Account Executive Sebastian Enke, a native of Heidelberg, shares his thoughts on the differences between the media in Ireland and Germany, and specifically, how the news is reported…
Having spent my twenties living between Germany and Ireland, both studying and working in media, I’ve often been asked about differences between the two countries’ media landscapes. Here, I’ve put together a few observations on the subject – focusing specifically on the reporting of news and current affairs.
Firstly, I don’t think there are any absolutely fundamental differences between news reporting in the two countries; freedom of press and expression are understood as given, news agendas are shaped by a similar set of factors, television is still the most relevant source of news for the majority of the population and newspapers continue to drop in circulation.
However, despite these similarities, there are a number of differences in news reporting in the two countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these stem from a considerable difference in population – the Republic of Ireland’s number of inhabitants being roughly a third of that of Bavaria alone.
In terms of newspapers, this means that a much smaller number of daily publications cater for Irish people than are available to German readers. There are only eight daily newspapers in Ireland (bearing in mind that Irish local newspapers are published weekly), compared to 129 in Germany.
Admittedly, out of this plethora of German dailies, only seven are national newspapers and therefore sold around the country. These are published in various cities including Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin, but I find their editorial perspective more truly national than that of the Irish national press, covering news and events from the length and breadth of the country.
In Ireland, by contrast, media coverage in the national press appears to me to be strikingly Dublin-centric and with an almost local flavour for inhabitants of the capital. The fact that over a quarter of the Irish population lives in greater Dublin, and that the Examiner is the only daily paper published outside of the capital, may account for this geographical bias.
Another remarkable difference is the broadsheet-tabloid ratio in the two countries. While five out of Ireland’s eight national newspapers are tabloids, there is only one national tabloid in Germany – Bild Zeitung. This comparative scarcity of German tabloids is offset, however, by the size of Bild Zeitung’s readership, which is six times larger than that of Germany’s next most popular paper, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
When it comes to television, the most obvious difference in relation to the flagship evening news programmes is their duration. While RTE’s Nine O’Clock News runs from 9pm until 9.30pm, ARD’s Tagesschau starts at 8pm and runs for only 15 minutes. This means that RTE’s main news programme reports daily news in more detail and features more extensive reports and analyses than its German counterpart. However, I am still caught by surprise sometimes by some of the items that make it on the agenda after the Nine O’Clock News’ ad break – full-blown reports about the colour range of Irish-grown poinsettias or the unforeseen death of Love/Hate’s ‘King Nidge’ are only two examples.
Finally, maybe the most striking difference for me is the huge popularity of Irish radio as a source of information. By German standards, Ireland’s national broadcasters RTÉ, Newstalk and Today FM have an astonishingly large – and engaged – listenership.
The extent of high-profile interviews, heated debates and in-depth news analysis on Irish radio was completely new to me when I first came to Ireland. Morning flagship current affairs programmes, in particular, are an unrivalled source of news and information here, and are regularly referenced throughout the day. A controversial interview in the morning, for instance, can absolutely shape the day’s news agenda.
In Germany, the radio is mostly considered something that’s on in the background and does not demand one’s undivided attention. It’s less a source of news and debate and much more a source of entertainment – most of the day’s schedule being made up of music, comedy, competitions, event shout-outs, and traffic reports.
While I never really cared much for it in Germany, living in Ireland has definitely made me an avid radio listener and opened up a whole new mine of information which I had never resorted to before.
Despite all that, however, I think one really has to dig for noteworthy differences between the two media systems to find them, particularly when it comes to the reporting of news. In my opinion, the ubiquity of online news sources has played a massive equalising role in how news is shaped and reported across different countries. For instance, I regularly see feature pieces, op-eds or opinion polls about a particular topic in German media one day and in Irish media the next, or vice versa. Maybe, in an increasingly globalised and digitalised world, our needs and preferences for how we like information served up are becoming more and more similar?
Image taken from www.theguardian.com.