An AfD request provided evidence of what critical citizens have been denouncing for a long time: the so-called fourth estate in Germany is obviously corrupt. The federal government has paid journalists – especially those working for public broadcasters – around 1.5 million euros over the past five years. Most of the money flowed for moderation – for example for a conversation with Chancellor Scholz. How high is the probability that those who are so princely rewarded by politics will ever report critically about them?
A press release by media policy spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Martin Renner, summarizes the findings:
“The federal government’s figures reveal a significant flow of government money directly into the wallets of individual journalists. Since 2018, around 875,000 euros have flowed to journalists from ARD, ZDF, Deutschlandradio and Deutsche Welle. The government paid these journalists for tasks such as moderation, speaking engagements, media training, or simply attending a panel discussion.
Journalists from private newspapers, magazines and the large private broadcasters such as SAT.1, RTL, Pro Sieben and n-tv were also handsomely remunerated for their services. Here, the federal government transferred around 595,000 euros in the same period. The beneficiaries also include representatives of the ‘quality press’ such as the FAZ, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel and Die Zeit.
Almost all federal ministries have hired journalists to provide paid services, including the Federal Chancellery’s Pro Sieben presenter Linda Zervakis for ‘moderating a conversation with the Federal Chancellor’ Olaf Scholz in June 2022. Ms. Zervakis was responsible for this interview and another moderation with over 12,000 royally rewarded in euros.
The federal government has so far refused to publish the real names of the approximately 200 journalists for ‘data protection reasons’. At the latest with the scandal surrounding the paid interview by Ms. Zervakis (‘Journalist 97’) it has become clear that there is a public interest in clarifying the business relationships between the government and journalists.
Contrary to the assurances of the federal government, the AfD parliamentary group sees the payments made as a violation of the principle of the state-remoteness of public broadcasting. But journalists from private media outlets also have to ask themselves whether they are really as independent of the federal government as they claim to be. With an average fee of 7,350 euros per journalist, it cannot be ruled out that the Federal Government’s practice of awarding contracts has led to favors and dependencies. We will continue to investigate this matter to ensure media independence from government interference.”
Even the medium T-Online published a critical article about the situation, in which it is pointed out that important players in public broadcasters, who are generally perceived to be very close to the state, report there on precisely those topics for which the government pays them to work.
How high is the probability that ARD, ZDF and Co. will then report objectively? Don’t you quickly fear that reports critical of the government won’t get you any more well-paid jobs from various ministries? The German population pays both for the questionable propaganda in the “state radio” and for the uncritical moderation of talks with politicians – on the one hand through the compulsory broadcasting contribution, on the other hand through tax money, which the various governments pass on to the so-called journalists.
In the course of research, the Reichelt medium Pleiticker uncovered some possible names of profiteers in the public service. The conclusion here is more than clear: “Public service journalists, which we all pay to report independently and remotely from the state, were bought by the government.” The constitutional lawyer and former Defense Minister Rupert Scholz (CDU) also spoke of a highly problematic process:
“Freedom of the press is constitutionally necessarily characterized by independence from any state organs and possible interference by state agencies. When representatives of the press receive fees from ministries or the Chancellery, that is a piece of corruption of what is called the fourth estate. Under these circumstances, there can be no question of remoteness from the state and independent, critical control of political action.”
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