Monday, January 26, 2009

Media Report from Anonymous Germany

Anonymous Germany has gotten a fair amount of coverage in the German media. This month of January has been jam-packed with Scientology related incidents: the tragic death of Jeff Travolta; the European premieres of Valkyrie; homophobic machinations at the Gold Base Kremlin; and filing of legal complaints of slave labor, coerced abortions, and human trafficking by Marc and Claire Headley. As public interest has quickened, Anonymous has continued to appear in stories and interviews with German print and TV media, including two of Germany's leading TV channels, ARD and ZDF.

Since Germany has placed Scientology under special surveillance by the Office for the Defense of the Constitution, what happens in Germany is important to the world-wide Scientology-critical movement. I asked our correspondent from Anon Germany for background on the German media in what follos below.

Historically, Germany has had three state-owned TV channels. Due to opening the airwaves to competition there are now hundreds of new stations available to viewers. However, the state-owned channels still claim the majority of viewers. The channels are:

- ARD ("The First")
- ZDF ("Second German Television" or just "the second")
- The so called "regional thirds" which are part of the ARD, but broadcast on a different channel, and focus on specific German Regions.

These channels are funded by German viewers through a special tax-like fee. Since they get money from the general public they have (by law) special aims to fulfill with their programs, which means:

- They do not obey any industrial/economic/religious/
governmental lobby.
- They have to inform their viewers truthfully and correctly. (which makes them superior to the private channels in the eyes of most viewers)
- their program must have large "cultural" parts.
- only limited advertising, and no advertisement breaks.

These programs are taken very seriously among educated German viewers. Thus it was a huge win for Anonymous who appeared this month on both ARD and ZDF.

As for the print media, Anonymous has appeared in Bild, the best-selling newspaper in Europe. Bild is the German analog of the English Sun: Splashy headlines, big pictures, easy-to-read articles and lots of human interest stories. Its appeal is largely middle class and is less read by people with advanced education.

provides "bread and circuses" for the masses and is regularly lampooned for this particular social function. Bild headlines are prized for their hilarious sensationalism, one fan going so far to paper his bathroom with them for teh lulz.

Bild is politically conservative and hostile to Scientology, particularly in their online and regional Hamburg editions, no doubt due to the influence of Ursula Caberta and her Scientology Working Group at the Ministry of Interior there. Bild has been supportive of Anonymous, writing about them before any other newspaper took interest. In fine Bild style, two early headlines shouted out, "Masked protest against the psycho cult!" "and "Honking against the psycho cult strikes again!"

This background is important to understand the skewering recently given Tom Cruise by Klaus, a much-loved political satirist, on The Show with the Klaus TV show which I will write about next. (See The Show With The Klaus Pwns Tom Cruise ) Anonymous is helping to raise the visibility of Scientology-critical issues in the German mainstream media.

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