News      |      Events

Freedom centre of DW debate over online media

Two sides of the argument about freedom and online media met in a spirited debate at an international media forum hosted by ABU member Deutsche Welle.

Mathias Döpfner, CEO of media publishing house Axel Springer SE, and US Internet expert Jeff Jarvis took part in the major debate at the DW Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany.

Mr Döpfner said people paid for seemingly free online services with their freedom, while Mr Jarvis said he was glad that “Google knows where I live”.

The media summit on the first day of conference focused on the future of journalism and the role of international broadcasters. Taking part were Salah Negm, Director of News at Al Jazeera’s English channel, Jawhar Sircar, CEO of Indian public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, and Peter Limbourg, Director General of Germany’s international broadcaster and host, Deutsche Welle.

Mr Jarvis said Mr Döpfner was calling for state funding to save a faltering business model of paid journalism, rather than concentrating on developing new ideas. In response, Mr Döpfner said his publishing company had already changed radically and that digital content generated two-thirds of the business’ profits. 

According to Mr Jarvis, anyone who wanted to be successful online needed to be Google-oriented. Google wasn’t a gatekeeper that decided what information reached people, he said, but a platform that enabled anyone and everyone to speak. 

“I am happy that Google knows where I live and where I work because I get relevant data back in return,” he said. “My newspaper has no idea who I am and where I live and where I work and can’t give me relevance.”

On the topic of security for journalists, Mr Negm called for more solidarity from the international journalism community and he said he would like to think of journalism not as a profession but as a mission.

Mr Limbourg added that international broadcasters had a duty to stand up to their responsibility as information providers when national media outlets only show one side of a story.

“I think it’s good that we have the Russians, the Chinese and the Gulf states in the market and they should come to us and they should bring their opinions,” he said, “But it’s a vice-versa thing. Let me try to broadcast Deutsche Welle in Saudi Arabia. This would be a difficult thing. Let me try to go in and broadcast in China. Or let me go in and broadcast in Russia – everywhere with everything.”