Munich media's survival plan
Berlin and Munich are battling it out for the title of Germany’s media capital. But the Munich media establishment is fighting back with Jack Kindred reporting on the Bavarian capital’s plans to stay ahead of the pack.
Supported by private companies and state organisations, Munich opens its 17th annual Media Days on Wednesday in a bid to maintain its claim to be Germany's leading film, television, and video centre.
Indeed, a new study drawn up by Ernst & Young predicts that Berlin could soon emerge as Germany’s most important film production centre with a growing number of production companies shifting their operations to the German capital.
A survey of 405 firms in the film industry found that 60 percent expected Berlin to grow in importance in the coming years.
The major disadvantage facing Berlin is that not one of Germany’s major TV companies has its head office in the city.
The battle between Munich and Berlin over which city should have the title of media capital comes against the backdrop of almost unprecedented turbulence with the implosion of the New Economy, sinking advertising revenue and large-scale layoffs.
The crisis in the advertising market, which saw net returns slump 15 percent in 2001 and 2002, will be a major subject during the three days of some 80 panel discussions and seminars attended by some of the key members of Germany’s media and broadcasting elite.
Government media policy, film production television, multimedia and the internet, that forgotten medium, radio, and the print industry are among topics to be addressed. One of the special topics will be "media competence and journalism".
In line with its motto "Win Trust - Strengthen Creativity", one of the main themes of the event will be the ability of media companies to innovate new sources of income besides their core business. Despite the present consolidation phase, the question remains as to how they will implement creative marketing strategies and open new markets.
In a welcoming speech, Wolf-Dieter Ring, head of the Bavarian state authority for new media BLM, is to outline the main problems facing the top executives present, which is expected to include the who’s who of the German media establishment.
Among those expected to attend include: Hubert Burda, head of the Association of German publishers, Herbert Kloiber, managing director of the Tele Muenchen Group, Urs Rohner, chairman of ProSieben Sat.1 Media, Gerhard Zeiler, CEO of the RTL Group in Luxembourg and head of Germany's private RTL network, George Kofler, chairman of the pay TV channel Premiere, and Juergen Doetz, head of the Association of Private Radio and Telecommunications VPRT.
One noted participant at this year’s conference will be the American media mogul, Haim Saban, who has emerged as a major new force in German broadcasting following his takeover of key sections the bankrupt Kirch media empire.
Saban is set down to deliver a keynote speech in which he is expected to outline his plans for the former Kirch TV channels and the future of German television.
In addition to Bavarian state premiere Edmund Stoiber, key representatives of Germany’s public broadcasting are also to be present, including Jobst Plog, chairman of Germany's public network ARD and Markus Schaechter, managing director of public TV rival ZDF.
Absent from this year's Media Days will be representatives of media tycoon Leo Kirch's now defunct film, television and video empire and which at point was a major pillar of Bavaria’s media economy.
Taking advantage of the demise of the Kirch Group, Saban outbid other aspirants and has taken over control of the group's TV channels, ProSiebenSat.1, a quasi breakthrough since American companies had long since attempted in vain to gain a solid foothold in the German TV market.
Saban was originally scheduled to make the keynote speech earlier this year, but talks broke down in his move to take over the Kirch channels.
He later upped his offer, which was accepted, and the Media Days appearance was on again.
A so-called European Film Summit will take place on 22 October on the fringe of the gathering. Top executives from six European nations will discuss film financing, funds, and tax shelters in the first session following by cultural identity and European cooperation after a brief pause.
Producer-director and twice Oscar winner, Alan Parker, will head the discussions in his capacity as chairman of the United Kingdom Film Council.
Subject: - Life in Germany