publications and the political will-formation of the population. In contrast to political fields such as health, social or transport policy, the effects of media policy decisions are felt by the citizens more indirectly, so that media policy is often strategically and intellectually neglected by the political class or viewed from a purely power perspective. Media policy is at the same time cultural, economic and technology policy and must therefore be balanced on several political levels and fields.

In the course of digitization , markets, some of which are still regulated separately (print media, radio, mobile communications, telecommunications), are growing together in the digital world . This leads to discussions in the EU , the federal government and the states about a new media policy.

Concept and actors

In the narrower sense, media policy is understood to mean all state and sovereign regulations of the journalistic media system. In a broader understanding, media policy includes, in addition to this media order established by laws, ordinances or guarantees, also “the communication and presence of politics in the media” and “the politics of the media companies themselves” (Hachmeister 2008: 17). In addition, media policy developed in the 1990s as an economic “location policy”; especially in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia there was a struggle to locate media companies and projects. In Germany, the term “media policy” has been in use in political parties and communication studies since the early 1960s. The CDU-affiliated communication scholars Franz Ronneberger (Nuremberg / Erlangen) and Otto B. Roegele (Munich) undertook an initial systematic examination of the topic. The binding definition of the term media policy is made more difficult, among other things, by the fact that the terms media and communication policy are not always clearly delimited from one another, both in research and in everyday language. The Hamburg political scientist Hans Kleinsteuber defines media policy "as politically motivated and intended action (...) that relates to the organization, functioning, design and material and personal aspects of the mass media" (2005: 103). Similarly, Puppis defines the term as "that action which aims to establish and enforce generally binding rules and decisions about media organizations and mass media public communication" (2007: 34). It expressly includes the telecommunications infrastructure as well as the "new media".

The debate in the English-speaking world is more clearly structured. There, the dimensions of communication policy are described based on the three levels of analysis from political science: "Polity", "Politics" and "Policy":

  • "Polity" describes the basics of the media order (communication constitution),
  • "Politics" describes the political input by the media actors,
  • “Policies” describes the output of political operations with laws and international treaties, authorities and decisions. (according to Kleinsteuerber 2001).

A large number of actors and institutions are present in or for Germany in terms of media policy: European Commission , Federal Constitutional Court , federal states (framework conditions), state media authorities (licensing, control), public broadcasting councils (supervision of ARD and ZDF), commissions such as KEK (concentration control) or KEF (Financial Supervision of Public Broadcasting), the Federal Cartel Office , the Broadcasting Commission of the federal states (as the commissioned body of the federal state prime ministers based in Rhineland-Palatinate). In addition, there are media policy actors from the parties, parliamentary groups and associations. Media policy, although it deals with the framework conditions for social public, is a complex field for specialists. The fragmentation of media regulation in Germany, given the need for “convergence thinking” (Henry Jenkins) and new “knowledge corporations” such as Google , has been criticized more and more recently. The media policy coordinator of the SPD-governed states is currently the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer ; the media policy of the CDU-governed countries is represented by the Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer . At the federal level, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Minister of State Monika Grütters (CDU), is mainly responsible for film policy.

