Club of anonymous opinion makers

A study proves how the ndr production "sabine christiansen" systematically influencing the reform debate

Did it take sabine christiansen ten years to become aware of the danger she warned us about so often?? "Unions, civil servants, politicians – who blocks the country?"At that time, she had tentatively asked, "how much social justice can we still afford??"The closer we came to the abyss, the more urgent their questions became: "will germany remain at the bottom of the league??"Eichel at the end?", "government at a loss." it all did not use. Germany is lost, christiansen throws in the towel. Will heiben: she moves her center of life abroad, as she loved to declare in mid-june.

In time for the journalist’s orderly departure – she will continue to host the show until she is replaced by gunther jauch next summer – the demystification of the tv oracle is beginning. From january 2005 to june 2006, heidi klein and ulrich muller of the organization lobbycontrol (initiative for transparency and democracy) followed the most successful german talk show, with an average of five million viewers. The result of the study "schaubuhne fur die einflussreichen und meinungsmacher – der neoliberal gepragte reformdiskurs bei `sabine christiansen" is sobering. The predictions of germany’s demise were manipulated, say the authors. In fact, germany is not doing as badly as an illustrious circle of selected "experts" would have us believe on sundays.

Much dispute about equal opinions

Christiansen is successfully playing cue-ball for a "neoliberal-driven reform discourse," klein said when she presented the 24-page study in berlin on thursday. Ulrich muller quoted the corresponding figures. During the period under study, companies and trade associations made 50 appearances, while union representatives made only 16. It is not surprising that whoever chooses the singers also determines the tune: social ies tended to be dealt with in a "one-sided" manner, according to the study. Indeed, titles such as "milking cow welfare state – are we a nation of rip-off artists??" or "poor through work, rich through hartz iv?" are not slips. Behind this is a well thought-out political concept. The unanimous conclusion of the authors: the program is nothing but a "showcase for the influential and opinion leaders". This conclusion was also reached by other media analysts, such as walter van rom, who studied the program in detail:

At the height of the system overhaul mania (van rom refers to 2003, d.A.), she has managed to host half a dozen shows on the most audacious stroke of genius of political vision, the so-called early tax reform. It was a big time. In the heat of the moment, one could easily miss the fact that no one was against it, not even in the details of financing were there significant differences. One has to take one’s hat off to the performance of the presenter, who managed to pretend that this was, firstly, a landmark decision, which, secondly, was fiercely controversial.

Walter van rom

Political parties topped the talk master’s list with 206 out of 362 appearances. Lobbycontrol attests that the editorial team is well-balanced: the party affiliation in this coarse group has largely been oriented to the relationships in parliament. The politics of the remaining participants is problematic, as is the case with one fifth of the participants. The simple evaluation of the guest lists proves the dominance of entrepreneurs and business associations as well as the simple view of christiansen’s world: among 361 appearances there were only five guests from social associations or social organizations. If these groups appear, then only with short statements in the audience, and thus as "second-class guests" (gibor basri).

Covert connection to lobby organizations

The selection of the panelists is also questionable from another aspect. Seven of the ten scientists regularly invited on "sabine christiansen" are directly linked to market liberal organizations and think tanks. The spectators are not informed about it as a rule. Ulrich blum, the president of the institute for economic research (iwh) in halle, for example, is a co-signatory of the so-called hamburg appeal, a call for market-liberal deregulation supported by the lobby campaign initiative neue soziale marktwirtschaft (insm) (think tanks are supposed to create sentiment and blur the line between pr and journalism). The insm for its part was founded by the employers’ association gesamtmetall and is maintained annually with 8.8 million euros. Against this background, one can marvel at the topic of the discussion to which blum was invited: "5 million without work – where will new jobs come from??"

The team of neoliberal moles at sabine christiansen is coarser than one might think. The director of the institute of the german economy in koln, michael huther – in the broadcast he spoke on the subject "working for a few crotes! Jobs only at dumping prices?" – is a curator of the insm. The heidelberg law professor paul kirchhof, an ambassador of the insm, was named "reformer of the year" by this very organization and the frankfurter allgemeine zeitung in 2005. The director of the institute for economy and society, meinhard miegel, is co-initiator and spokesman of the think tank burgerkonvent). The emeritus economist joachim starbatty ("expert on economic policy and the labor market") is chairman of the board of the neoliberal arbeitsgemeinschaft soziale marktwirtschaft (social market economy working group).

Particularly noteworthy, according to the authors of lobbycontrol, is the program’s editorial policy with regard to journalists. Helmut markwort of the news magazine "focus" was invited to speak on the topic of "social justice.

Focus was insm’s media partner in the campaign "social is …". The aim of this campaign was to redefine the term "social" from the employer’s point of view: "social is what creates work" or "social is when you don’t rely on others".

Three of nine invited journalists were from axel springer, which also produces the bild newspaper. In a broadcast, hans-ulrich jorges, head of the capital city bureau of stern magazine, spoke on the topic "poor through work, rich through hatz iv?" had been invited. Shortly before, he had published a commentary according to which hartz iv mocks work and rewards inactivity. The impression of a systematic editorial policy is emerging.

Hit dogs and a state treaty

The reaction of the addressees shows that the study, although only designed for one and a half years, has hit the core of the problem. When "lobbycontrol" presented the paper in berlin, the production company of the talk show, tv 21 gmbh uberraschend sent the editor ralf bremer to distribute a prepared statement of the producer michael. This, meanwhile, shows little aplomb in dealing with the criticism, which was kept factual in the study:

I have been thinking for a long time, if we should take a look at the so called "new study" of lobbycontrol. The data and conclusions are so nonsensical that it would be better to keep quiet about them. Since here however recognizably a company with the name of sabine christiansen wants to make pr in own thing, a short replica is appropriate.

Michael heiks, producer of tv 21 gmbh

Contrary to what is stated in the study, eleven programs in the period under investigation dealt with international topics, according to heiks. A simple classification into camps and associations is also "fundamentally nonsensical". The interpretation of the program misses the reality. During the presentation of the study, vice production manager bremer also pointed out that gerhard schroder and angela merkel had been "confronted" with neo-liberal theses during the last election campaign. "We are the mission of the little man," bremer defended his employer.

Despite the criticism, the authors klein and muller believe that a "conceptual reorientation" is necessary, especially after the departure of the name giver. Norddeutscher rundfunk (ndr), as the responsible, but above all fee-financed broadcasting company, has to take care of this. The requirements of the ndr state treaty on programming speak for themselves:

The ndr is obliged to tell the truth in its programming. He has to make sure that 1.The significant political, ideological and social forces from the broadcasting area can have an appropriate say in the program, 2.The program does not serve a party, a community of interest, a creed or a worldview, and 3.(…) the aim of all information broadcasts is to inform factually and comprehensively and thus to contribute to the self-assessment of the citizens.

Ndr state treaty, paragraph 8 (programming)

Whether the "systematically distorted pluralism" (heidi klein) will come to an end with the change of presenter is, however, questionable. In july, ndr director jobst plog merely explained in an interview with the faz that a "new circus horse" had been sought for the time after christiansen. And gunther jauch cannot be topped in this respect.