German Media and the Problem of Proportional Representation

November 14, 2018

The problem that the media in Germany is not proportionally representative with regards to the political stances of citizens has to be elaborated on more carefully in a critical way.

According to a piece recently published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung daily, which based its data on a report, most German journalists have a left-motivated political orientation. This is not a new finding, for someone who follows German media outlets on daily basis and spots on any Turkey-related views and opinions.

The report, which was published in 2017, argues that most media representatives are politically aligned to the left-wing circles. Although the report points to the lack of enough empirical data, earlier studies (2010) had made similar conclusions, too. Namely, that most of the people working in the media sector support either the Greens, the social-democrats or the Left Party in Germany.

Of course, one might ask whether for journalists or media employees the ideological or political orientation is important or required for being successful in their jobs. Actually, it is not a deficit or even an obstacle of having a political stance while working as an active or even investigative journalist. Moreover, it would mean more diversity and an additional motivation factor for having various employees who represent different points of view. But as one notices, according to the above cited report, this idealistic expectation does not reflect the German –or most likely the Western– media landscape in general.

One should remember that most of the leading German media outlets and their head figures generally criticize, for instance, the Turkish media by insisting on certain arguments. However, it’s not very common that there are actual discussions that critically address the one-sided bias and the domination of certain staff members within the German media sector. Personally, I wouldn’t actually prefer right-wing oriented journalists in Germany for a daily piece. However, that’s not the point. The wrong expectation of German media outlets and journalists with regard to foreign countries’ media landscape, which has to be diversified according to them, does actually not reflect the alleged German standards per se.

It became a structural reality that German journalists are sometimes biased to write with an unnamed superiority complex in particular with regard to right-wing or conservative circles. As a consequence, though, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if some right-wing oriented citizens even distance themselves from these kind of “main-stream” media representatives. Of course, the general mentality of right-wing circles does not welcome a freedom-friendly societal perception, nevertheless, on the other hand, the apparent leftist bias of the media does also not contribute to the mutual understanding of society.

Furthermore, the tough language of certain German media pieces becomes more obvious if a country such as Turkey is being addressed. But in such cases the usual and crucial questions arise as to whether the expertise or even the relation of each journalist is as enough in order to cover a certain country perhaps for a long period of time? Unfortunately, this weak and lacking knowledge especially in analyzing or commenting very difficult issues deteriorates certain conditions even more.

But despite several incidents, the biased behavior of some journalists is generally not being problematized by the employers, editors or heads of media outlets. Of course, this does not mean that people who work in the field of media do not get fired. It’s also the case in Germany, for instance, the case with Steingart, who was fired in February of this year. But these incidents are unfortunately not addressed in solidarity whether one accepts it or not.

In Turkey, on the other hand, despite the widespread narrative that only conservative-minded people and certain circles, who support the current government, are employed in the media sector, this does not actually reflect the reality. The main point which has to be stressed here is the fact that in contrast to Germany, where leftist people are dominantly preferred and even pushed into the foreground, employees in Turkey’s media sector are very multifarious.

In addition, if one compares particularly conservative media outlets with secular ones, one notices that while in the first one a great number of non-conservatives are working, the same cannot be said in the left-wing secular Turkish media. However, this interesting detail has not been addressed and displayed by foreign media as well.

Thus, the above-mentioned study should not be surprising for those who are familiar with German media and its political stance. Interestingly, similar pieces and studies do not find a reflection on the media landscape perhaps due to the dominant leftist media itself. But the real problem lies in the fact that the media in Germany is not representing diverse political outlooks of German citizens proportionally. This has to be carefully elaborated and critically studied.

M. Erkut Ayvaz graduated from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany) with a double-major in Political Science and Public Law in 2011. He spent the academic year 2012-2013 at Duke University (NC, USA) with a DAAD-scholarship. In 2014 he received his MA after completing his master’s thesis which addressed the civil-military relations in Turkey. Currently, Ayvaz is working on his doctoral dissertation at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg (Germany).