Guiding principles of media policy

Media-political action is particularly recognizable through censorship measures (as in dictatorships) or guarantees (of freedom of expression, political plurality or market access). There are essentially three normative models with which different ideas of media policy can be outlined. A (neo) liberal attitude is expressed in the dictum of the publicist Johannes Gross that the best media policy is not at all. It would be a fundamental media policy decision to leave the media unregulated to market forces. This economically liberal stance is opposed to the idea of ​​a statist media policy that regulates as little as possible. Ordoliberal politics takes a third path, which seeks the balance between a consciously set order for society, state and economy as well as individual and entrepreneurial rights of freedom. Media policy in Germany has so far been largely a matter for the federal states (after the negative experiences with central propaganda and media control under Joseph Goebbels from 1933 to 1945) and fluctuates between federal cooperation and a basic ordoliberal understanding. Regardless of the basic ideas of freedom of speech and opinion developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, media policy is being transformed, above all, technologically - with the advent of the mass press, radio and currently the Internet. In the 1980s, for example, private broadcasting was introduced in Germany, as in many other European countries; but with clear power-political ambitions under Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU), who maintained good relations with the conservative Munich media entrepreneur Leo Kirch . Decisive for the establishment of the dual broadcasting system in Germany ( broadcasting ) are the judgments of the Federal Constitutional Court, z. B. from 1961, 1971 and 1981. On the basis of the dual broadcasting regulations described by the Federal Constitutional Court, the federal states regulated the coexistence of public and private broadcasting in the State Treaty on the Reorganization of Broadcasting in 1987, which has since been updated by numerous "Broadcasting Amendments". (see Meyn 2004). A distinction must also be made between reactive and creative media policy. The latter develops new institutional and organizational framework conditions and concrete models of media policy in dialogue with actors from the media industry and social groups, such as the establishment of the television channel “ Channel Four ” in Great Britain in the early 1980s .

Comparative and international media policy

The form and processes of media and communication policy depend on the historical development of the respective national media systems as well as on the structure of the political system. In France, for example, media policy is more statistic and presidential, while in Germany federalism and constitutional law determine the rules and procedures in media policy. Great Britain has a system of checks and balances with numerous commissions and voluntary commitments. In contrast, there are only a few intellectuals in the USA who demand democratic interventions against the “consensus machine of the media industry” (Chomsky). Kleinsteuerber describes that it was not until the early 1970s that awareness of international media politics emerged. The UNESCO was a forum for a debate between states of the "Second" and the "Third World" and the Western states. "While the West called for the principle of a 'Free Flow of Communication', an unimpeded, global flow of communication, critics lamented the associated media dominance (" media imperialism ") of the rich West, which controls these very communication flows and uses them for its interests (2005)." The dispute that ultimately led to the withdrawal of some states from UNESCO (all of which have since returned) led to a loss of authority that continues to have an impact today, said Kleinsteuber. Since then, UNESCO has played a subordinate role in global media policy. Nevertheless, the media policy of international organizations such as the European Union, the WTO and UNESCO is gaining importance in the course of Europeanization and globalization. The recent state aid dispute between German public broadcasters and the EU Competition Commission made clear that media regulation is no longer a matter for the nation state alone. Accordingly, Jarren states that the central features of today's media policy are "political multilevel systems, interwoven decision-making arenas, complex constellations of actors (...)".

Current media policy problem areas

In states with authoritarian or dictatorial leadership, the basic issues of media and freedom of expression continue to be at stake (e.g. in Russia or China), while the wiretapping scandals of the Murdoch papers in Great Britain have highlighted the political problems of the dominance of commercial journalistic media. Media policy here has moved from a niche issue to an issue of the general public and the entire political class. In principle, the greater attention paid to network policy issues, the copyright debate and the rise of the pirate party have also increased the weight of the media policy field. The main questions in Germany are:

Ownership and concentration processes

Since the concentration of power in the Hugenberg Group , which was more concerned with social influence than with increasing returns, the interdependence between property and political power has been a problem specific to the media sector. The latest examples of entanglements of this kind are personalities such as Vladimir Putin , Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch . Scandalous links between politics and the media industry became known in Germany especially after the Kirch group went bankrupt in 2003. Federal Chancellor a. D. Helmut Kohl had always been on the payroll of the media entrepreneur after the end of his term of office. According to press reports, between 1999 and 2003, Kohl received around 300,000 euros in consultancy fees annually - mostly without any verifiable performance in relation to the payments. Today, exclusively profit-oriented financial investors and private equity companies are increasingly replacing the old publishing dynasties and families as new owners. Examples of this were the events involving the Berliner Verlag or Berliner Zeitung and the private equity companies KKR and Permira. The US finance company Hellmann & Friedman has a 9.9% stake in Axel Springer AG . The Munich media entrepreneur Kirch also worked with financial investors.

