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German network won’t cancel documentaries

Outcry leads ARD to include them in latenight programming

German pubcaster ARD has reversed its decision to ax its Monday night docu strand after an outcry from filmmakers and politicians.

On Tuesday it announced that it will move docs out of primetime and into latenight, after the evening news, beginning next fall. That frees the space for popular talkshows.

News of the intended cut had aroused widespread criticism, including an angry open letter from the documakers’ org, Dokumentarfilm; a strong rebuke from Culture Minister Bernd Neumann; and a barrage of bad press.

Commercial TV groups, such as ProSiebenSat.1, accused the pubcaster of muscling into more generalist entertainment.

Dokumentarfilm is still unhappy with ARD’s decision to relegate additional docu programming to the summer, when ratings fall as Germans take advantage of the warmer weather.

On Friday Neumann said ARD’s docus “belong to the core of the fundamental mandate of public television,” adding that “by reducing information and cultural programming, or its exile to unattractive timeslots, ARD is distancing itself from its stated purpose.”

ARD chairman Peter Boudgoust replied that the net’s new lineup of talkshows, secured slots for docus, reportage and political magazine shows sends “a clear message about the value of public television.”

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