MPs want quotas for German music on radio
16 December 2004 , BERLIN - Lawmakers in the German parliament plan to adopt a resolution later this week calling on the nation's radio stations to implement voluntary quotas for German- produced music on the air. The resolution, which has the backing of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats and Greens party coalition, is expected to sail through parliament on Friday. Capping months of mounting pressure by German recording artists, the measure would hint at mandatory quotas should the nati
16 December 2004
BERLIN - Lawmakers in the German parliament plan to adopt a resolution later this week calling on the nation's radio stations to implement voluntary quotas for German- produced music on the air.
The resolution, which has the backing of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats and Greens party coalition, is expected to sail through parliament on Friday.
Capping months of mounting pressure by German recording artists, the measure would hint at mandatory quotas should the nation's broadcasters fail to devote 35 percent of their air time to German artists.
The resolution was drafted after 500 German recording artists signed a petition calling for help in getting their music on the air. Currently, domestic artists get as little as 2 percent of air time.
In the past, calls for German-language quotas on the airwaves came from conservatives. This time around, however, the proposals have the backing of large segments of Germany's ruling centre-left coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.
The calls for a reduction in the amount of English-language lyrics on the wireless coincide with widespread anti-American sentiment in sections of the German community.
Surveys show some 80 percent of Germans say they have a "lower opinion" of the US and Britain in the wake of the Iraq war.
So when debate opens on Friday to limit British and American air time on German radio, the proposals will have the backing of Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse, SPD Cultural Affairs head Klaus Boeger, Greens cultural spokesperson Alice Stroever along with Berlin City Cultural Affairs Senator Thomas Flierl, who is a member of the reformed and reconstituted East German Communist Party.
Flierl notes that many people in former East Germany simply cannot identify with English-language popular music.
"They still identify it as the language of imperialism," he says. "They want to understand what they're hearing and not have the uneasy feeling that they are being indoctrinated with capitalist propaganda."
The petition signed by all those recording artists called for stations to commit 50 percent of their music air time to German recording artists - many of whom admittedly sing in English in an effort to break into the international market.
Predictably, Germany's broadcasters have come out opposed to any mandatory quota.
"We'll fight any such law all the way to the supreme court," said Hans-Juergen Kratz of the Commercial Radio and Telecommunications Association (VPRT).
"A quota would be an unconstitutional attack on media freedoms that this country has enjoyed since the fall of the Nazis in 1945 and, more recently, since the fall of Communism some 15 years ago," he says.
"A quota would also be a slap in the face of our listeners, whose preferences form the basis of our music selections. They would simply turn off their radios, which in turn would have dire consequences for the broadcast industry in Germany," he points out.
He also notes that the nation's broadcasters are required to pay into a fund for promoting new talent in Germany.
"If restrictive legislation is enacted, we will most certainly not feel constrained to pay into that fund any longer," he threatens.
His views reflect those of most commercial broadcasters.
"The sad truth about the German recording industry is that a lot of those songs that are not played on radio are quite rightly not played on radio - because they're lousy and nobody wants to hear them," says Arno Mueller of top-40 station RTL 104.6.
"It's not our fault if German listeners don't want to hear certain German artists," says Carsten Hoyer of Radio NRW. "But that only applies to certain German artists. They like other German artists."
Hoyer adds, "The same applies to many British and American artists, who are hugely popular at home but not at all popular here in Germany. The listeners determine what's played on the radio in Germany and that's the way it should be."
"I think you'll find," says Stephan Hampe of popular RS-2 Radio, "that German radio stations will play anything that the listeners want to hear, be it in German, Chinese or Swahili. But it has to be what the audience wants."
In years past, calls for air-time quotas have had the support of conservatives in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU-CSU). But not this time around.
"While it is good that German artists have shown some initiative, setting a mandatory quota is not the way to resolve this issue," says CDU Cultural Affairs expert Guenter Nooke.
"Everyone is overlooking the simple fact that a federal law would be on very shaky constitutional ground," he says, pointing to the fact that Germany's post-war constitution was designed to prevent the rise of another Nazi propaganda ministry that could keep a stangle- hold on the national media.
"All broadcast licences are issued by local and state authorities, so the parliamentary debate is an exercise in futility," Nooke says.
Subject: German news