Comparing two media systems in relation to politics. The media system in the U.S. and in Germany

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2013 9 Pages

Communications - Media and Politics, Politic Communications


List of contents

1. Introduction

2. Comparison of two media systems in relation to politics
2.1. TV-ownership
2.2. Numbers
2.3. The Role of television
2.4. Regulations
2.5. Consolidation
2.6. Media and politics linked

3. Conclusion

4. Sources

1. Introduction

By looking at different countries it becomes clear that every state has its own media system with specific functions, structures and developments. Of course it can be argued, due to the interdependence of the world economy and the European integration that more and more a process of homogenization manifests. But in a media system cultural and political peculiarities still remain (“Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung”). This work serves to point out the similarities and the differences of two different media systems and aims to allude to the interrelations in regard to politics.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the media system of the U.S. and the media system of Germany. In the following two media systems are compared in terms of ownership, number, role and regulation. Furthermore, in this paper the link between media and politics will be examined. The last part of this paper consists of deducing why which media system serves its citizens best. In the scope of this work it will not be possible to take a look at all forms of media, so this paper will focus on TV.

2. Comparison of two media systems in relation to politics

2.1. TV-ownership

TV in Germany was established among the population, after World War Two, around 1952. At first “ARD” (1950) broadcasted, followed by “ZDF” (1961). They were financed by broadcast fees, paid by the audience. In the mid 80s private-commercial companies were allowed to broadcast TV-programs, financed by commercials as well. They were distributed via cable. Over time a duopoly, consisting of the Bertelsmann-enterprise (which controls “RTL-group”) on the one hand and the Kirch-enterprise (controlling “ProSiebenSAT.1 Media-AG”) on the other hand emerged. The German TV market consists of those two major private groups that represent 50 % (about 25 % each) of the TV market. Only 10 % is represented by other private concerns, the other 40 % are public TV channels. The main German TV stations are free-to-air (“Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung”).

The USA was much faster in establishing television. Around 1947 there were already thousands of television sets part of American households, but still World War Two slowed the development of television. Advance finally increased when the fight concerning government regulation was over. It ruled that NBC (National Broadcasting Company), which later entered television, had to sell one of its radio networks. ABC (American Broadcasting Company) was the second network to enter television. Commercial television in the USA was established in 1947. Today six powerful enterprises dominate the media landscape of the USA. They are referred to as a “conglomerate”, for those corporations have different subsidiaries. This concentration of ownership leads to the risk of news being biased or not being mentioned at all, to avoid alienation of advertisement customers (“Global Issues”).

2.2. Numbers

Right now, recipients can choose between 30 different TV channels in German language. Pay-TV has not been successful, as it only reaches 5 % of the German population. Everyday 85 % of the German population watches TV. In an average, TV is watched 3 hours a day (“Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung”).

The average American spends between 2 and 5 hours a day watching TV. It should be underlined that via TV a great amount of political information is transferred therefore the medium has a crucial role in the process of political opinion-making (“New York University”).

2.3. The Role of television

The invention of television was marked by the visual aspect radio lacked. Suddenly appearance and settings played a role. Aspects of theater were borrowed and merely reporting the news was suddenly insufficient. Finally also politicians like John F. Kennedy realized how TV could effectively support the winning of voters. In the first TV debate between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy one understands the influence of the medium TV which is able to show a sympathetic charisma by appearance. Radio could not reveal the posture and the charm that could be factors that helped Kennedy to become president in 1960 (“New York University”). Today television is one of the most famous sources for obtaining political news in the USA. Most Americans receive their political information through local television news (“New York University”). A resemblance to German media behavior can be discovered: Germans also trust news which are local as well most (“Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung”).



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University of Frankfurt (Main) – Institut für England- & Amerikastudien
media system media politics TV

Title: Comparing two media systems in relation to politics. The media system in the U.S. and in Germany