Tom Buhrow has chosen one of the best addresses in Hamburg for his serve. The Übersee-Club, founded in 1922 on the initiative of banker Max Warburg as an association to promote exchange between business and science, is celebrating its centenary. An illustrious audience is gathered, the ARD chairman speaks about “non-profit broadcasting in the 21st century”.
“We have to break out of the current system”
That sounds like cultivating tradition in the first order. But it turns out very differently. Because it is not the ARD chairman and not the WDR director who speaks, but the private individual Tom Buhrow. He says. And of course knows that his words are anything but a private expression of opinion. The “private” Buhrow outlines how he imagines the future of public service broadcasting. Puff cake with tradition.
Buhrow, the private one, completely opens up the field of German media policy. In this respect, it was indeed a “very good idea”, as the president of the Übersee-Club, Michael Behrendt, says to invite Buhrow. He uses the evening to question all certainties of German media policy and to demand a new social contract for public broadcasting. How many channels should there be? ARD and ZDF? What about the third parties, the 64 radio channels, the orchestras? Everything should be on the table.
Buhrow believes that society should no longer only have a say in public service and media policy. ARD and ZDF and Deutschlandradio should be asked and allowed to be asked why they exist and how much programming makes sense. In Buhrow’s opinion, media policy needs a jolt or should be overhauled because of its eternal weighing of interests procedures. “We have to break out of the previous system,” says Buhrow. And he means it.
Buhrow summarizes the process he wants to initiate in four points: “Firstly, we have to break out of the previous system. Secondly, we need a round table to work out a new social contract. A kind of constituent assembly for our new, non-profit radio. Third: There must be no taboos, no bans on thinking at this round table. Fourth, if we agree on the goal, we need time to reach it. And then reliability and security for at least one generation. A generational contract.”
“If we don’t make a fresh start now, responsibly and honestly,” says Buhrow, “in the worst case there won’t be a fresh start. But non-profit broadcasting is just too important for that.” Buhrow says it’s no longer a debate about individual issues, referring to the scandal in Berlin-Brandenburg radio and the incidents in North German radio, it’s a fundamental debate. “What do we not want or no longer want”. This question should be asked. There is constant talk of “reform”, but what is meant is always only a “partial reform”. And anyone who really omits something, according to Buhrow, reaps a wave of indignation. Nobody dared to come out of cover, everyone watched each other, “It’s a bit like Mikado, whoever moves first loses.”
“Does Germany want two nationwide public television channels?”
“What we did yesterday no longer counts,” says Buhrow. “We need a fresh start. Without the typical self-defense reflexes. Without bans on thinking.” The first question you have to ask yourself is: “Does Germany want to continue having two nationwide, linear television channels in parallel? If not: what does that mean? Should one disappear completely and the other stay? Or should they merge and keep the best of both worlds?”