In an era that has relegated television, and television news for that matter, to playing defense, it is refreshing for a recovering journalist such as myself to see that international TV outlets are still betting that they will continue to play a central role in how news is gathered, filtered, and ultimately used by the global audience. In recent years, outlets such as the better-known pioneers CNN International or BBC World started to operate in an increasingly crowded environment, in which respected news operations and propaganda sometimes collide and often coexist in a grey area.
Relative newcomers, such as the news-gathering operations Al Jazeera English (formerly International), CCTV, or the Russian RT News, have challenged the traditional Anglo-Saxon mainstream media. Over the past decade or so, they have tried to offer an alternative way of watching the world. Even France, proud of its language and traditions, recognized that the only chance for a French perspective to be recognized is to offer an English language TV news channel, France 24. Up until very recently, Deutsche Welle, its German counterpart, had been largely immune to this trend. It continued to primarily focus on its German language operation and a handful of other languages, including English. Then the new Deutsche Welle CEO Peter Limbourg forced a rethink. With events such as the euro zone’s debt crisis, the conflict in Ukraine, and last, but not least, the ongoing refugee drama, putting Germany in the very center of the current news cycle, Deutsche Welle, too, is now betting on an increased global interest for a German and European angle to some of the stories that are making headlines today. Over the summer, DW launched its revamped English language service, which is meant to reach a global audience. Spanish, German, and Arabic language services will continue to be offered to regional audiences. The re-launch of DW is a further proof that Germany is slowly adapting to its new international role and its media want to be part of the global challenge.
However, in today’s world, news is more easily customized, thereby reducing our exposure to what editors or big media conglomerates think the general public should be informed about. Social media has contributed to altering the way we are informed. Given our own personal biases, these trends beg the question: will big media companies still be the go-to places for getting news in the future? DW and its international competitors’ answer to this question seems to be that in order to shape the future of news gathering, you still have to be a big part of it—and do it in English.
Visit Deutsche Welle’s English Website here.