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bueggel

Looks like I'm a little late with my comment. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I belong to those who just can't stand TV-shows any longer - no matter whether it's American or German TV. I just came back from 3 weeks in the US and switched on my TV-set (in the hotel) only once: to check for weather and traffic conditions for my way back to the airport. And I certainly don't belong to those intellectuals who routinely look down on TV in general.

martin

@Norbert

Correct, it's a first-hand observation, experienced more often than I'd like it. Just like everything I write here. 'Observations from the ground', remember?

@James

The perceived value of the knowledge of Latin isn't supported by real-world experience, therefore its - still perceived - value must be propped up by cultural propaganda of a scale which only a national culture can provide.

Now both of you, what is your valuable contribution to the discussion about fake and real education, the creativity of Andrew's cultural "high end" or anything at all or were you just trolling.

Norbert

Martin, small-minded that I am, allow me to ask whether my impression is correct that "stereotyping" was something you didn't mind to engage in earlier on when you referred to "Germans' and Frenchs' childish sulking"?

James W.

"If you desperately want to continue to be small and try to pin down people's nationality so you can engage in endless stereotyping"

Pot, kettle, black. My question wasn't concerned with your nationality, martin, but nevermind.

martin

@James

> Where do you come from, martin? Just curious.

If you desperately want to continue to be small and try to pin down people's nationality so you can engage in endless stereotyping, why don't we assume that I was Swedish-Canadian? On the other hand, you could at least make an attempt at being great and talk about ideas. I know it's beyond the ability of most people in twit-land but hey, I don't want anyone to say I wasn't engaging in constructive criticism.

Steffi

@Norbert,

"Lost" as any US series or movie is dubbed in really most countries of the world or - rather the exception - subtitled. Take Mexico where it was originally known as "Perdidos" and Azteca 7 broadcasted the dubbed version. Not to mention the Mexican DVD versions with Spanish and Portuguese channels. According to Wikipedia - Practice of dubbing foreign films throughout the world -, "[i]n Spanish-American countries, all foreign language programmes, films, cartoons and documentaries shown in free aired TV channels are dubbed into Neutral Spanish, while in cable and satellite pan-regional channels are both dubbed or subtitled."

So your argument that media content produced in English as the "lingua franca" can be sold to a bigger audience doesn't sound convincing to me.

James W.

Oh gosh, sorry I interrupted. Never mind my question, martin. I just reread your comment, and I am still processing the sheer brilliance of, if I may quote: "If a Dane and a Mexican both understand English well enough to appreciate "Lost", then they can also draft a contract for the one to supply auto parts to the other or use Google to find each other in the first place. Now, there's your economy." Right on. There it is, your economy. Whoever was looking for it, stop it, we found it. Thanks for the lesson, martin. Now, I forgot about how Germans are not procreating because they are too religious. Could you, please, elaborate on that a bit, martin, like you did a while ago? I know it's not related to the topic on hand (you chastised me about that, last time), but please bear with me, lest I resort to what was it, kindergarten-style ad hominem attacks? Which is something you'd never indulge in, right?

James W.

Where do you come from, martin? Just curious.

martin

@Steffi

> Germans with Abitur, students and former students ...

Abitur, yadda yadda yadda. Seems like your idea of "education" is as contorted as Andrews, who considers heaps of useless crap like Latin an "education". Where I come from, it's called "delusion", and that deluded people would watch a lot of TV is not surprising at all. Why doesn't someone go and check how many bloggers watch TV, now there's an educated audience.

martin

@Norbert

This discussion was about economies, correct? I doubt your troubadours and assorted circus folks make up a significant portion of any country's economy. If a Dane and a Mexican both understand English well enough to appreciate "Lost", then they can also draft a contract for the one to supply auto parts to the other or use Google to find each other in the first place. Now, there's your economy.

Actually, I'm doubting that you have never bought one of those Taiwanese gadgets that come with an instruction manual in horrible English. (Does happen a lot less these days though.) There you can see first hand how well anyone's English has to be to participate in the world economy.

Now back to my accusation of the Germans' and the Frenchs' childish sulking ... your rebuttal there was ...?

Steffi

It's an interesting argument, but unfortunately, one part of it -- that is, that educated Germans are increasingly viewing no television whatsoever -- needs to be backed up with empirical evidence, which Keil doesn't provide. German journalists tend to move in pretty stuffy, insular little circles, and sometimes talk about things people in their social circles are doing as if they were national trends. So, does anyone know whether he's right?

Many thanks for this remark. I think this is a very serious and rather frustrating problem, especially because journalists typically aren't aware of it. Professionally blinkered? Confirmation bias? Believe me, if you are an expert in a specific topic, e.g. you are a political scientist who is specialiced in the analysis of voting behavior, nearly 95 percent of all articles dealing with the "analysis" of elections are completely nonsense. Perhaps this is the reason why most of the "experts" you see on TV have never published one single academic article dealing with the subject they are asked about.

