One aspect that might endanger press diversity is concentration and one that might endanger the informational function of media is instrumentalization by media owners. Therefore, a critical review of who owns the media in Germany and which share of the media seems to be necessary. Besides the public service broadcaster and a few local civic broadcasters, all media in Germany are in the hands of private companies. Most of them are also international players. However and in contrast to other Western countries, most of them limit their investments to media and do not engage in other sectors of the industry.
Bertelsmann is the biggest media company in Germany with a turnover of over 16 billion Euros a year and thus the 9 biggest media company in the world. It operates internationally and owns TV-channels (RTL Group), the publishing house Penguin Randomhouse, such press titles as STERN and BRIGITTE, the music rights management group BMG and even the customer service provider Arvato. In Germany, Bertelsmann owns the RTL-Group, a group of private TV-channels that have a market share of over 25%. It also owns the Gruner + Jahr GmbH, Europe’s second biggest publishing house. Famous titles are the weekly “Stern” and the women’s magazine “Brigitte”. Gruner + Jahr owns also 25% of the influential weekly “Der Spiegel”. Originally been a family enterprise, the Mohn family is still strongly connected to the company.
The family still owns 19.1 % in stocks. Christoph Mohn, now representing the sixth generation since the company was founded in 1835, is chairman of the supervisory board. His mother Liz Mohn is also member of the supervisory board, as well as board director of the Bertelsmann foundation which owns another 77.6 % of stocks.
The highly dynamic media company Axel Springer aspires to be a multinational, cross-media operating corporation. Traditionally focused on press, Springer’s press titles have the reputation to follow a more conservative and US-friendly line, which caused controversy in the past. Famous titles are Germany’s biggest tabloid “Die Bild” and the national broadsheet “Die Welt”. Recently Springer invests more and more into digital media and is one of the driving forces for new business models in online journalism.
S: Influential People behind Axel Springer
Friede Springer: the widow of the company’s founder is probably the most important actor behind the company. Indirectly, she owns 51.35 % of the company and is also the associate chairman of the supervisory board. She influenced the development of the company heavily during the 90s and appointed current CEO Mathias Döpfner in 2002
Mathias Döpfner: The former editor in chief of Springer press title “Die Welt” is responsible for major strategy changes which finally led the company out of its crisis. He often appears in talkshows and comments in newspapers and openly presents his political views.
Having experienced many changes in ownership structure in the past years, the ProSiebenSat1 AG is the second biggest Television Company in Europe. It has a market share of nearly 20% in German television and focuses mainly on Free-to-air TV channels like “ProSieben” and “Sat 1” and relies heavily on entertainment.
The main focus of the Funke Mediengruppe is the regional press which is in Germany traditionally very strong. It owns 27 regional dailies and a number of magazines and other publications. Recently, Funke has got under economical pressure and was forced to shut down an entire editorial department of the regional daily “Westfälische Rundschau”. The title is still published, but the content is produced by editorial departments of other newspapers of the company.
Similarly, the Hubert-Burda Media group, the Georg-von-Holtzbrinck-Group or the M. Dumont-Schauberg Group are all leading German cross-media groups that are characterized by a strong leading figure and shape the media landscape in Germany.
However, there are also other models of owning and financing media outlets beyond the typical capitalist model.
Interview: Konny Gellenbeck (national daily taz) about its cooperative financing model
We have until today 15,000 cooperative members. Each member gives us 500 Euros. He or she can pay it in 20 parts but the very special thing is that every person who becomes a cooperative member has only one vote and it doesn’t matter how many money you gave us. The special thing is that we have to sorts of cooperative members: the workers (they are here) and the membership from outside (they only give the money). That is a big difference in how to become independent from persons who give the money. The persons from outside, who became cooperative members, have no special rights concerning the content of the newspaper.
Regarding concentration, however, one can see that the biggest companies also dominate the market. As mentioned before, the TV market is divided between the public service broadcasters and a duopoly of RTL and ProSiebenSAT1.In the print market we can also observe concentration. In the regional daily market, which has the highest share in Germany, 10 companies own 60 % of the market. This is especially problematic because in 44 % of the districts only one regional daily is available. Companies hold regional monopolies.
The tabloid market is almost solely dominated by Axel Springer AG. Its market share is 79%.