Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is the German public sphere Europeanizing?

The online portal is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive and most-consulted online media for Germans. For readers in and outside the country, the website is one of the crucial actors in the German public sphere. In his daily German-language European review Politikportal, for example, Stefan Happer regularly refers to as one of the most trusted and most prominent sources. Furthermore, the website has started to involve common citizens by allowing for comments (after subscribing, however).

Over the last few months, I had the impression that this important actor of the German public sphere has gradually developed a more and more European and international stance. Since a medium only changes its focus as long as the news are continuously read, I take this as a sign that the German public discussion as a whole is becoming more Europeanized and internationalized. A few years ago, Stefanie Sifft still found a "predominantly domestic orientation of public discourses" in the Member States (see here).

Now I counted the number of European articles on (Sunday, 28. February, 2 p.m. CET). Besides the earthquake in Chile, I don't have the impression that there are a lot of highly-relevant international topics, so it might well be an example for an average day in Germany.

I counted:
  • 20 articles overall (only counting major articles, not those that support another one)
  • six articles with non-German, non-European actors
  • four articles with non-German, European actors
  • one article with German actors abroad
  • seven articles with purely domestic issues
For me, this is a sign that public interest in Germany is growing beyond the domestic focus that Stefanie Sifft diagnosed in 2007 in "Segmented Europeanization". Globalization finally seems to reach the common people in every aspect of their lives.

After a disappointing campaign for the European Parliament Elections last year, I have the hope that we are slowly moving towards Europeanized national public spheres, even if it will take a long time until a truly European public sphere reaches the common people.


  1. I have a similar impress with the printed press. The FAZ which I read regularly has developed a much broader and deeper coverage of EU topics over the last year. And I also noted more EU-related news in the Tagesschau when I watched it recently.

  2. I wonder what may have triggered this development. In my view it only happened after the the EU elections. The EU coverage at that time was pretty disappointing. It might have started at the time of the Lisbon decision of the Constitutional Court. But I really don't think that the advent of the Lisbon treaty is enough reason for more EU coverage.

  3. I suppose that we are witnessing two dynamics:

    1) The media finally start to realise the importance of EU politics for the national spheres. Probably a new generation of journalists - 18 years after Maastricht - is pushing for these changes. The elections, the personnel debates around the Lisbon Treaty changes and especially the EU reaction to the financial crisis might have been a trigger to give more room for this new generation.

    2) The crisis of traditional media is pushing them towards news that they can present exclusively. Since the coverage of EU-related topics is still rather low, you can be the only or the first media outlet to present EU news, a reason to buy the newspaper or to watch the TV news show.

  4. Yes, I think the financial crisis and particularly your second point are quite valid. The media definitely need a well-devised strategy to survive in the digital age. If this should mean more coverage for complex, well-researched and time-consuming EU issues, that would be even the better.

    Since online readers normally have a greater interest in (European) politics than TV spectators, my expectation would be to see progressive online media while the Tagesschau maintains a traditional focus. And yet, the Tagesschau/Tagesthemen have also Europeanized quite a lot - I can't remember having seen Markus Preiß and Rolf-Dieter Krause that much in the past..

    Thus I still believe that the reasons for the change of focus go beyond the structural adjustments within the media and also concern the growing interest of the citizens in international affairs. The financial crisis and the case of Opel may have widened the understanding of many citizens for the interconnection of the world economies.

    Arnaud Leparmentier from Le Monde said last year that Germans have become "happy, indifferent and inward-looking". But maybe they are unhappy, concerned and consequently outward-looking until the financial crisis is over. If so, they will hopefully remain outward-looking after that as well.