Between concentration and pluralisation: the West German press in the 1970s

Kraiker, Christian Welfhard (2015) Between concentration and pluralisation: the West German press in the 1970s. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The development of the West German press in the 1970s has so far been described as a transition from a period of concentration (1954-1976) to stabilisation (1976-1985). The analysis by Schütz and others has several short-comings: firstly, the argument is implicitly based on a vague empirical definition of pluralism that is understood as the number of daily newspapers with an independent editorial department in a given market. Secondly, the analysis is almost exclusively based on the daily press and ignores the impact of new journals, regional editions, weeklies, and the ‘alternative’ press on the press market of the 1970s. Finally, the turning points of 1954 and 1976 do not relate to wider changes in circulation figures and other important aspects of press history.

This thesis presents a new analysis of the history of the West German press during the period from the protests of the late 1960s against ‘opinion monopolies’ to the early 1980s deregulation of the West German broadcasting market. The introduction, i.e. the first chapter, provides a detailed criticism of the current historiography and explains why the new analysis rests on the following pillars: a new periodization, a broader look at various segments of the press, including dailies and weeklies, a clearer delineation of local, regional, and supra-regional markets, a more precise and critical engagement with the ideas of contemporaries on pluralism, and a more comprehensive analysis of the relationship between the press and television in the 1970s.

The second chapter engages critically with the current periodisation of press history. The chapter establishes several criteria in order to provide a more accurate picture. These include circulation figures, wider market developments, public debates, laws, and the internal organisation of the press. It analyses the development of the press from 1945 to the student protests against Axel Springer in 1968. It identifies the fact that the press underwent three phases after 1945, the ‘occupation period’ (1945-49), the era ‘between expansion and restauration’ (1949-1957), and an era characterised by ‘criticism of the government and debates over the press’ (1957-1968/69). The chapter concludes that the changes between 1968 and 1969 constitute the starting point of a distinct period in West German press history, the ‘long social-liberal 1970s’ between 1968/69 and 1982.

The third chapter analyses two new contemporary concepts of press pluralism that shaped the policy debates of the long 1970s, namely social pluralism and free-market pluralism. The former was championed by scholars such as Peter Glotz and the governments of Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt. It envisaged a protection of a socially and politically diverse press and provided the wider framework for new laws and regulations such as the so-called Law on Merger Control in the Press (1976). These market interventions were opposed by the conservatives at the time, who championed the idea of free-market pluralism.

The fourth chapter shows how this struggle over the proper role of the democratic press between state and society escalated on the left and right of the political spectrum. The new social movements discussed the idea of a ‘counter public’ existing in opposition to the ‘established’ media. As a result, several hundreds of ‘alternative’ papers were founded in the segment of the weekly, monthly, and irregular press that contributed to a high point of market diversity in the 1970s. These papers found their counterpart among intellectually elitist journals that portrayed themselves as a conservative ‘counterweight’ to the assumed leftist mass press and pluralisation at the time. The fifth chapter then shows that the debates over press pluralism, new laws and policies, and the developments in the political weekly and monthly press as well as the ‘alternative’ press reshaped the core of the West German press market in the 1970s, namely the regional and local daily press.

Finally, chapter six addresses the existing historiography on the role of the press in the overall media ensemble. It shows that new concepts of press pluralism, the transformation of the press market, its particular role in the regions, and unique press-government relations added to the elevated position of prestige of the press vis-à-vis television and contributed to its role as a partial political lead medium within the ‘new culture of political participation’ emerging towards the end of the decade.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Haase, Christian
Young, John
Subjects: P Language and literature > PN Literature (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of History
Item ID: 30430
Depositing User: Kraiker, Christian
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2016 09:28
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2017 20:21

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