Deutsche Welle has celebrated its 60th anniversary, with speakers affirming the broadcaster's commitment to freedom of expression and for shaping Germany's global image. A new agreement will further strengthen DW.
That familiar old German folk song, "Die Gedanken sind frei" ("Thoughts are free"), kicked off the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Deutsche Well in Bonn on Monday (17.06.2013). The musical choice could hardly have been a better fit for this particular date, the day of the popular uprising in the former East Germany in 1953.
"The people in the GDR were longing for freedom, for freedom of expression and press freedom, for democracy and human rights," said DW director general Erik Bettermann in his welcoming speech at the former plenary chamber of the German Bundestag.
Democracy, freedom and human rights, those pillars of Western society, are by no means self-evident truths in all countries, said Bettermann. "It is for that reason that since 1953, Deutsche Welle has been conveying German perspectives and views on international, European and German subjects," he added, speaking in front of around 1,500 guests.
"For many people in the oppressive regions of the world, Deutsche Welle is their first source of information when they want to form a current and uncensored opinion, free from state interests," said Bernd Neumann, Germany's minister for culture and media. DW is not just an intermediary when it comes to universal values like freedom and human rights, he said, "but has from the beginning been a bridge between cultures."
Multimedia broadcaster with an audience of more than 100 million
"From the child of the economic miracle, [DW] has today - 60 years later - become a silver ager, a broadcaster in its prime," said Neumann, praising DW's great ability to change over the years.
Since it began broadcasting in shortwave on May 3, 1953, DW has become a global multimedia operation. Every day, more than 100 million people access its services in 30 languages, an offering that is provided by around 3,000 permanent and contract employees from 60 countries.
Both Neumann and Bettermann emphasized that DW is indispensable for Germany - but to remain so, its funding must be secured. In the past, the broadcaster has at times been "abused" in budget cuts to culture, said Neumann. But he vowed he would continue to ensure that DW at least remained on stable footing.
New agreement to strengthen DW
Aside from financing, the speakers were able to point to a new cooperation with public broadcasters ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio that will further guarantee DW's global competitiveness. The agreement was signed just days ago by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers responsible for domestic public broadcasting.
According to the agreement, the public radio and television stations are to provide DW with more programming. In addition, the partners will also be able to jointly produce content. Although there had already been a previous exchange between the domestic broadcasters and DW, this was subject to many conditions which have now been simplified.
"The goal of the strengthened cooperation with ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio is to use even more of the various high-quality programming provided by the domestic broadcasters abroad," said Neumann. He thanked Bettermann for his years of dedication to this cooperation, an agreement that became a reality at the end of his term.
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ARD chairman Lutz Marmor said he was pleased to offer the support of the public broadcaster on behalf of his colleagues. After all, what could be better than to present the best of German programming to a wider audience abroad?
"The course for the future has been set. But now, what's written on paper must be brought to life," he said.
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