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Germany – (E10) Rules and practices on internal pluralism

Score in short:

Internal pluralism is widely respected and established, though codified guidelines often do not exist.

Score in detail:

In Germany, the media do not feel like partisans or political actors – an assumption that is underpinned by current research (e.g., Weischenberg, Malik, & Scholl 2006).

Even if certain political positions like liberalism or conservatism can be referred to certain news media, the leading editors we have interviewed expressed that they and their media primarily feel a duty to objectivity – the coverage is not coloured by the political standpoint of the media, the publisher or the editor-in-chief. Thus, in all of the investigated news media, daily conferences on the selection and framing of the news take place. These editorial conferences are open to the editorial staff, and all of the newsroom journalists have a chance to articulate their opinions without fear of repression. There are regular debates about the coverage of the news medium that are open to all political standpoints. WAZ and FAZ explained that their newspapers are willing to express different points of view, in the commentary as well as in the letters-to-the-editor section. The public service media, ZDF and WDR, are bound to objectivity and representation of different political opinions by their mission statements (Programmauftrag); WAZ declared itself to be a newspaper of debate. The legal obligations to impartial reporting are written down in the press law, which was described in detail in indicator E7.

The journalists’ unions confirm the media’s self-image: There are no known cases in media companies of reprisals against journalists because of their political standpoint. Nevertheless, again there are no clear and written rules for respecting internal pluralism – it is more or less a common-sense aspect of journalistic socialization and self-image. Current research on the journalism culture shows that journalists regard their work as influenced by professional standards to a medium degree (Hanitzsch et al. 2010).