Is the mainstream media anti-military

Pro-Western and anti-Russian? ARD and ZDF fight back ...

Do ARD and ZDF report enough about the interests of the West? In the picture: A NATO sea maneuver in the Black Sea off Odessa (September 8, 2014). Photo: picture alliance / dpa.

An impetus for discussion from the editors

The public television channels contradict on Publixphere the accusation of reporting in the Ukraine crisis in a template-like and one-sided manner. The ARD also sees no resource problem with the correspondents. The ZDF laments rumors and half-truths on the Internet. The Publixphere editorial team has summarized the most important statements and asks: What is your opinion?


Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the public service media have been repeatedly criticized for reporting unilaterally pro-Western and anti-Russian. The ARD magazine ZAPP already documented a corresponding wave of protests in April, especially via Facebook. Experts and media makers also criticize black and white painting in journalistic dealings with the conflicting parties.

As part of our focus on "media criticism" (#pxp_thema September), we asked ARD and ZDF for their point of view. Both broadcasters defend themselves against the allegations. "We believe that the friend-foe scheme is not a category with which our reporting can be adequately described," explains Tibet Sinha, Deputy Head of Foreign Affairs of WDR television, which is responsible for the Ukraine within ARD (full statement for Publixphere).

Who can speak?

The WDR lists numerous ARD programs as evidence of balanced reporting. In particular, the political magazine “Monitor” reported critically about the new leadership in Ukraine. According to Sinha, the "strategic considerations of NATO" were already an issue at an early stage of the Ukraine crisis. So have the Washington ARD studio manager Tina Hassel Already in March the issue of NATO eastward expansion was dealt with in detail and critically and the uncertainties associated with it in Russia were addressed.

The ZDF also rejects the accusation of one-sidedness. speaker Thomas Hagedorn explains to Publixphere (full statement): "In the ZDF reporting, both representatives of the pro-Ukrainian and the pro-Russian side have their say."

"Half-truths" and propaganda

At the same time, ARD and ZDF refer to special challenges. In the digital world, the basics of crisis reporting have changed massively, said ZDF spokesman Hagedorn. "There is a multitude of information, rumors and half-truths in circulation on the Internet." This requires new standards for checking sources. Even times of war are "known to be phases with contradicting information and propaganda". Sinha describes how the ARD itself got into the propaganda machine. Russian television, for example, showed the ARD report "Death shots in Kiev" (Monitor magazine, April 2014) with "distorted, partially changed commentary in a shortened version of prime time". "This contribution led to a storm of protest from the Ukrainian side," said Sinha.

Difficult source situation

According to the WDR, ARD correspondents also obtain information from sources controlled by progandists “from all sides”, but “mainly from discussions with experts, politicians and eyewitnesses”. ZDF spokesman Hagedorn explains: "ZDF's reporting is based on the use of its own reporters and teams in the relevant regions".

However, critics complain about the lack of on-site research by the public broadcasters. The social scientist Stefan Corinth misses the necessary resources in the foreign studios of ARD and ZDF. The studio in Warsaw is responsible for East Central Europe, and the Moscow studio for the "huge land mass" east of it as far as the Pacific. "It is precisely this media disdain for the entire region that prepares the ground for a lack of knowledge and overly simple interpretation patterns," commented Korinth (March 2014).

"Manpower in Ukraine"

The responsible WDR program group "Europe and Abroad" rejects this. "The ARD has no resource problem in reporting on Eastern Europe," it says in its statement. "On the contrary - hardly any international broadcaster has reported from Ukraine for such a long period (December 2013 - today) with so much manpower." In addition to three permanent correspondents in Moscow, ARD also deployed a large number of experienced special reporters in Ukraine. The WDR also defends the decision that it did not show a special program “Brennpunkt” when the conflict escalated on Maidan Square in Kiev on February 18, 2014. The responsible correspondent Golineh Atai had not yet been on site.

The WDR accepts a little criticism. "In principle, from our point of view, however, it is also true that there is of course justified criticism of our reporting," the statement said. It was precisely the weighting between the revolutionary events on the Maidan and the mood in the east of the country in the early phase of the crisis that was discussed critically. “Perhaps we have not always made the division of the country clear enough.” Nevertheless, the overall picture of the reporting in the first remains a thoroughly differentiated picture.

Production reality

In principle, the WDR campaigns for more understanding for television journalism. "Unfortunately, many critics evaluate the current reporting in the Tagesschau and the daily topics exclusively 'ex post' and thus apply standards to the analysis in our contributions and live switching that do not do justice to the reality of production." Often the limits "in ignored in any way ", which are currently set in short articles in current television reporting.

Update: Sharp criticism from the ARD program advisory board

The program advisory board of ARD largely shares the audience criticism of Ukraine reporting. This emerges from an internal résumé published by Telepolis. ARD editor-in-chief Thomas BaumannResists: "I firmly reject the accusation of one-sided and tendentious reporting on the Ukraine conflict."

The nine-person program advisory board is supposed to represent the interests of the audience vis-à-vis the program managers. Its meetings are not open to the public. The members are broadcasting councilors from the nine regional broadcasting corporations of the ARD.


We want to know from you how you rate the reaction of ARD and ZDF to the accusation of one-sided reporting. Are the arguments convincing?

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