Survival of Broadcasters: From Youth to Power!

RBB has been in the headlines for weeks: questionable bonuses, questionable award procedures, waste of fee money – public confidence damaged. But public service broadcasting will face challenges in the coming years far greater than the misconduct of individual executives. In the next decade, the course must be prepared for the protective broadcast of the future that will bring together all fee-payers. Will there still be linear TV in the future? And who should pay the license fee if young people can’t find anything that interests them in public broadcasting?

The future must be directed in the right direction

The questions ZDF also has to ask itself – and it probably does now. In a major strategic process, the station’s future is directed in the right direction. The focus is on teenagers and young adults in particular: in the coming years, the broadcaster wants to open new target groups, and people under the age of 35 should play a larger role in programming. The broadcaster announced that it will also provide financial resources for this, and the funds will be transferred from the regular program to the production of modern content. This is a good start, but it is by no means a guarantee of success. I have some ideas of what specifically can be done – and I hope to be 25 years old enough to have my voice heard.

If you want to reach new target groups, you should first look around your own company. Very few people with disabilities, with immigrant backgrounds, without strong financial support, without long academic work in television editorial offices. This affects the program. Without the appropriate perspectives, issues are often overlooked or inadequately addressed. The broadcaster has in his hands to break down barriers in the recruitment process, better pay for internships and training and, above all, not give them only to privileged segments of the population.

With the financial transitions, there are now many ways to support the youth program. However, ZDF should not make the mistake that has been happening more and more in recent years: money should not only flow to social networks or cheap formats, but should be spent on programs with a real claim. Whether in novels or themes, young people are accustomed to high-quality productions from the private sector; It should therefore be invested in production and research as much as it is in ‘adults’.

Even ARD and ZDF’s young program, funk, is not the last word. Broadcasters have to produce independently and for their own platforms rather than conceding each claim and only posting on Instagram, Youtube and Co. Because anyone who assumes that linear TV won’t be around any time soon is, in my opinion, wrong. Those who grew up with “Tagesschau” at 8pm will still want to watch TV for the next 20 years. The question is: What next?

Bendix Libby is a research associate in Berlin. As a representative of family, seniors, women and youth, the 25-year-old from Brandenburg was the youngest member of the ZDF Television Council.
© Promo / Photo: Kurt Sauer

Because it is relatively rare for young people to sit with older people in front of the TV. Cool ratings join the revival of “Wetten, dass..?” and the subsequent revitalization of the format to a group of older formats that were broadcast on public and private television out of nostalgia (and the hope of good reviews).

However, cross-generational television cannot be revived only in older programs – examples like ARD/Sky’s “Babylon Berlin” or BBC productions like “Bodyguard” show that a large audience awaits brave decisions, especially in fiction. Here, ZDF should aim to create experiences for viewers in its own and co-productions that do not stop at age limits.

Basically, it’s time to break up the usual TV routine little by little. If you also want to address the younger target audiences of the main program in the future, you need to lay the foundations now. By allowing younger content to stream to the regular broadcast schedule in short, flexible time slots, older viewers are also getting used to modern formats. In five-minute slots, cognitive programs such as Said Briefly or short documentaries and comedy can find harmony in the RP, which also refers to their longer counterparts in the media library. In this way, younger target groups can find their content in the program from time to time, while the older audience is not too disconnected from their usual routine.

ZDF Youth Advisory Board

ZDF should have a keen interest in incorporating the opinions of young audiences into its programming processes. The fact that there are only 60 seats on the Youth Television Council is a political decision that the broadcaster cannot influence. However, the director has the opportunity to create an alternative – he can create a youth advisory board for the ZDF program, where young people give their opinions and wishes about the program.

This advisory board can also act as an advisory body to editors and help make programs more targeted and successful. Given the distance that young people already have from the programs of public broadcasters, this will be a proactive step in which ZDF can differentiate itself from competing programs in a very positive way.

Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get started. ZDF, as well as all other public broadcasters, have the opportunity and the duty to think independently and innovatively. But it is also the last chance – because the clock is ticking and the young audience will not wait forever.

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