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Germany – (F5) Company rules against internal influence on newsroom / editorial staff

Score in short:

The autonomy of newsrooms is generally well-established and implemented in most of the main news media, although sometimes formal rules are still lacking.

Score in detail:

All leading editors we interviewed asserted that there is a complete and formal separation of newsroom and management. But are these regulations actually effective in everyday practice? Our interview partners frequently insisted that there has never been any influence at all; most of the editors informed us that they have never experienced any attempt by the management to prohibit or place stories. Generally, the actual implementation of the separation between newsroom and management / advertising department was referred to as “autonomous.” Other, more indirect forms of internal influence could be detected in the coverage of programmes and products related to the publishing house or the owning company. But our interview partners claimed that no products from the heading company are to be discussed in articles.

In the case of commercial media, none of our interview partners mentioned direct interventions from management. The editor-in-chief heads the newsroom. In the case of public service media, the selection of the editor-in-chief is formally independent of the government. Although political parties have a say in the broadcasting commissions, they normally do not constitute the majority in these commissions. Nevertheless, in 2010 Hessen’s prime minister and his Christian Democratic union pursued the demission of Nikolaus Brender, editor-in-chief of the ZDF. Thus, one cannot say that the public service media are totally autonomous from political power.