Distribution and Convergence

It has not yet been decided which physical data carriers will be used to transport journalistic offers to consumers in the near future. On the one hand, there is still a clear focus on specific media genres (press, radio, television), on the other hand there is an ever increasing link between print and audio / video elements in the online area. The online offerings of radio and newspapers are also becoming more and more similar, the boundaries here will become more and more blurred in the coming years.

Media use and data protection

The changed usage habits of the readers also have a major impact on the journalistic content: There are more and more influential social communities on the Internet (e.g. Facebook and XING ). The blogs have also created a journalistic culture and new competition to traditional publishers. In return, traditional media also rely on “user-generated content” and use the network as a distribution channel and source at the same time. Where the separation between consumption and production becomes more and more blurred, new data protection and copyright problems and utopias of “digital communism” (Hachmeister) arise. The symbiosis of laptop, mobile phone and World Wide Web stands for the partially uninhibited (self) publishing on the Internet. In this way, the dispersed media use also changes the parameters of media policy.

Fee debate

At the center of German media policy is the question of what role the public television companies ARD and ZDF should play in the digital age. Not only the level of the license fee (from 2013: household tax ) is discussed (Stoiber 2012), but also the aging audience of the public broadcasters and the legitimacy of the online activities of ARD and ZDF. These are regularly criticized by representatives of the private media industry, especially the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers .

Debate about the political relevance of Youtubers and social media

On May 18, 2019, the Youtuber Rezo published a video on his second channel Rezo ja lol ey with the title “The destruction of the CDU.”. The video received several million views within a short period of time and was widely discussed in the media. The video is essentially about four things: The copyright reform of the European Union and the protests around Article 13 (/ 17), the prioritization of digital policy, influencer communication and the demand to take people of all ages seriously, along with other policy areas such as the environment - and migration policy. Rezo used evidence from his point of view to list the failure of current politics, especially in the areas mentioned. He made the greatest reproach for the CDU, but he also did not ignore the mistakes of SPD politicians. In the end he called for the CDU, SPD and AfD not to vote in the European elections. He found a lot of support in the comments and the ratio of likes and dislikes also shows general approval. Soon after the video was published, many asked for an opinion from the CDU. Young politician Phillipp Amthor (CDU) then announced a counter-video, which, however, was never published. Federal chairwoman of the CDU Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer indirectly criticized the video as "opinion-making" and questioned whether the digital area of ​​the media should be regulated in the same way as the analog, without, however, naming specific comparable analog regulations. The CDU chairwoman felt misinterpreted in her statements. The Union and the SPD suffered heavy losses in the 2019 European elections.