In a nutshell, Keil's generalizations from some personal anecdotes are rubbish and it's a sign of incompetence that he isn't familiar with the empirical data which doesn't support his claims at all. For instance, in 2001, Germans with Abitur, students and former students with an academic grade watched TV on average only 153 minutes per day; in 2006 it was 165 minutes. And you can't explain this increase by the World Cup because the consumption time has steadily increased since the middle of the 1990's.

It's also true that the general TV consumption of the "highly educated" group is lower than the corresponding time of people with lower educational attainments (as an example: Hauptschulabschluss without vocational training: 2001: 216, 2006: 220) but this was always the case for the last decades. The same goes for the different formats (news, sports, political magazines, entertainments) different social groups prefer. This is old hat.

Every student of communication studies in Germany knows about the Langzeitstudie Massenkommunikation which is the only representative survey worldwide that monitors the media use - not only TV - of a whole population for more than 40 years. You can find some really interesting articles where the data are nicely analyzed in the monthly journal Media Perspektiven; free full text for recent issues is available. For the beginning, see "Programmangebote und Spartennutzung im Fernsehen 2006. Spartennutzung in Zeiten des Medienwandels" (PDF) where you will also find the here used data.

R.J.

Throwing in my 2cts:

1st cent: I doubt that there are so many people who do not watch any TV at all. I personally know one such couple, and I know someone who knows another family.
Of course, it is still possible to watch little TV and sniff at it nevertheless.

2nd cent: Andrew, maybe you should reconsider which metaphor to use.
Though not a specialist, I would say a doughnut is generally connected,
in spite of the hole in its very centre.
But on the reference side of your imagery, you seem to talk about two disconnected layers.
It seems hard to find a viable alternative. Beside the Greek letter Xi,I would suggest a pie symbolism: Dough on top, dough at the bottom, and cream does not count ...


Wallet closed.

Norbert

@Martin: "You manage to, in the same breath, claim that non-native speakers that understand English well enough to appreciate "Lost" do not speak English well enough to contribute to the world economy on roughly the same level as native speakers?"

Yes, that's what I claim. And I don't think that claim to be ludicrous. For me it's possible to read an English book, but it's pretty hard to write in that language. To understand and appreciate English rock music, for instance, takes little or even no knowledge of the English language at all. However, as a non-English-native rock musician, you're going to have to try much harder than a native-English speaker if you want to sell your songs to an international audience, even if you're singing in English. It takes a lot more effort and in the end it just doesn't sound naturally (with some exceptions, like Abba). I mean, Modern Talking, and all that. If you look at today's music charts in European countries, how many of the songs there are by non-English-native speaking artists?

Norbert

SD, "Derrick" is precisely the exception to the rule. From the top of your head, how many more examples of world-famous German-language productions can you come up with? More than three? And how many more examples of world-famous English-language productions could I come up with?

SD

Actually I wanted to say "more than 100 german speaking countries"! :o

SD

Acctually in Germany it's pretty normal to learn english.

By the way:
"Derrick" is or was broadcasted in more than 100 countries and I don't think there are more than 100 non-german speaking countries in the world. ;)

Henric

I think you are perfectly right with your observation. I have made similar comparasions between the US and Germany on that basis. Here are my ideas on this topic:

- In the US a movie has the status of a book in Germany, meaning that there are movie critics in the US where there are book critics here. In Germany you already discredit yourself when you cite something that you saw in a movie whilst when you cite a recent book, you are socially accepted.
- Educated Germans behave like they are expecting that television will disappear one day, like a desease that everybody suffers from but will be eliminated in the future. This means that they complain about watching it and at the prepare for the life after TV. E.g. they go on a "TV diet" where they watch for long periods no TV and so on.

martin

@Norbert

> any type of content that is produced in the English language can be sold to an exponentially bigger audience ... why the English-speaking countries' economies aren't already lightyears ahead of all other countries ...

You manage to, in the same breath, claim that non-native speakers that understand English well enough to appreciate "Lost" do not speak English well enough to contribute to the world economy on roughly the same level as native speakers? That seems pretty far fetched and not only contradicts my personal experiences, it reeks of yet another lame excuse to recoil into one's own little corner of the world and sulk about all the injustice out there. Adults world-wide humbly acknowledge their non-English speaking origins and display a heart-warming eagerness to learn English and practice it on every occasion realizing it will lift them to world citizen status, except for the French and the Germans, who in their weird combination of arrogance and perennial infantilism refuse anything that didn't come out of their mother's breasts mouth.

Norbert

@westernworld: "but due to the fact that there is a native market of round about 450 million anglo-saxon english speakers who are culturally close enough, the huge expense of producing these shows becomes viable"

You're kidding, right? The TV series "Lost" has aired in more than 190 countries. Any production or publication that is produced in the English language has the potential to sell in almost any market of almost any corner of the world. Don't reduce it to English native speakers- English is the "lingua franca" of the world and hence any type of content that is produced in the English language can be sold to an exponentially bigger audience than one in any other language of the world. This is not meant as an argument to depreciate the quality of American blockbuster TV series, but it shows you that for the producers the potential ROI, and thus the willingness to invest, is so much higher than for a producer of, say, a German-language production.

