Since last year’s federal election ended, German public service broadcasters ARD and ZDF have not invited a single politician from opposition party Alternative for Germany (AfD) to their immensely popular political talk shows, showing a glaring imbalance, data collected by German news portal Junge Freiheit demonstrates.
Data from Junge Freiheit showed that conservative politicians of the CDU/ CSU were invited 122 times, those from the Social Democrats (SPD) made 119 appearances, Green politicians 86, and liberal FDP politicians 72 times, while AfD representatives did not have a single showing in the TV studios of ARD and ZDF. Even the Left Party, which narrowly won three direct seats in the Bundestag, was represented 26 times.
AfD President Tino Chrupalla said this was no coincidence.
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“The obviously systematic exclusion of the AfD in invitations to the talk formats of ARD and ZDF is a clear violation of the program mandate and the duty of balance,” he told Junge Freiheit. A political force with millions of voters is “denied to be present in important formats.”
Chrupalla accuses the public broadcasters of manipulation that damages political discourse and democracy. “For the most expensive public broadcaster in the world, this is an indictment. The entire system of broadcasting financed by compulsory fees has become obsolete and urgently needs to be reformed and trimmed down.”
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The portal asked both major broadcasters why the AfD was not invited and what criteria were actually used to select the guests. Talk shows are not “substitute parliaments,” the ARD told Junge Freiheit in what it said was justification for the AfD ban. The invitations are “subject-related” and according to “purely journalistic criteria,” the network argued. Furthermore, “members of different parties are neither preferred nor disadvantaged per se.”
ZDF states that the guests should “have different positions and perspectives on the topic; come from politics, science, and journalism; or be committed, affected citizens,” and through “controversial debates” viewers could form or question an opinion. However, it is not always possible “to depict all conceivable positions in one program.” The broadcaster points out that the news and current magazine programs report “in terms of content and with original tones about the parties represented in the Bundestag.”
The mission of the broadcasters, financed with billions of euros from broadcasting fees that Germans are forced to pay, is defined in the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty:
“When fulfilling their mission, the public service broadcasters must take into account the principles of objectivity and impartiality in reporting, diversity of opinion and the balance of their offers.” In a 2016 report, the scientific service of the Bundestag wrote that public service broadcasting is “obligated to balance and diversity” and must “at least give room to all tendencies.”