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A Consortium of Committees

Christopher's still asleep, so I don't know yet if he's well enough for me to go to work. Update: He's still got a fever, so we're home watching Kinderkanal.

Before the lights went out here (and many thanks to UserLand for letting us know what was going on; much better information than any pay provider I've dealt with), I was explaining about the Olympics on German TV. First first a quick primer on German public broadcasting...

The two German public networks have very different personalities. They're both governed by the states (or Länder), who also regulate private broadcasting and determine the monthly broadcast fees for listeners and viewers (and if you smell potential conflicts of interest, you're right).

In short, ZDF is run by a committee of civil servents, while ARD is run by a consortium of committees of civil servents. Alles klar? The ZDF (Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen) is a single organization based in Mainz that does only national television. The ARD (Allgemeine Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlands... try saying that 3 times fast) is a consortium of the regional public broadcasters, each of which do regional television and radio and then try to agree which programs get broadcast nationally.

By law the public broadcasters have a duty to present diverse opinions, and are governed to insure 'internal plurality'. In practice this means that the two networks present a very institutional view of Germany and the world, with the views of parties, unions, big business and the church in the foreground.

What does all this have to do with the Olympics? Well, I said that the ARD covrage was somewhat better. This is because the Bavarian regional broadcasters are in charge of the ARD coverage, and since Bavaria is the center of winter sport in Germany, they have a somewhat better perspective on winter sport than their ZDF colleagues from Mainz. The Bavarians also made the comment about the sport of Weißbier, which sounds like a good sport for Alwin and me.

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