Another prime example: Jamie Oliver. He is probably a terrific cook and a great entertainer. But the simple fact that he speaks English and can publish cook books and DVDs in that language gives him an invaluable economic advantage over any other cook in the world with the same talents whose native tongue is not English. I always think that given this tremendous competitive advantage, it is a miracle why the English-speaking countries' economies aren't already lightyears ahead of all other countries - and ever-increasing globalisation is only increasing the likelihood.

martin

The symphonies, operas and other things that you are mentioning as being "high-end" exhibit about as much creativity as a record player. Now, other than being subsidized, and some people calling them "serious", what exactly makes them "high-end"? In other words, in which way isn't the whole German cultural landscape a wasteland of culturally bankrupt doofuses? Some of them just manage to fake it (usually by spending money) well enough to impress their most honest fellow doofuses, which isn't really terribly hard, is it.

Koch

Thanks. Great post. That resonates and describes most of my experiences with German television. Either something that takes too much energy to watch (i.e. is too highbrow, like a life story documentary about Wagners niece, twice removed, who once was an ambulance driver, or has a storyline with such depth that my sporadic commitment to television can't keep up), or it is call-in shows where you can text message a clown that will speak your message, or a diet show where they focus on the needs and wishes of the People I See Enough Of On The S-Bahn. Where's Six Feet Under, the OC, the West Wing (category of its own), Queer as Folk, The L Word, etc?

Now that I think about it, I have lived here for seven years and I have never once seen a German television series episode that made me want to watch the next one.

And can they find a stand-in for Heino Ferch and his rueful looks into the distance every time some disaster strikes? Wasn't he in almost every German disaster movie this century? Dresden, Der Stum, Der Untergang (ok, last one had a happy ending).

Andrew

Dreck is a nice perfectly nice Yiddish word!

SD

Do you seriously say "dreck for the masses" in the USA or did you just leave the word in german to avoid an alteration of the meaning?

Don

"that educated Germans are increasingly viewing no television whatsoever"

I wouldn't be surprised; I personally haven't watched TV regularly for entertainment for at least a decade and haven't regularly watched it for news for 8 or 9 years. Whenever I visit my relatives I'm amazed to rediscover how much of TV news is *empty calories* compared to what is available on the web. The shows tend to be dumb compared with other alternatives such as cinema, theatre, DVDs, and online content. Or even with good old books!

So I, too, watch virtually no TV, and don't miss it.

Don

"that educated Germans are increasingly viewing no television whatsoever"

I wouldn't be surprised; I personally haven't watched TV regularly for entertainment for at least a decade and haven't regularly watched it for news for 8 or 9 years. Whenever I visit my relatives I'm amazed to rediscover how much of TV news is *empty calories* compared to what is available on the web. The shows tend to be dumb compared with other alternatives such as cinema, theatre, DVDs, and online content. Or even with good old books!

So I, too, watch virtually no TV, and don't miss it.

Johannes

There may be some truth in your theory, but I think you (and the commentators you quote) simplify and exaggerate quite a bit. What about "Tatort" and similar TV-movie or series for "middlebrow" TV? (Maybe even Lindenstraße I have never watched, so I am not sure how "high" or "low" it is) What about singers like Reinhard Mey, Hannes Wader, Konstantin Wecker, even Götz Alsmann?
Among a lot of trash there are also quite a few decent (political) comedians (not only) on TV. So while I agree that we don't quite have something like "Lost" (which I love, can't wait for the 4th season), I don't see this big hole in the middle.

Johannes

Andrew

Westernworld has it right on the money: there's also steaming mountains of appalling stuff broadcast on the 900 digital cable channels Americans consider as their birthright, stuff which Germans (to their great good fortune) will never see.

Alphager

I'm 22 and just got my Diplom in Computer Science. In my social circles, nearly 60% do not watch TV at all (but download "Scrubs", "My Name is Earl", "how I met your Mother" in english).

Except for the Tagesschau and certain documentaries i don't watch TV.

westernworld

i think you underestimate the simple impact of economies of scale, cheap american tv is just as bad as cheap german tv.
yes most of german tv is absolute crap, but the reasons are different then the ones you stated, i think.

the judgement of u.s. fare is extremely biased in germany, if only for pure lack of experience.
people have no idea how bad u.s. tv on the whole is, they never lived there.

for every lost, grey's anatomy, weeds, the wire and scrubs there are 50 shows that suck beyond believe. and don't get me started on all the jerry springer type crap, the cable news, shopping channels, transformers, power rangers, telenovelas, soaps … it's all there.

my point being, on the whole u.s tv is just as bad as its german counterpart, but due to the fact that there is a native market of round about 450 million anglo-saxon english speakers who are culturally close enough, the huge expense of producing these shows becomes viable. plus it is the very sucktitude of american tv not so long ago that started the trend of high end tv series with hbo, showtime et al. the networks just fell in lock-step as best they could.

it of course helped having hollywood on ready alert with its resources just at a time when the first dark clouds started to loom over the blockbuster popcorn economy of yore.

far be it from me to consider this bottomless pit of an topic to exhaustively discussed at this junction … got to go.

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