Accountability systems

The Deutscher Presserat (German Press Council) , established in 1956, consists of an equal number of representatives from the journalists’ organisations and the publishers’ organisations (28 in total). Members of the general public may appeal directly to the Council to complain if they think journalistic standards are being violated. If the Council supports the complaint, the respective newspaper is expected to publish the Council’s ruling. The decisions are taken on the foundation of the Pressekodex (Press Codex),  which is a 16-point guideline respecting ethical values and, as such, setting professional standards. It is regularly renewed according to the recent journalistic developments. The effect of this self-regulation is limited, especially in relation to the practices of the yellow press.

The Deutscher Werberat (German Advertising Council)  is a similar organisation, consisting of approximately 15 representatives from the advertising industry, the media, and the advertising agencies. They publish their decisions on complaints in a handbook.

Official complaints against the public-service broadcasting have to follow a specific complaint procedure. The complainant first has to point out in a letter why exactly he/she thinks that general values, regulations, laws or the self-defined standards of a broadcasting organisation are being violated. After six weeks he/she will receive an answer from the director. If the answer is not seen as sufficient, he/she could write a second letter, which only then will reach the Broadcasting Council and be discussed. After some time, he/she will receive an answer from the Council.

In commercial broadcasting media all television companies are obliged to employ a Jugendschutzbeauftragter (Commissioner for Youth Protection), who reports only to the internal structures.

Some media, especially newspapers, have special media sections that contribute to more transparency for the audiences, but that are not strong in media criticism. Finally, journalists’ organisations like the Netzwerk Recherche (Network for Investigative Journalism) are trying to improve the quality of journalism.