Media policy processes are observed by the media companies themselves (e.g. on special media pages in the daily newspapers or through online portals) that are economically and journalistically affected by media regulation. This leads to problems of journalistic independence and sometimes strong interest-driven criticism of operational media policy, such as the dispute over the presence of public broadcasters on the World Wide Web. The criticism of the confusion of German media regulation has increased significantly in recent years. In 2005, for example, the media critics Stefan Niggemeier and Peer Schader demanded in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung” (FAS): “Get rid of the state media authorities!”. The “media guardians” are “older, unworldly gentlemen”. (May 20, 2005) The non-profit Institute for Media and Communication Policy (IfM, Berlin / Cologne), founded in 2005, has also accused German media policy of backwardness and over-complexity. This is "an example of unsatisfactory politics, which technocratically and formally juristically has distanced itself from its lively reference field". The lawyers and administrative officials, who are essentially responsible for media policy in Germany, stuck to the outdated terminology of press and broadcasting law. In addition, there was a lack of bodies from which one would expect clear statements that there are “hardly any politicians and entrepreneurs who stand for exciting intellectual-strategic designs”. The IfM, on the other hand, calls for a “new, tidy media treaty” (instead of the previous “broadcasting amendment”) and a central regulatory agency for the media and telecommunications industry (such as Ofcom in Great Britain) in the Internet age . Ver.di media expert Martin Dieckmann complained about the “missing architecture of the whole” (ver.di-Information, 6th August ) on the occasion of the 10th “Broadcasting Amendment”, which provides for three media supervisory commissions (ZAK, GVK and KEK) 2007). The Germany boss of the telecommunications group Vodafone , Fritz Joussen, said in an interview with the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”: “I learned one thing during the discussion about licensing for mobile television last year: decisions are not made quickly in Germany when it comes to country interests. To put it cautiously: media policy is complicated in this country ”. (August 17, 2008) Frankfurt-based media lawyer Thomas Vesting emphasizes that "the alignment of media law to the model of broadcasting regulation is likely to be an obsolete model in the long term". In the opinion of IfM Director Lutz Hachmeister , media policy is not simply “one political field among several, but a metapolitics that affects all other political areas: By acting or failing to act, it is decided in this field how the political as a whole is thought and talked about” (Hachmeister et al. 2008).


  • Des Freedman: The politics of media policy . Polity, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7456-2842-4 , OCLC 236184928 .
  • Donges, Patrick (Ed.) (2007): From Media Policy to Media Governance. Cologne: Halem
  • Hachmeister, Lutz et al. (2008): The terms of the past decades. About new and old media politics. Funkkorrespondenz, 31/2008, pp. 3–8.
  • Hachmeister, Lutz (Ed.) (2008): Basics of media politics. A manual. Munich: DVA
  • Hachmeister, Lutz / Vesting, Thomas: Broadcasting policy and network policy. On the structural change in media policy, in: Funkkorrespondenz 13/2011, pp. 3–11
  • Hallin, Daniel C .; Mancini, Paolo (2005): Comparing Media Systems. 215-233. In: James Curren; Michael Gurevitch (Ed.): Mass Media and Society. London: Hodder Arnold.
  • Hombach, Bodo (2012): Politics and Media (= Bonn Lectures and Discourses Volume 1), Essen: Klartext
  • Jarren, Otfried / Donges, Patrick (2008): Regulation. In: Hachmeister, Lutz (ed.): Fundamentals of media politics. A manual. Munich: DVA, pp. 338-342.
  • Jarren, Otfried / Donges, Patrick (2006): Political Communication in the Media Society. An introduction. Textbook, 2nd revised edition. Wiesbaden: Publishing house for social sciences.
  • Jenkins, Henry (2006): Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press
  • Kleinsteuerber, Hans J. (2005): Media Policy. In Hepp, Andreas, Krotz, Friedrich and Winter, Carsten (ed.): Globalization of media communication. An introduction. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp. 93–116.
  • Meyn, Hermann (2004): Mass media in Germany. Constance: UVK.
  • Puppis, Manuel (2007): Introduction to Media Policy. Constance: UVK.
  • Stoiber, Edmund (2012): “What makes pirates so attractive”? A conversation with Lutz Hachmeister on the state of media policy, in: Jahrbuch Fernsehen 2012. Berlin / Cologne: IfM, pp. 50–60.
  • Vesting, Thomas (2008): Foundations of a new media policy. The universal medium Internet makes the old regulatory model obsolete, in: Funkkorrespondenz 37/2008, pp. 3–10

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Media policy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Rezo ja lol ey: The destruction of the CDU. May 18, 2019, accessed June 12, 2019 .
  2. Thomas Jarzombek, Jörg Müller-Lietzkow: Social media, influencers, digital politics and election campaigns - thoughts and concepts in the context of a new, digitally influenced understanding of politics. In: . , June 1, 2019, accessed on June 12, 2019 .
  3. AKK says a few strange sentences about Rezo - and the Internet desperately. Retrieved June 12, 2019 .