Broadcasters defend commercial operations

COLOGNE — German pubcasters ARD and ZDF were front and center at the 20th Medienforum NRW confab in Cologne, where government reps and broadcasting execs defended their commercial operations against complaints from the European Commission.

“The EU Commission should stop questioning Germany’s public broadcasting model,” said Juergen Ruettgers, North Rhine-Westphalia state premier, at the confab’s opening on Monday.

Ruettgers talked up the state’s new multimillion-euro fund, established last year to support filmmakers as well as the TV activities of local print media.

A new website that combines news content from newspaper publishing group WAZ and TV footage from Cologne-based pubcaster WDR became the main bone of contention at the opening panel.

Anke Schaeferkord, chief exec of leading commercial channel RTL Television, and Juergen Doetz, head of the association of commercial broadcasters, VPRT, both accused WDR of using public money to hamper free competition.  

WDR, the largest regional affiliate of the ARD pubcasting group, will continue its activities, however, and plans similar ventures with five other publishing companies, WDR topper Monika Piel countered.

The opening panel also featured Ferdinand Kayser, head of satellite operator SES Astra; Unitymedia topper Parm Sandhu; Rene Obermann, chief exec of telco giant Deutsche Telekom; and Norbert Schneider, head of NRW’s media watchdog LFM. 

Meanwhile, confab host the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and Ireland have inked to promote co-productions.

Michael Schmid-Ospach, head of the Filmstiftung NRW subsidy org, and Simon Perry, CEO of the Irish Film Board, signed the pact at the Intl. Film Congress, which ran as part of the Medienforum.

Irish and German producers in the North Rhine-Westphalia region have partnered on recent co-productions such as “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” “Happy Ever Afters” and “True North.”

The new agreement will make it easier for producers to tap coin from the Filmstiftung NRW and the Irish Film Board.

Ireland was one of the regional focuses at this year’s Film Congress, which included a panel on German-Irish co-productions that assembled producers Christine Ruppert of Tatfilm, Lotus Film’s Erich Lockner, Lesley McKimm of Newgrange Pictures and Thierry Potok of Polaris.

North Rhine-Westphalia has a similar cooperation agreement with France.

Schmid-Ospach also reaffirmed the state’s commitment to film students and praised Reto Caffi, an alumnus of Cologne’s Academy of Media Art, who won this year’s student Oscar for his short “Auf der Strecke.”

Medienforum NRW ends Wednesday.

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