Is Olaf Scholz looking for salvation in the media offensive? Of course, a Federal Chancellor is always in the public eye, every appearance is covered in and by the media. Nevertheless, the impression has been gained that the head of government too seldom, in any case too seldom, clearly represents his position and his policies in the context of the Ukraine war.

That had to be repaired. So on Sunday, Scholz took the anniversary of the end of the World War in Europe on May 8, 1945 as an occasion for a television speech. When the Chancellor wanted attention, he clearly achieved his goal: almost 13 million followed Scholz’s appearance on ARD and ZDF, on RTL and ntv and elsewhere. A rate that only a “Wetten, dass…?” revival or a game of the German national team at the EM/WM achieves.

Public and private broadcasters drew their dividends from the speech by putting the Scholz speech in their top-rated main news items or at the end of it. The Chancellor acted correctly as far as the intended magnetism of his speech was concerned. He communicated coram publico, everyone may have made their own sense of it afterwards.

The increasingly public Chancellor is accompanied by a question that media skeptics could take as confirmation: Do the broadcasters, especially ARD and ZDF, continue to worship an understanding of the authorities, according to which programming space is immediately granted if the Chancellor requests it?

Now it goes without saying that the medium with the widest reach takes part when responsible politicians leave their foxholes and promote public discourse. A parliamentary democracy works and must also work as a media democracy.

A television speech is not a round of journalists, not a talk show, not a federal press conference. One speaks, the others listen. There is something sovereign, if not absolute, about it.

Gabor Steingart, editor of “The Pioneer”, has harshly criticized ARD and ZDF (he studiously overlooked the private broadcasters). For Steingart, the broadcasters are “in theory remote from the state, but in practice close to the chancellor”. Steingart calls the dramaturgy of the program: “100 percent Scholz, zero journalism”. After a broad analysis, Steingart in his verve prepares an obvious suspicion: TV is becoming Scholz TV It is already clear that no broadcaster cancels when the Chancellery requests a performance.

TV speech, “What now, Mr. Scholz?” on ZDF, on May 16 the chancellor is a guest on “RTL Direkt Spezial”. In the program “Can the Chancellor Crisis?” Scholz will answer the questions of the citizens in the studio. Journalist talks, town hall exchanges, these are the formats that convert the speech – in reality an announcement – ​​into a discourse.

Angela Merkel has carefully rationed her TV appearances, she only went in front of the cameras or to “Anne Will” – except for the New Year’s speeches – when the refugee crisis had reached its peak or the electorate was audibly grumbling. In the hope and perhaps with the conviction that a direct and not a mediated word will change the way their politics are viewed.

Those were crisis appearances for Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz. What matters is the policy itself, not the narrative about it. Or to continue Steingart: 100 percent Scholz is also 100 percent danger – for the politician and for the broadcaster. Speeches are based on agreements.

For (public) television, this means that the bearer of a message can get screwed up at least as quickly as the originator.


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