Become toxic to SJWs on the internet

The bizarre fight for television sovereignty

The German journalists' union announced "bitter resistance" to the candidate for the CDU chairmanship, Friedrich Merz, if he thought he only needed Youtube, but not the conventional media for his political work. Youtube instead of television? That fits into the bigger picture, which is literally unfolding before our eyes. The sovereignty of interpretation over the moving images no longer lies with television, and certainly not with the public.

Rather, an armada of private Internet providers is preparing to turn digital television inside out. This is not easy for them at a time when digital US platforms such as Netflix, Youtube, Disney + and soon Apple TV + are only leaving the national organizers with crumbs of the lush advertising income. And providers with a shrill program scramble for them.

Hope for a steep learning curve

Talented and untalented television faces moderate their way through the day happily and inexperienced. Carefree and often devoid of any professional standards or even ethical rules. The associated brands in Austria are Schau TV, Krone / Adabei TV and oe24.tv; New Blick TV in Switzerland since February 17th. Would you like an editorial sample?

The moderator asked her studio guest, the former Swiss Federal Councilor (Minister) Adolf Ogi: "Why did you come to our studio today?" Answer: "Because I received an invitation." Short videos that were shot at home, bought or dragged from the depths of the Internet run alongside talk elements and user videos in an endless loop on the online platforms. Anyone who is accompanied through the day by such digital channels can only hope for a steep learning curve.

On the other hand, if you take a closer look at the bigger picture, you will see that the shrill images are not as harmless as they appear at first glance. Die-hard would-be digital natives of advanced age may shrug their shoulders at this point: Finally, there is movement in the encrusted television landscape, which state-owned institutions (public broadcasting) and German corporations in the hands of profit-oriented investors (private broadcasting) like large landowners distribute among themselves. Now finally a thousand flowers are breaking through the asphalt.

Flood of moving images: where is the benefit?

It is true that these Internet TV stations are heating up the competition. Even if market share and reach are low, they still attract attention. The current "Digital News Report" shows that 26 percent of Austrians regularly consume news videos on a relevant platform. The younger, the more common. In return, traditional television is only the main source of news for ten percent of 18- to 24-year-olds. At least 40 percent of the over 55-year-olds. Moving images on small screens have a good hand in the battle for attention. And that's what the new Internet TV channels are banking on.

It is also true that the production costs for television over the Internet have fallen massively. A television-compatible desk for reading out messages can be set up in every corner of a newsroom with little effort. A good smartphone is sufficient as a camera and a contribution is uploaded to a video platform. This creates a flood of moving images in which conventional television first has to assert itself.

But does the principle "a lot helps a lot" apply to this moving world of images? On the one hand, there is the question of the direct benefit. Yes, the variety of voices in public is increasing. Yes, the selection of programs for viewers is becoming more colorful. No, the organizers of these programs don't usually invest in quality - they don't (yet) earn any money with it. And yes, exaggerated journalistic egos celebrate happy birth when, for example, Wolfgang Fellner, in his Oe24 talk, bends the rules of propriety in public conversations in a complacent and situationally flexible manner at will. Apparently none of the editors are critical of this.

On the other hand, there is the question of opportunity costs: What follow-up costs do such channels cause? First of all, the already massively shrunk advertising material will be distributed to even more organizers. Here the market dynamics alone are responsible for land consolidation. The social costs weigh more heavily: the Internet television stations spring from the journalistic boulevard. Moving images extend popular and often populist journalism from the print world to the smartphone screen. That, too, would be bearable for a stable democracy, if it weren't for the integration with the digital platforms, the so-called "social media".

Natural enemy of populism

Multiply or potentiate scandalization, half-truths, fake news and hate speech into a toxic mixture - with high usage acceptance, especially by younger people. The short video sequences are shared on the platforms and, in a short time, receive a lot more attention than their news value actually deserves.

What is brewing is unpleasant: the more populist these TV stations offer themselves to their advertising target group, the further they move away from fact-based, truth-seeking and investigative journalism. There are no rules for admission, such as for public broadcasting (ORF law) and private television companies (Media Services Act), on the Internet. Media policy tasks are waiting for the new federal government.

Last but not least, those who are strategically and deliberately drawing the wrong conclusions from the apparently growing diversity of television also feel the wind. Boris Johnson questions the BBC in Great Britain and Norbert Hofer in Austria questions the financing of the ORF's fees. Instead of resolutely fighting the threat to the democratic public, they are shaking its foundations. This is not surprising: journalism in search of the truth behind the beautiful appearance is the natural enemy of populism. Incidentally, so does science.

Friedrich Merz has meanwhile eaten chalk. In an open letter to the journalists' association, he hastened to explain that he considered "freedom of the press to be one of the basic requirements of an open and free society". So Youtube and television. (Josef Trappel, March 2nd, 2020)

Josef Trappel is professor for media politics and media economics and heads the department of communication studies at the University of Salzburg.